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Boswell: Reimagining the Rideau — A resurgent Indigenous identity

Within the 1830s, the Grand Chief of the Algonquins was pressured to relinquish management over his individuals’s huge conventional looking floor,  together with all the Rideau River drainage basin. However a measure of Algonquin management is slowly returning.

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Sixth in a weekly sequence.

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On a current afternoon, I used to be joined in my canoe by Albert Dumont — the Algonquin storyteller and religious information, in addition to Ottawa’s present English-language poet laureate — for a paddle on the Rideau River.

About midway throughout from our west-side launch, the place the river flows between Sandy Hill and Overbrook, Dumont paused his stroke and pointed to a spot alongside the far shore with a steep financial institution and tall grasses. “I see a pleasant heron over there,” he stated. “It’s fishing.”

The tall, gentle blue, vaguely dinosaurial creature — with cascading white feathers on its chest and wings, twig-like legs and an extended, razor-sharp beak — was slowly stalking unseen prey; frogs and fish, beware.

Prompted by the sight of the wading hunter, the storyteller advised a narrative. That is the way it goes with Dumont, who slides simply from informal dialog or a proper interview to reciting historic narratives of his Algonquin ancestors, or sharing private anecdotes that illustrate, say, the calming “huge drugs” of the canoe on a hyperactive grandchild, or the restorative energy of time spent on lakes and rivers — “all water is holy water” — after a fall at a building website practically took his life 30 years in the past.

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The Rideau and its animal inhabitants impressed Dumont’s tales in fast succession, the river a literal stream of consciousness.

His heron story — name it The Story of the Heron and the Bear, a parable about being true to 1’s self — was handed from technology to technology till it turned a part of the repertoire of this lyrical sage from Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg First Nation, close to Maniwaki, about 130 kilometres north of Ottawa.

“The story goes that the Bear was going to rejoice his creation,” Dumont started, “so he invited everyone over to his lodge to feast. And after they acquired there, there was an impressive feast laid out, they usually had been nearly to feast when anyone stated, ‘Wait, we are able to’t feast but. There must be some grease earlier than we are able to feast.’

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A heron along the Rideau River. It has lessons to teach.
A heron alongside the Rideau River. It has classes to show. jpg

“So, the Bear went over to the fireplace and rubbed his paws over the flames till bear grease began to pour out, they usually caught it in a bowl and had grease. And the Bear sang his music: ‘Oh-oh-ohhhhh-oh. Oh-oh-ohhhh-oh.’ The Heron was fairly impressed with all this. So, the Heron says, ‘Subsequent moon, I need everybody to come back to my lodge, as a result of I’m going to feast my creation, too.’ So, the subsequent month everyone went there. And so they had been about to feast, and anyone stated, ‘Wait a minute. We’d like grease.’

“So, the Heron went over to the fireplace, and began rubbing his toes collectively. And he didn’t have his creation music but, so he determined to sing the Bear’s music: ‘Oh-oh-ohhhhh-oh. Oh-oh-ohhhh-oh.’ However his toes caught on hearth. And he needed to run like hell to the lake. And that’s the place he’s to this present day.”

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The story is advised, stated Dumont, to show that you just shouldn’t attempt to steal one other’s identification: “You might have your personal creation tales and your personal songs.”

The river known as forth different fables, different classes.

When two canoes journey down “the nice river of life,” ought to an individual need to be within the canoe with many individuals however just one paddler, or within the canoe the place everybody has a paddle? The suitable reply, stated Dumont, is the latter: “Whether or not you’re a three-year-old little one or a 100-year-old grandmother, everyone in between, your voice must be heard in that canoe. Not solely heard, however revered.” No paddle, no energy.

We encountered an armada of Canada geese mid-stream: “I believe they offer very robust teachings on solidarity and management,” he stated, “and being organized and protecting of the subsequent technology.”

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Canada geese: “They give very strong teachings on solidarity and leadership, and being organized and protective of the next generation.”
Canada geese: “They provide very robust teachings on solidarity and management, and being organized and protecting of the subsequent technology.” jpg

A turtle, Dumont’s favorite animal — he wears a custom-made pendant common from the claws of a “gigantic snapping turtle” — was noticed sunning itself on the water’s edge. This one was of the “mild” selection, he famous, a painted turtle quite than a snapper.

“There’s two sorts of turtle: there’s a mild turtle, and there’s a snapping turtle,” he stated. “Some days I’m a mild turtle. And a few days — after I’m doing my work as a human rights activist — I’m a snapping turtle. The turtle has so many teachings …”

Dumont, in snapper mode, is presently main the cost to strip Sir John A. Macdonald’s identify from the Nationwide Capital Fee’s western parkway alongside the Ottawa River. The marketing campaign is a part of the continuing reckoning throughout Canada’s commemorative panorama to extra totally acknowledge the horrors unleashed through the Macdonald-era institution of the nation’s residential college system.

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Dumont the mild turtle, in the meantime, has carried out a key position in recent times as an Indigenous religious adviser to the native Anglican neighborhood because it pursues a path of reconciliation after generations of hurt inflicted on First Nations, Inuit and Métis by the residential colleges and Christian spiritual indoctrination.

The Proper Rev. Shane Parker, Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Ottawa and former dean of Christ Church Cathedral, is Dumont’s good good friend and occasional canoeing accomplice on Kitigan Zibi’s Lake Bitobi.

“And so far as detrimental experiences go, I’ve had them. However I’ve had so many, many extra optimistic experiences as a result of there’s good individuals who stay in Ottawa.”

