Chief Pinesi Day 2023

We hope you will join us!


By Cindy Parkanyi

Posted on  by Cindy Parkanyi

Kichi Sibi Trails, in concert with NECA and the Crichton Community Council, is once again coordinating the July 1st Chief Pinesi Day event in New Edinburgh Park (in and around the Fieldhouse) to honour Algonquin Anishinabe presence in the area.

Beginning at 9 am with the Sacred Fire, the day-long program – lead by the Algonquins of Pikwakanagan First Nation – will feature drumming, singing and dancing. Councillor Merv Sarazin will be present for welcoming remarks; Opening prayers will be offered by Kokom Jane Chartrand. With an indigenous veterans honour guard, former Chief Wendy Jocko will speak about Chief Pinesi and his importance to indigenous and Canadian military history.

During both the morning and afternoon, attendees can take a land tour along parts of the revitalized Chief Pinesi Portage Trail, which was an ancient (approximately 8,000 years old) indigenous portage trail between the Ottawa and Rideau rivers. The trail is now marked by signs created by Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg artist Simon Brascoupé.

Photo of canoes below Rideau Falls.  Courtesy of ONEC
Ottawa New Edinburgh Club (ONEC) is providing the canoes and guides for the Medicine Paddle activity that takes place in the afternoon. Photo courtesy of ONEC

After the ceremonies, there will be an educational walk along the Rideau and a Medicine Paddle from Governor Bay along the Ottawa River (for those who are willing to get their feet wet).

This Chief Pinesi Day, people can visit the Bloodline – Miskwi and Gathering Phases – Bakaan Asiginan murals located on the side of the New Edinburgh Fieldhouse, now with a three language panel description. These colourful ceramic and paint murals were created by the Algonquin mother and daughter team of Doreen and Charlotte Stevens. Miskwi means bloodline and the mural depicts several Algonquin lineages. Bakaan Asiginan signifies the gathering of indigenous people living in harmony with nature through all phases of their lives.

Photo of Miskwi mural and artist Doreen Stevens
Algonquin artist Doreen Stevens describes the concept of the mural Bloodline – Miskwi, which she and her daughter, Charlotte, created to celebrate and tell the story of this area’s indigenous history.

Who was Chief Pinesi?
Chief Constant Pinesi (1768 – 1834) was the last traditional Algonquin Chief to have hunting grounds in Ottawa – at Rideau and Chaudière Falls. He and his four sons fought in critical battles in the Niagara on the British side in the War of 1812. Pinesi was appointed Grand Chief by Governor-General Kempt in 1830.

For over a century, Algonquin Chief Pinesi and later his son, Kigonz and other leaders, often with the Nipissing, petitioned the Government of the day that a portion of their hunting and trapping grounds be untouched by settlement. They never did receive even a small piece of their traditional territory, extending across the Ottawa Valley, and in the end were even displaced for the creation of Algonquin Provincial Park. The many petitions exist today, held in archival files, revealing the truth of a stolen land, still without treaty.

A bronze plaque to honour the legacy of Grand Chief Pierre Louis Constant Pinesi.

On November 11, 2022, a beautiful bronze plaque was mounted on a large chunk of ancient rock near the Rideau River, in Ottawa’s New Edinburg Park. Beautiful and enduring, this monument is intended to honour and uphold the legacy of Algonquin Grand Chief Pierre Louis Constant Pinesi (1768-1834).

Noted for his eloquence and leadership, Grand Chief Constant Pinesi was a significant figure in the history of this region. Constant is his French family name and from it we can draw the connections to Constance Bay, Constance Lake, Constant Creek, all of which are named after him.

Grand Chief Constant Pinesi was also a significant figure in the history of Canada. His life bridged time before the land was colonized, to when new settlers, loggers, and the British military became established in the region. His lifetime spanned many major historical events, including the US Revolution, the 1791 creation of the provinces of Upper and Lower Canada, the War of 1812, and the increasing tide of settlers into Algonquin hunting grounds. He was the last chief to hunt and inhabit the area surrounding the confluence of the Ottawa and Rideau Rivers, before displacement by colonial inhabitation.

During his lifetime, the lives of Chief Constant Pinesi’s people (a large band of approximately 264 families) transformed from self-sufficient gathering, hunting, fishing, and trapping, to lives of increasing poverty as their lands, fish, and game were encroached upon by settlers, and the forests in which they lived were logged. Grand Chief Constant Pinesi repeatedly sought government recognition for his people’s rights to their ancestral lands. These rights were never recognized, despite his peoples’ significant military contributions to support Canada in the War of 1812.

In the historic hunting grounds of Grand Chief Constant Pinesi, this new monument seems a fitting presence. Its specific location is also significant. Upstream from the monument, the river was historically calm and deep enough to safely paddle a canoe. Downstream from the monument, the river is calm in present day because of the dam above Rideau Falls. However, before water levels were affected by the dam, the river turned into a torrent of rapids leading directly to the falls! The Algonquin considered this section of the river to be the home of the Mishipeshu – the Water Lynx who threatened to capsize travelers… As such, Chief Constant Pinesi’s monument marks the beginning of an ancient path that travelers would have walked to safely bypass the rapids and the waterfall when travelling between the Rideau and the Ottawa Rivers.

Today the monument also marks the beginning of the Chief Pinesi Portage – a modern representation of the ancient portage trail.  The embedded QR Code links to a Wayfinding Map which shows the modern-day trail, including directional and interpretive trail markers that indicate the trail heads at both rivers, the location of our commissioned mural, and culturally significant plant species alongside. We hope that you will come to see this tribute to Chief Constant Pinesi and perhaps even explore the trail!

Many thanks to Paul Johanis, for his initiative and effort to create this tribute to Grand Chief Constant Pinesi and to acknowledge the presence of his peoples and the history of this region.

