KSAT blog

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, https://ottawarewind.com/2020/06/17

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.

Ottawa Rewind.com

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.

When Kichi Sibi Trails Began

July 1, 2020

One evening on a COVID walk with Amena, we happened to stumble upon the oldest settler house in Ottawa: the Bayne Morrison House of 1828 at 40 Fuller Street. As it happened, someone who grew up there was outside on the road when I took a picture –  presumably a Morrison, as it is still owned by them. While chatting, I asked if there was an indigenous trail nearby. To my surprise, the owner said it was Sherwood Drive.

We continued west along Sherwood, trying to see where it went. I noticed a good number of maples and the unusual Catalpa – also known as the Indian Bean Tree. As this species is not native, we wondered who had planted it and when. Indigenous Peoples? Settlers?

The route was uncertain after Holland. In a straight line it would appear that it went to the Champlain Bridge. However, following a line along Clare and Iona, it seemed to go through Hampton Park and then to Dovercourt, finally reaching Mud Lake. We stopped following it after we happened upon the Food Basics.

The next dawn I went to the Dow’s Lake Peninsula where Sherwood seemed to lead. From the peninsula, I followed the path back along to Sherwood Drive. It intersected Bayswater, which I wondered if it might be another trail reaching down to the Onigam Portage, the promontory near Lemieux Island. My guess is this would be for those going west going up the Rideau, whereas the Rockcliffe Portage (aka Chief Pinesi’s Portage) would be for those going east. I then followed Sherwood to Parkdale…

These discoveries made me look anew at the map of Ottawa and want to search for other such trails. Sherwood is obvious because it is diagonal to other local roads. Heron Road may be a candidate. Richmond and Wellington make other good candidates. There is a known trail near Pinecrest. Promenade du Portage, the main street in Gatineau, is well known.

Do you know of other trails, or other candidates?