Debates of the Senate  
  2nd Session, 40th Parliament,Volume 146, Issue 6.
    Wednesday, February 4, 2009
The 100 Mile Journey

Hon. Lillian Eva Dyck: Honourable senators, how a country remembers its past shapes its future. As proud Canadians, we must remember our past, our history and our heroes. Telling our stories of great accomplishments instills pride.

Honourable senators, today I wish to share an amazing story about Billy Loutit, a Métis mail runner and his great-granddaughter Shannon. Their story exemplifies the strength, bravery and accomplishments of Métis people.

On July 18, 2008, along with my colleague the Honourable Grant Mitchell, I participated in the opening ceremony for the 100 Mile Journey - To Bring a Hero's Spirit Home at the Edmonton legislative grounds. The purpose of this special event was to commemorate and honour Billy Loutit.

He spent many of his childhood years learning from the land surrounding his home community, Fort Chipewyan, Alberta. He became an accomplished hunter, trapper and riverboat man.

In Athabasca's 1904 flood, Billy Loutit ran from Athabasca to Fort Edmonton with an important emergency message. He ran the 100 miles in a mere 16 hours, one hour quicker than another messenger sent on horseback.

One hundred years later, in 2004, Shannon Loutit learned about her great-grandfather Billy's 100-mile run. She was so inspired that she literally gave up smoking, got off the couch and began to run. She completed the Boston Marathon and decided to retrace Billy's historic 100-mile journey of 1904.

On July 18 of last year, Shannon Loutit, who lives in Saskatoon, ran from Edmonton to Athabasca in just over 24 hours to pay tribute to her great-grandfather Billy, the Métis legend.

Honourable senators, I commend Shannon Loutit for her endurance, her determination and her devotion in running to honour the spirits of our ancestors, our heroes and our history. Shannon is documenting her awe-inspiring 100-mile run in a film and in a book.

Honourable senators, at the opening ceremony for Shannon's 100-mile journey, Kim Ciampanelli, a Hudson's Bay Company representative said:

Billy's life is representative of all the First Nations and Métis people, without whom our company could not have functioned nor prospered. By honouring him, we honour them as well.

Her comments are important as this was the first time the Hudson's Bay Company had so clearly and publicly acknowledged the key role that Aboriginal people played in the success of that company.