A 6,000 km. walk spanning over five years, this Innu Compostelle is an ambitious and mobilizing project during which the Innu doctor will visit all First Nations communities from Labrador, Quebec and as well as few in Ontario and New-Brunswick.
Dr Stanley Vollant began the walk on October 12 2010 under the Innu Meshkenu project (the Innu path). The 2010 walk started at the Kilometer 0 post of road 138, 20 km East of Natashquan, and went through Baie Johaan Betz, Havre Saint-Pierre, Mingan, Rivière aux Tonnerres, Maliotenam, Uashat, Port Cartier, Baie Trinité, Godbout to the steps of the town of Baie-Comeau on November 2nd, after a “stroll” of 620 km.
Dr Vollant took his pilgrim’s staff again on March 7th 2011, accompanied by his first cousin once removed, Eric Hervieux, from Pessamit. It is to be noted that the grand-fathers of the two cousins were hunting and trapping partners. Eric, a police officer in the community of Pessamit, is socially involved and has taken part in Baie-Comeau regional hospital centre’s health challenge (a 500 km volunteer bike tour).
This walk started in Vieux Fort, 80 km East of Saint-Augustin (Pakuashipi). The walkers reached Natashquan, 440 km away, on March 25th 2011. They used snowshoes and the Utapanashk, a traditional sled, to visit the communities of Saint-Augustin, Pakuashipi, La Tabatière, Mutton Bay, Tête-à-la-Baleine, Harrington Harbour, Chevery, La Romaine, Kegaska and Natushquan.
Another section has been completed during the summer of 2011. Last July 23rd and 24th, Dr. Vollant covered the 68 kilometers separating Wendake and St-Anne-de-Beaupré. Representatives of the Wendat Nation and also of other aboriginal communities were there to support him and walk with him. It was a journey full of memories and emotions for Dr. Vollant for he revisited places that have marked important moments of his life.
In the fall of 2011, he walked the 680 kilometers between Baie-Comeau and the community of Opitciwan, of which 167 kilometers were logging roads. This stage not only allowed him to walk through his native community – Pessamit – but also to establish contact with the Attikamekw Nation who have welcomed him wonderfully.
A 300-kilometer snowshoes voyage was awaiting him for winter 2012. He then walked the Atikamekw territory from north to south accompanied by about 50 courageous walkers from the communities of Opitciwan, Wemotaci, and Manawan. Together, they confronted cold and fatigue, sleeping, most of the time, under tents during 14 days.
At the end of summer 2012, two stages were scheduled. Firstly, he walked the 55 kilometers between the Abenakis communities of Wolinak and Odanak along with students of the Kiuna Post-Secondary Institute. He was also accompanied by about 100 walkers from different parts of Quebec: Sherbrooke, St-Jean-Port-Joli, Gatineau, Montreal, Québec, Trois-Rivières, and Saguenay to name a few. Some 4 days later, he undertook the 733 kilometer walk from Old-Fort, on the Basse-Côte-Nord, all the way up to Sheshatshiu, Ilnue community situated at about 30 kilometers north of Goose Bay, in Labrador.
As of the winter of 2013, he started from Manawan, where he had finished his winter 2012 walk. Close to 60 walkers joined him on a 375 kilometer journey that took him from the Attikamekw territory to the one of the Algonquin nation, visiting the communities of Kitigan Zibi and Rapid Lake. He completed his 3000th kilometer during that stretch. More than fifty walkers followed him through forests and lakes, sleeping in tents most of the time.
In the summer of 2013, Mi’gMag territories of the Gaspesie region and of northern New Brunswick await him to walk more than 110 kilometers in four days on the periphery of the Baie-des-Chaleurs. In the end, more than one hundred people will accompany him; some will have covered nearly 1200 kilometers to have the privilege to walk by his side!
A few weeks later, Dr. Vollant resumes his journey from Rapid Lake and begins a long period of walking of nearly 650 km that leads him across the Algonquin communities of Kitcisakik, Lac-Simon, Pikogan Timiskaming, and Bear Island, Ontario. Stops made at the Aboriginal Friendship Centre of Val d’Or and North Bay also punctuated this trip, under the honorary presidency of Mrs. Elizabeth Larouche, Minister for Aboriginal Affairs in Quebec. While some walkers cover a distance of more than 1600 kilometers to walk with him, others cross the Atlantic to accompany him on this journey!
By walking again during the summer of 2014, Dr. Vollant plans to meet other youths to talk to them about the importance to have dreams, to work on their realizations, of their cultural identity, and of their personal realization. “I intend to talk about my personal quest to inspire them. If I can influence the life of 2 or 3 young people in each community, I will have reached my goal.” He will also meet with the elders and the community leaders to learn traditional medicine through the eyes of a physician with a scientific background. A documentary is scheduled at the end of the journey.
Dr Vollant, the first Native surgeon in Québec, studied at the Faculty of medicine of Université de Montréal. He works at the Pessamit Medical Clinic and acts as First Nations health coordinator for the Université de Montréal.