Credit to Jim Stone for furnishing insight into the life of Grand Chief Constant Pinesi.

Photo credits to Dr Peter Stockdale.

A Local Intrigue!

March 4, 2022

Ottawa Rewind recently drew attention to an intriguing structure:

The Mystery of the Solar Wheel.

Ottawa Rewind,

Located in a dense forested area at the confluence of the Ottawa and Carp rivers at the foot of Chats Falls, there lies a hidden 400ft diameter wheel aligned with the Summer Solstice. Whether by coincidence or by conscious effort, someone at some point in history has made a remarkable earthen wheel in what has always been a sacred and important place in the Ottawa Valley.

Further investigation into this overgrown “wheel” reveals interesting details that will either prove it to be of a more ancient origin, or perhaps merely a more modern construction that coincidentally aligns its axis with the setting sun on the Summer Solstice.


Paddling Through the Past

October 1, 2022

By Jean-Luc Pilon
Archaeologist, Former Curator of Ontario Archaeology at the Canadian Museum of History, Gatineau, Quebec.

In 2021, Jean-Luc Pilon and his daughter Laina produced Paddling Through the Past – a 46 minute video that allows viewers to virtually visit a number of locations situated between the mouth of the Gatineau River and the Chaudières Falls.  Jean-Luc Pilon and Randy Boswell (journalist and historian, Carleton University) have suggested that these archaeological sites were part of a cultural landscape that existed for thousands of years.  They have proposed that the sum of these parts, was far more significant and meaningful in ancient times than any of the sites on their own.  An important issue brought up is the way people travelled between the Ottawa and Rideau Rivers.  The probable portage route that begins in Rockcliffe Park is one of the sites explored during this canoe trip.

Paddling Through the Past – now posted by the Ottawa Chapter of the Ontario Archaeological Society.

Meeting About the Trails

November 5, 2021

On Thursday, Kichi Sibi Trails was granted the privilege of two hours with Pikwakanagan First Nations Chief Wendy Jocko and Councillor Merv Sarazin. We discussed ways that the trails could be relevant, helpful, and foster the unity of the Algonquin Anishinabeg. We also discussed the possible order of ceremonies with Governor-General Simon, and the program for Chief Pinesi Day to take place on Canada Day, 1 July 2022 to open the revitalized Chief Pinesi’s Portage at Rockcliffe.

Chief Wendy Jocko
Councillor Merv Sarazin

Max Finkelstein, Jim Stone, and Peter Stockdale were very grateful for this discussion so that we can be more effective and relevant. Clearly, there are multiple years of projects to accomplish at the Portage, and elsewhere along the Kichi Sibi. We may be able to work in partnership to execute or assist in achieving them. We talked about their bloodline to Chief Pinesi and about how we could fundraise to bring as many descendants as possible to the portage opening in June 2022.

A Trail Through Pinecrest Cemetery

January 28, 2021

We found traces of another Ancient Indigenous Trail running from the Rideau River (between what is now Hog’s Back and Black Rapids) to the Ottawa River (to Lac Deschenes) running through what is now Pinecrest Cemetery.

Apparent trail line SE over rivulet

We learned that the Cole family created Pinecrest Cemetery, and buried their family and intermarried families next to the trail, but we don’t know why. It is not a prominent place. Further, we found the path exit in the SE corner heading toward Black Rapids. It appeared to cross the rivulet and then NE but the Google Map suggests it may have followed a treeline along the ridge for some distance. 

Apparent trail line SE over rivulet

Maps and texts suggest that the trail went either to Britannia or further east near the creek entrance at Mud Lake. However, following the trail as the crow flies, it would appear that it ends at this creek entering Lac Deschenes. Max Finklestein thinks this creek is important as it is paddleable above Bayshore. The water follows up to and beyond the Bruce Pit.

Mapping the Ottawa Valley’s Ancient Indigenous Trails

November 10, 2021.

Historical Society of Ottawa
Presentation: Mapping the Ottawa Valley’s Ancient Indigenous Trails
Councillors Merv and Barb Sarazin Pikwàkanagàn First Nation, and Dr. Peter Stockdale

Councillor Merv Sarazin, Councillor Barb Sarazin, and Peter Stockdale spoke at the Historical Society of Ottawa’s monthly event. At least 103 people attended and, apparently, we received a record number of questions (and they were friendly!). An important night for Kichi Sibi Trails, and hopefully a door open for Pikwàkanagàn First Nation. Councillor Merv will be invited back next year for certain to talk about his genealogy.

Walking Chief Pinesi’s Portage

Summer 2020

“Jane’s Walk is a festival of free neighbourhood walking tours that help put people in touch with their city, the things that happen around them, the built environment, the natural environment, and especially with each other.  Jane’s Walk bridges social and geographic gaps and creates a space for cities to discover themselves.  The walks are given by local people who care passionately about where they live, work, and play. Jane’s Walk is a pedestrian-focused event that improves urban literacy by offering insights into local history, planning, design, and civic engagement through the simple act of walking and observing.”

Jane’s Walk

In 2020, Jane’s Walk compiled a series of virtual experiences to help people reach out, stay connected, maintain a sense of place – one featured Chief Pinesi’s Portage!

This virtual walk through Rockcliffe Park and the nearby neighbourhood follows the route of a traditional Indigenous portage between the Ottawa River and the Rideau River. The walk is hosted by Peter Stockdale, John Savage, and Max Finkelstein, who are collaborating on Kichi Sibi Trails. Kichi Sibi Trails revitalizes indigenous trails and portages in eastern Ontario and western Quebec and raises awareness of the deep history of indigenous peoples, lands, and waters in Algonquin Anishinaabe territory.