1676844609 First Nations Expedition Adjusting to Advance and Avoid Clutter

First Nations Expedition: Adjusting to Advance and Avoid ‘Clutter’ | First Nations Expedition 2023

This day is very different from the day before when people got lost and groups took different paths. If the expedition aims for reconciliation, the fact remains that this is an off-trail snowmobile ride and everyone remembers it.

We’re going home, says David Kistabish, former boss of Pikogan, early in the morning. They can’t wait for our arrival. You’re wondering where we’ve gone, how it’s gone so far, he continues, taking his breakfast, which is being served at the Lac Simon school.

The different stages of the First Nations Expedition.

The different stages of the First Nations Expedition.

Photo: Radio Canada / Sophie Leclerc

The day before, the day had been difficult for him: a breakage on his snowmobile, the feeling of being left behind a bit, then finally an Innu ranger from the community of Unamen Shipu who came to his aid with luckily the right part.

We could leave in an hour. But adjustments need to be made for us to be consistent. Yesterday there were bugs in certain forks, certain sections. There will be some adjustments this morning, says David Kistabish, before heading into the garage where the snowmobiles stayed.

According to many, the second day between Obedjiwan and Lac-Simon was memorable.

Word of the discord has spread, sums up Christian Flamand, one of the organizers of this expedition, which left the Atikamekw community of Manawan and has to go 4500 kilometers further to the Innu of Uashat mak Mani-utenam.

A man riding a snowmobile with people.

Christian Flamand recalled the safety instructions and reshaped the four groups, stating that no one should overtake the other and always make sure that the one behind follows well.

Photo: Radio Canada / Marie-Laure Josselin

Christian Flamand stands on his snowmobile to safely convey his message: We are a group, everyone is responsible for the discord that happened yesterday. I take my responsibilities, but everyone has to take theirs. We weren’t a group yesterday.

The other organizer, Naskapi Derek Jeremy Einish from Kawawachikamach adds in English: If we don’t stay in a group, we won’t finish the expedition! I made mistakes yesterday and I’m not proud of them. Everyone made it.

Then this memory that Christian Flamand mimics with his hands: An off-track driver is a driver who always looks back at his friend because his friend is important. Because if he has a problem, he will go to him and help him. This is mutual help. It’s not a competition.

Lost Participants

The first 100 kilometers of the day’s 325 went pretty well. The group first set off at full speed to cross the Gouin reservoir and then followed a series of unmarked forest trails.

A snowmobiler from behind.

The group prepares to storm the Gouin reservoir at full speed.

Photo: Radio Canada / Marie-Laure Josselin

Around noon, the snowmobilers stopped for a meal. Discussions, sandwiches and even dried caribou are offered by the naskapis. Then it got tough between the chaotic lanes in the middle of the trees, where everyone rode their own pace according to their experience, and the long lines where the speed took over and the snow blew up.

The group that carried out the expedition was thus divided into several. Some waited for the others, who had finally gone a different way. The climatic conditions don’t help either, because a route made the day before may no longer be passable the next day.

A man in a snowmobile helmet offers a piece of dried meat.

Derek Jeremy Einish offers a participant dried caribou.

Photo: Radio Canada / Marie-Laure Josselin

Result: A participant was alone and approached an outfitter where he stayed overnight. Another near Lac-Simon was also alone and able to make calls because he had access to the network. Members of the Lac Simon community picked him up and he ended the evening with everyone.

Some people who had formed groups were also isolated at times. Using their good sense of direction, GPS, and following the sled tracks left by the larger groups, they finally managed to catch up.

A sunset amidst snow-covered fir trees.

The snowmobilers drove for hours until dark to reach their destination.

Photo: Radio Canada / Marie-Laure Josselin

The arrival took almost four hours.

There was nothing important. It’s minor but important nonetheless because if it had been in a region where there were no services, two people would have been in danger, Atikamekw Christian Flamand said.

One thing this day will have reminded you is that this trip is first and foremost an off-trail snowmobile expedition where the slightest mistake can be costly. And this despite the fact that the vast majority of participants are experienced pilots.

The challenge we have when leaving the Mauricie towards Abitibi by driving off-piste is so much deforestation, so many possible directions and many snowmobiles passing to go to the chalet… Sometimes it doesn’t take much to mix and build a pilot, explains Christian Flamand.

A sign planted in the snow with snowmobiles and people behind.

Stop to take stock and see which direction to take. And also to wait for other participants before returning to unmarked trails.

Photo: Radio Canada / Marie-Laure Josselin

So, after serious clarification by the organizers, at the start of Lac-Simon, snowmobiles were lined up well behind each other, waiting for the shots to be fired at every start before they revved up the engines. And walk away neatly.

The landscapes were combined with a breathtaking sunset. There was a second mechanical failure for David Kistabish, who was able to restart and enter his ward first.

A man on a snowmobile claps his hands at the side of the road.

Contestant André Smith from Bedford is greeted by members of the Pikogan community.

Photo: Radio Canada / Marie-Laure Josselin

If the arrival of the participants had stretched out to almost four hours the day before, this time they all clapped the hands of the residents who greeted them at the same time.

A vote was required that morning before continuing north.

Also, Derek Jeremy Einish didn’t hesitate to remind him: It’s easy here! Because in the north there will be no one and no trace. It will really be completely off-road, so everyone is responsible for everyone else. Respect yourself. We are here as a team and we will stay as a team.

Next destination: Matagami.