Wayfinding Map: Chief Pinesi’s Portage

This map of Chief Pinesi’s Portage Loop shows a modern day trail along existing roads. The loop includes:

  • The historical trailheads on the Ottawa and Rideau Rivers
  • A commissioned mural, permanently displayed on the west-facing wall of the New Edinburgh Park Fieldhouse, and
  • Interpretative and directional Trail Markers (corresponding text below).
  • At each Trail Marker, we identify specimens of culturally significant plants – species used traditionally by the Algonquin.

Do not attempt to make or use these plants or preparations
based on the information provided on this website

or without experienced guidance and instruction!

  • The list of identified plants is not comprehensive. Where recorded data is lacking for Ontario and Québec-centred Algonquin Anishinaabeg, liberty was taken to use data from across Algonquin-speaking First Nations – specifically Cree, Chippewa, Malecite, and Mi’kmaq. The premise is that language communicates knowledge, ideas, and world views across community boundaries. In this way, the author seeks not to offend but to facilitate a discourse for revitalizing traditional knowledge lost or displaced through the impacts of colonialism

Additional references for plant species used by the Algonquin.

Trail marker #1

The Rideau River terminus of the historical Pinesi portage trail would have been somewhere along this stretch of the river, near the St Patrick Street Bridge, the last point where the river is deep. Indigenous travellers, whether coming from the St. Lawrence, Ohio or the Gulf of Mexico would have disembarked here. Before the dam was built at the Rideau Falls, the river beyond this stretch was all rapids and water levels would have been too low to be good put in points for canoes. In addition, this stretch is at the minimum distance from the Ottawa River terminus of the trail, as the Rideau downstream bends to the West around New Edinburgh Park, taking travellers further away from the portage end point on the Ottawa. From here, you can follow the riverfront path North towards New Edinburg Park. 

Culturally significant plant species

Eastern Walnut (Juglans nigra)

  • Bark: used to make black and brown dye.
  • Nut rinds or hulls: Chewed for colic.

Trail marker #2

At this point, the portage would have started to scale the heights over and down to the Ottawa River on the other side. Turn right and make your way along Dufferin Road to Lisgar Road. But prior to making your way there, go visit the Pinesi mural, commemorating Grand Chief Constant Pinesi, leader of the local Algonquin people at the time when this area was being settled, and whose hunting grounds this was until the early 1800s. The mural is located on the West-facing wall of the New Edinburg Park Fieldhouse.     

Culturally significant plant species

Staghorn Sumac (Rhus typhina) / Bakwanâtig

  • Fruits and leaves: Crushed and prepared as a gargle for sore throats.
  • Roots: Used to stop hemorrhaging, or mixed with other plants for rheumatism.
  • Flowers: Decoction taken to treat stomach pain.
  • Roots and fruits: Steeped and taken as a blood purifier, or mixed with the roots of blackberry, mountain holly, orange-red lily (Lilium bulbiferum) and mountain raspberry (Rubus deliciosus) and used for consumption (a wasting disease, especially pulmonary tuberculosis) or for cough and fever.

White Pine (Pinus strobus) / Zhingwâk’

  • Bark: Inner bark boiled and given for sores, swellings.
  • Pitch: Mixed with deer tallow (deer fat) and used as a poultice for felons (infection within the fingertip pulp) and similar inflammations.
  • Needles: Crushed and applied to relieve headache. Boiled, and the vapor inhaled to cure backache. Fume produced by heating inhaled to cure headache. Crushed with red pine (Pinus resinosa) needles, boiled and applied to relieve headache. Powered and used as a reviver or inhalant. Young staminate catkins (male flower cluster) stewed with meat.
  • Gum: Boiled and drunk for sore throat, cold, and consumption.
  • Wood: Mixed with inner bark of black cherry (Prunus serotine) and American plum (Prunus americana) in a decoction used to treat cuts and wounds. Young tree trunk cut into sections, boiled with bark, pounded into mash, dried, then applied moist with wild cherry and wild plum to cuts.

Trail marker #3

Continuing to climb but arcing now towards the Ottawa River, the portage would have followed what is now Lisgar Road. This whole time, the trail runs next to the grounds of Rideau Hall. Reflecting on the contrast here between the symbolic seat of power of the Canadian State and this important indigenous cultural landscape on unceded Anishnabe territory, is a powerful exercise.  

