I should begin by introducing myself.
My name is Kyle Gennings and I like candlelit dinners, conversation and long walks on the beach. I’m 6’3” with dark hair and – oh wait, sorry – I suppose I may have gotten a little side tracked there. Apologies.
I am a new Slave River Journal reporter. I have been in Fort Smith for almost two months now and already I am proud to call it my home.
My welcome and my time here have been filled with wonderful people painted onto a beautiful backdrop, and for that I cannot thank the people of Fort Smith enough.
Two weeks ago I was assigned to cover the Treaty 8 Tribal Council meetings in Fort Chipewyan and once again I was greeted with the same welcoming attitude and easy conversations that I have become so familiar with in Fort Smith.
However, the one thing that I will take away from the days I spent in Fort Chipewyan is the courage, determination and close-knit sense of community that were so apparent during the Cut Rock Walk.
For those who have not read the stories written in The Journal about the Cut Rock Walk, I’ll let you know what it’s all about.
It is a walk (clearly) in Fort Chip that has been held annually for three years, where participants walk for 24 hours straight from the Dog Head grounds to the Cut Rock on the road to the airport.
This year’s 121 volunteers managed to cover and estimated 2,000 kilometers during their allocated 24 hours and raised an amazing amout of money towards cancer research.
Strangely, for the amount of money they raised (an impressive feat for a town of around 1,000 people) is not the most amazing part of this story; the amazing part is how the money raised jumped from average to extraordinary with one simple sentence.
When participants filed back onto the grounds allocated for the Treaty 8 meetings, they were met with cheers and applause, not to mention heartfelt speeches from both presiding chiefs: but it was the words of Athabasca Chipewyan First Nations Chief Allan Adam that truly moved me.
With microphone in hand, Adam thanked the participants, told them how proud they should be of their accomplishment and that they were an inspiration to every person who had gathered to watch.
Then, he turned to his fellow Fort Chipewyan Chief, Steve Courtereille, and announced that ACFN planned to match the Mikisew Cree First Nation donation of $5,000 towards the cause.
Cheers and clapping erupted and Darlene Cardinal, the creator and organizer of the event began to tear up, unprepared for the positive chain of events to come.
As the clapping died down, Adam turned to his fellow Treaty 8 chiefs, who were arrayed behind him, and asked that they too match the donations made by MCFN and ACFN.
There was a pause-that seemed like an eternity.
Then, one by one, the chiefs announced their support, each matching the MCFN and ACFN donation. The total was now $85,000! A sense of wonder and joy washed over all of us.
The moment felt like a basketball game where the second clock ticks down to zero and the ball in flight hangs seemingly motionless in the air, creeping toward the net.
Now, this may all be a bit over-dramatic, but anyone present at that moment would agree with me, I’m sure.