By Laura Fraser and Daryna Skybina
It’s no secret that Ottawa has been a famous meeting spot for settlers for many years. Yet we must also recognize that this popularity precedes European contact. Ottawa was a centre of transportation and a sacred meeting spot for thousands of years for the Indigenous people of Turtle Island/North America. A large network of rivers connects Ottawa to locations all across Canada and even down to the Gulf of Mexico. Before trains predominated, canoeing was the main mode of travel across the continent, so many people would pass through Ottawa to reach their destinations across North America.
Many of the portage trails that connect the rivers in eastern Ontario and western Quebec have been forgotten due to the harmful impact of colonization. It is the mandate of Kichi Sibi Trails to revitalize many Indigenous portage routes and connect locals with this history. Kichi Sibi Trails has received support from Pikwakanagan First Nation, and has partnered with the Greenspace Alliance of Canada’s Capital to start the process of marking these historical routes.
Not long ago, we took a trip down to Rockcliffe Park and the Rockeries, the start of Grand Chief of the Algonquin Constant Pinesi’s portage route on the Ottawa River. This used to be one of the Grand Chief’s hunting grounds. When you arrive at the park, head towards the water, along the side of the Ottawa River, about 200 metres. Here, there is an opening in the trees marked with orange tape. This takes you down to the water, to the starting point of what is now called “Chief Pinesi’s Portage at Rockcliffe.” If you want to go to the portage virtually, just press play on the video below to watch Dr. Peter Stockdale and Ken Walker lead a Jane’s Walk on this trail.
Whether you want to take a walk down history lane or experience an important Indigenous tradition, this is the place to start.