Culturally significant plant species

White Spruce (Picea glauca) / Gaawaandag

  • Twigs: Made into a tea used as a general medicine. Steeped to make an antiscorbutic tea. Tips of branches used to brew a tea to “heal the inside”. Tea used by women after childbirth. Mixed with rare clubmoss (Lycopodium obscurum)and the inner part of the American hophornbeam (Ostrya virginiana) wood in a decoction used for steaming stiff joints in rheumatism. Used to treat diabetes. Juice from young tree boughs used for sore eyes. Herbal water taken for colds.
  • Inner bark: Chewed or drunk as a tea for cough. Decoction used in a compound arthritis remedy. Used to stop bleeding from cuts. Used to treat diabetes.
  • Bark: Tea used as a salve. Steeped and given to treat tuberculosis.
  • Sap: Applied to stop bleeding from cuts. Boiled and taken for coughing. Heated and pressed on blisters. Herbal water taken for colds. Heated, mixed with lard, cooled and applied to wound infections.
  • Gum: Used alone or most commonly mixed with rendered fat from a bear, otter, beaver, or lard, and applied as a salve for skin infections, cuts, rashes, burns, persistent sores, and chapped or cracked skin. Mixed with grease to make an ointment to treat skin rashes, scabies, persistent scabs and a growing boil. Chewed as a laxative. Used to treat symptoms related to diabetes. Applied to cuts and skin infections. Warmed and applied to treat cuts, boils or sores. Poultice used to treat skin disorders, bee stings, cuts and burns.
  • Rotten wood: Powdered and used as baby powder or to treat skin rashes. Cones: Used to make a medicine for excessive urination. Used to make a jelly to treat headache and stomachache. Used to treat symptoms related to diabetes.
  • Leaves: Used as an inhalant or fumigator. Used to treat symptoms related to diabetes. Powder used as a compress for aches and pains. Crushed, placed on cloth and put in throat to treat pain and burns.
  • Roots and bark: Tea used for stomach pain, fainting and fits.
  • Wood: Inside strips put on burns, boiled without bark and taken for sore throat.  

Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum) / Aninaatig

  • Sap: Used with a decoction of Marsh Marigold (Caltha palustris) as a cough syrup. Sugar dissolved in cold water to make a summer drink. Sap mixed with the sap of Manitoba maple(A. negundo) or yellow birch(Betula Lutea) for cold beverage.
  • Bark: Decoction made from inner bark used to treat diarrhea. Bark infusion made from shoots used as an eyewash and to treat cataracts.

Trail marker #4

Having made its way to the top, the portage would at this point started its descent towards the Ottawa River, following what is now Princess Avenue down the hill. The wooded area on the East side of the road is known as Pine Hill, which features a number of walking trails. While there is no archeological evidence that this is the exact location of the historical portage trail, Pine Hill is a good example of the type of terrain and landscape that the historical portage would have crossed on its way to the Ottawa River terminus of the trail.     

Culturally significant plant species

White Ash (Fraxinus americana) / Aagimaak

  • Used as a medicine to stimulate or increase menstrual flow.
  • Leaves: Strong decoction given as a cleanser after delivery.
  • Wood: Smoke used to treat earache

Common Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) / Adjidamo’anûk

  • Whole plant: Used to stop bleeding. Boiled until thick and used as a lotion. Used for fever, cold and other respiratory disorders. Dried, mashed into a powder, and rubbed with leaves or bark on swelling, bruise, or sprain. Mixed with lard and applied to infected sores. Decoction used to treat diarrhea. Soaking in a bath of hot water and common yarrow (Achillea millefolium) helps treat arthritis or aching bones, and a twice-boiled decoction of the plant can be drunk after the bath. Tea used to treat stomach problems. Boiled and taken to treat diabetes.
  • Above-ground parts: Poultice used to treat headaches including migraines, arthritis, muscular pain, sore back, or body pain. Tea drunk as a painkiller as well as for sore throat, cough and cold. Decoction drunk to treat a sore chest.
  • Leaves: Dried and boiled to make a decoction to treat diabetes. Crushed and used as a snuff for headaches, or boiled and the steam inhaled and the decoction drunk, or flower and leaves are burned and the smoke inhaled. Chewed and applied to burns, cuts or bee stings. Infusion used as a wash for pimples, mosquito bites or other skin eruptions. Poultice used to treat skin disorders, cuts, burns and bee stings.
  • Roots: Made into an ointment rubbed on sores, aching bones or swellings to relieve the pain, and a decoction of the same mix is drunk to help reduce swelling. Seeds and roots are boiled and the steam used to treat sore eyes.
  • Flowers: Placed on a bed of coals and smoke inhaled to break a fever. Fresh flower heads chewed and applied to bee stings, cuts, sores or placed in the nostril to stop a nosebleed. Decoction drunk as a spring tonic, to regain lost appetite, to treat menstrual cramps or heavy menstruation, to aid in childbirth to relieve labor pains and to stop hemorrhaging. Used to treat sinus or chest congestion. Dried flower heads boiled and the decoction used as a wash for skin rashes or sores. Poultice used in skin disorders, cuts, burns and bee stings.