Dumont as soon as lived in Vanier and remembers a preferred pastime on the Rideau within the Seventies was looking for fossils encased within the stone riverbed, uncovered throughout summer time shallows. And he remembers practically being swallowed as soon as by the Rideau’s surging spring waters. His severe worksite fall was from the roof at Watson’s Mill in Manotick.

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The Ottawa River — recognized on this metropolis as Kichi Sibi, Kitchissippi or different Algonquin variants which means “nice river” — is well known because the central function of the unceded Algonquin territory that encompasses Canada’s capital and far of Japanese Ontario and West Quebec. However the Rideau, too, has an Algonquin identify with its personal variations: Pasāpikahigani Zībī, which means “the river of rocky formations,” or Pasapkedjiwanong, “the river that runs between the rocks.”

The Rideau River and its watershed are at the centre of the Algonquins of Ontario land claim, currently in the final phase of negotiations with the Ontario and federal governments. (Image based on Province of Ontario map of land claim settlement area)
The Rideau River and its watershed are on the centre of the Algonquins of Ontario land declare, presently within the last part of negotiations with the Ontario and federal governments. (Picture primarily based on Province of Ontario map of land declare settlement space) jpg

“The Kichi Sibi — the Ottawa River — is like the guts of our individuals,” stated Dumont. “These smaller rivers, just like the Rideau and the Gatineau and the Jock River, all these rivers that lock into one another, they’re just like the arteries, the principle arteries of the guts of the Kichi Sibi.

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“The vitality and spirit of so many tributaries — the smaller rivers — empty into it, and every of them deliver their very own knowledge and information to the guts of our territory.”

Archaeologists have traced the lengthy and enduring presence of Indigenous peoples alongside the Rideau. Jean-Luc Pilon, the retired curator of Central Canada archaeology on the Canadian Museum of Historical past, unearthed proof of chipped-stone looking instruments in 2006 at a prehistoric campsite simply east of Rideau Falls on the Ottawa River shore.

The positioning was one finish of a presumed portage, a “touchdown and loading space for birch bark canoes” that was used no less than as early as 4,700 years in the past by Indigenous travellers in search of a southern route by way of the Rideau to the Nice Lakes area.

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And in 2009, on the Rideau shore in Vincent Massey Park simply downstream from Hog’s Again Falls, NCC archaeologist Ian Badgley oversaw the excavation of a portage website the place stone scrapers and different traces of historic Indigenous exercise had been discovered.

Within the 1830s, the Grand Chief of the Algonquins — Fixed Pinesi, often known as Fixed Penency — was pressured to relinquish management over his individuals’s huge conventional looking floor,  together with all the Rideau River drainage basin. He had petitioned unsuccessfully in opposition to the regular inflow of settlers across the time of the Rideau Canal’s building, the continuing confiscation of lands, the opening of Algonquin territory to different tribes.

At the moment, the Rideau watershed is within the midst of a form of re-Indigenization after two centuries of dispossession. A 36,000-sq.-km. land declare settlement — now within the last levels of negotiation between the Algonquins of Ontario, the province and the federal authorities — guarantees to revive a measure of Algonquin management over sure lands and waters throughout Japanese Ontario.

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The Algonquins of Pikwakanagan First Nation close to Pembroke — led by Chief Wendy Jocko, a direct descendent of Chief Pinesi — is the land declare’s main stakeholder. When finalized, the settlement would require all events to respect a sweeping environmental provision “to contemplate the Algonquin curiosity of defending Mom Earth and the water.”

Dumont wears a custom-made pendant fashioned from the claws of a giant snapping turtle.
Dumont wears a custom-made pendant common from the claws of a large snapping turtle. jpg

“It’s such a spotlight proper now, and rightly so. It’s lengthy overdue,” stated Sommer Casgrain-Robertson, common supervisor of the Rideau Valley Conservation Authority. “From my perspective, the RVCA — for over 50 years — has been the supervisor of the Rideau watershed, however we acknowledge that the unique stewards of the watershed are Indigenous communities.

“We’ve quite a lot of studying to do,” she added, particularly in an period when local weather change, habitat loss and growth pressures threaten the well being of the Rideau system.

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Parks Canada, which oversees the Rideau Canal UNESCO World Heritage Web site, is on an identical path of attempting to deepen its engagement with Algonquin nations within the north a part of the waterway and with Mohawk and Mississauga representatives to the south.

It’s not simply authorities companies within the Rideau watershed which can be attempting to strengthen their recognition of and connections with Ottawa-area Algonquins. One native group of historic researchers has begun selling a brand new Jane’s Stroll pathway — aptly known as Chief Pinesi’s Portage — between the Rockcliffe Park canoe touchdown recognized by Pilon and the opposite finish of the Rideau Falls bypass in New Edinburgh’s Stanley Park.

And the Rideau Canoe Membership — which hosts the nationwide canoe and kayak championships this month at Mooney’s Bay — is working with Canoe Kayak Canada and its Indigenous Advisory Council to higher acknowledge the First Nations, Métis and Inuit roots of all canoe and kayak sports activities, and to help paddling packages in Indigenous communities throughout Canada.

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The Rideau, stated Dumont, can solely profit from a stronger embrace of Indigenous values and views.

“Creator by no means gave human beings a ceremony to honour lifeless water. That’s as a result of Creator by no means believed or taught that human beings would ever change into that silly. However we’re killing water,” he stated. “We’re so centered on the need to accumulate increasingly more wealth, that we’re forgetting about sacredness, and about how what we’re doing to this planet as we speak goes to impression our grandchildren, and our grandchildren’s grandchildren.”

Randy Boswell is a Carleton College journalism professor and a former Citizen reporter and editor.

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