Overview: Chief Pinesi’s Portage

Photo Credit: John Burrowes 1826

This ancient portage is located in today’s downtown Ottawa where it serves to connect Kichi Sibi (the Ottawa River) and the Pasapkedjinawong (the Rideau River), around the mighty Rideau Falls.

Rideau Falls in the 19th Century, before present construction. Photo credit: Unknown , source Chief Pinesi Portage at Riockcliffe (FB group)

The portage is named to honour Pierre Louis Constant Pinesi (1768-1834), an Algonquin Chief whose hunting grounds included this ancient trail and a substantial area surrounding the confluence of the Ottawa, Gatineau, and Rideau Rivers. Chief Pinesi was a significant figure in the history of this region and in the history of Canada. Noted for his eloquence and leadership, Chief Pinesi led a band of approximately 264 families. He and his sons fought in 1812, in the Niagara, along with other First Nation Warriors. These were critical battles which decisively preserved Canada as an independent state. Chief Pinesi submitted multiple petitions to the King, seeking a treaty with the Crown before colonization required him to move to Algonquin Park with his community. In 1830, Chief Pinesi was appointed Grand Chief by the British. In 1834, he and his wife died of cholera at Oka.

The existence and likely path of this ancient portage route has been confirmed by recent archaeological research. The elevation of the portage suggests that the portage trail is likely as old as 8,000 years. Artefacts found opposite the trail terminus on the Ottawa River (across the river, below the portage at Place Abinan) are up to 7,000 years old. Chief Pinesi’s Portage, a north-south trail to the Rideau River would have been used to exchange objects from at least as far North as northern Labrador to this locale, and likely down to the Gulf of Mexico, if not further. Plant species used for traditional food, medicine, and building are still found growing in the vicinity of this trail.

Chief Pinesi’s Portage is the first trail to be revitalized by Kichi Sibi Trails! For this trail we offer:

  • a little background (paragraphs above and linked article about Grand Chief Pinesi)
  • wayfinding map
  • an article by archaeologist Jean-Luc Pilon presenting archaeological research that confirms the existence and likely path of ancient portages around Rideau Falls.
  • media interviews, images, and videos (below)

Early Forays

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