White Cedar (Thuja occidentalis) / Giizhik

  • Leaves: Crushed and applied to relieve headache, boiled and inhaled to cure backache.Used for hot tea. Drinking boiled leaves with ironwood (Ostrya virginiana(?)) used to treat cough, in sweat bath. Used for cough syrup with hop-hornbeam (Ostrya). Decoction used to treat headache.
  • Wood: Burned and charcoal used to treat convulsion.
  • Twigs: Burned as a disinfectant, during a sweat bath.
  • Branches: Steam bath to treat colds, fever, after childbirth, colic in babies.
  • Cones: Tea used to treat skin problems. 
  • Bark: Bark applied.

Trail marker #5

The Ottawa River terminus of the historical portage was located on the shoreline somewhere along this stretch of open space across the George Etienne Cartier Parkway. There is evidence that the main portage trail may have come from the right, from the direction of the Rockcliffe Pavilion, but also that Governor’s Bay, to the left, may have served as a portage terminus as well. Indigenous travellers could have headed East down the Ottawa River to reach the Atlantic. Those heading West, as far as the Pacific Coast, would have headed upriver portaging around the Chaudière Falls. Still others would have headed up the nearby Gatineau River to James Bay, Mistassini, and northern Labrador. Many of their stone tools over a period of 7,000 years were excavated at Pointe Gatineau.  Turn left here and make your way to the Queen Elizabeth II horse statue.  

Culturally significant plant species

Northern Red Oak (Quercus rubra) / Wi’sugi’mĭtĭgo’mĭc

  • Bark: Steeped in water with buds or young cones of balsam fir(Abies balsamea) and Eastern hemlock(Tsuga canadensis) and given for diarrhoea. Tea prepared with bark and root of American pussy willow(Salix discolor), Eastern white pine(Pinus strobus), jack pine(Pinus banksiana) and Bearberry(Arctostaphylos uva-ursi) given in fainting and fits. Used for heart troubles and bronchial affects.

Trail marker #6

At the traffic circle, turn left at Rideau Gate past the entrance to Rideau Hall and continue on Thomas Street all the way back to the Rideau River.

Culturally significant plant species

in progress

Trail marker #7

Here you can turn left and follow Stanley Avenue back to the starting point.  Or, you can follow one of the walking paths along the river using any of the access points along the way.  

Culturally significant plant species

Green Ash (Fraxinus pennsylvanica) / A’gîma’k

  • Inner bark: Mixed with other plants and used as a tonic. Made into an infusion taken for depression, fatigue.
  • Cambium Layer: Scraped down in long, fluffy layers and cooked (said to taste like eggs).
  • Wood: Used for basketry splints, cradle boards, snowshoe frames, sleds, bows, and arrows.

Cattails (Typha latifolia) / Segidebigakde’gil

  • Seeds: Dried and used as a poultice for burns. Poultice used in skin disorders, cuts, burns and bee stings.
  • Leaves: Blades used to weave mats, baskets and as mats for roofing wigwams. Leaves used to make wind and rain-proof mats that were placed on the sides of medicine lodges. Greased and layered on a sore twice a day.
  • Roots: Used to treat diabetes. Crushed by pounding or chewing and applied as a poultice to sores. Poultice of crushed roots applied as a dermatological aide to treat wounds and infections. Poultice of crushed roots applied as a disinfectant. Boiled and used to wash skin infections. Compress applied to treat sore throat.
  • Green flower: Boiled or dried. Pollen used for flour.
  • Flower: Wool used for bedding.
  • Fuzz or seed: Fuzz or seed used to make a quilt and the quilt used to make a sleeping bag.

White Birch (Betula papyrifera) / Wiigwaasaatig

  • White powder on the bark (lichens): used for diaper rash and other skin rashes.
  • Inner Bark: steeped and taken as an enema.
  • Bark: Used to make baskets and containers, canoes, houses, tents and shelters. Folded, edges chewed and the resulting design transferred to baskets and moccasins.
  • Roots: Root bark cooked and taken with maple sugar for stomach cramps.

American Elm (Ulmus americana) / Aniib

  • Bark: Steeped and drunk as a cure for lung bleeding.