Kwey, Anii. Asiniwadjiw Mishibishou Ikwe nidijinakaz. Black Bay Petawawa nidonjiba.
Benishi nindodem, omamiwinini anishabe Ikwe.
Welcome, I am Connie Mielke; my spirit name is Mountain Lion Woman; I am the
Algonquin Negotiation Representative for the community of the Algonquins of
Greater Golden Lake. I am here as a representative for The Algonquins of Ontario. I am also here because I was born and raised in Petawawa my ancestors came from Lake of Two Mountains in Quebec and made their way across the Ottawa and up the
Petawawa River to the shores of the Black Bay River and made those shores their
home. The need to be near water is and was apparent, fresh water is a necessity
Water, the blood of our Mother Earth, is precious. It lives, it can sense what we are saying and it can speak to us, if we listen closely enough. According to Grandmother Josephine Mandamin who has walked thousands of miles along the water to raise awareness about our need to protect our water has said that some of our songs come to us through the water.
Because water carries life to us, and women carry life through their bodies, women have been given the responsibility to take care of the water. To protect it, and to respect it. It is our duty, to pass on this knowledge and understanding of water to our younger women and girls, to all Anisinabe people, and to the whole of humankind. We must remember to protect water in order for us to survive.
The Ottawa River, or Kichisippi, is the heart Algonquin territory. Many important tributaries (such as the Black Bay and the Petawawa River) flow into it from both Ontario and Quebec side of the territory. These tributaries historically provided the Algonquin access to their interior hunting anq trapping lands, while the Ottawa itself provided the Algonquin with a culturally and economical connection with distant nations such as those as far away as the Atlantic Seaboard and western Canada.
Though it may be hard to visualize today with the sheltering old growth gone, and large parking lots, but this popular beach area wais once an Algonquin village. From this strategic location, Algonquins would paddle out to intercept or to welcome passers-by, and escort them to their village here to trade. It was through our positioning along this mighty river and with our intimate knowledge of this watershed, that the early development and expansion of what would become Canada was made possible.
The Algonquin history on this river of course begins long before encountering the
first French explorers. The Algonquin and their ancestors have been using this river valley since the retreat of the glaciers, since the Atlantic Ocean filled this valleywith seawaters and marine life, since the Great Lakes drained through the Petawawa River Valley and into the ocean right here in Petawawa.
Standing here at this shoreline today, we are at the site that the Algonquin have used foing back some 5,000 years. However, if you look up to the edge of the escarpment at CFB Petawawa (looking up toward the Base Recreation Centre above the Golf Course), you see a shoreline that would have been used and occupied by the ancestors of the algonquin thousands of years before that. This powerful river flows and carries with it all of that ancestral knowledge and memories of all times.
There are many sacred sites along the Ottawa that speak to the power of this river, and landscapes, and the Manitous (Spirits) that reside here. There are sacred rock paintings at the base of a massive sheer cliff face called Oiseaux Rock, just up the river. These rock paintings depict and identity the nesting place of the Thunderbirds. There are many ancient burials and historical graves sites just down the river at Morrison and Allumette Islands. The powerful historic Chief Tessouat is buried there. There are also burial sites at Fort William, at POoint au Bapteme, and on the CNL site. And of course, further downstreadm is Astticou, “the Kettle”, or Chaudierre Falls, as we know it today. This was a place of great spiritual acknowledgement by all Indigneous travellers who visited there.
Beyond the spirutal wealth, the waters of the Kichisippi provided a great source of physical sustenance: the sacred Lake Sturgeon and the American Eel, one of my mother’s favorite dishes. Sturgeon and eel were once two of the main traditional fish in the river. Petawawa Point is one such gathering place and village site. When the waters of the Ottawa drop enough at the end of the lon hot summer, one may be fortunate enough to find ancient remnants of a stone fish weir between some river islands or up a tributary close by. The archeologicals records document the reliance of the Algonquin on the fisheries and resources of this great river for 5,000 years.
The river and adjacent lands have been dramatically altered through industrial development. Hydroelectric power dams have flooded over and washed away entire histories of the Algonquin ways, and culturally significant river species such as sturgeon and eel are now threateded and endangered. Fortunately, not all is lost, and through a wealth of Algonquin traditional knowledge, early written historical documentations, and the multitude of archeaological sites, the strength of the bond between the Algonquin and the Kichisippi is unbreakable. The identity of the Algonquin people cannot be separated from this river.
Along this river, it is still possible to walk undisturbed portages around falls and rapids that moccasin feet of Algonquins carrying birch bark canoes have used for thousands of years before. This is the Kichisippi, the Great River, and the heart of our Territory. Today is receives its proper acknowledgement and much due respect.