By Laura Fraser
Did you know there are 8,000-year-old trails that used to run all the way through New Edinburgh and Rockcliffe Park to Northern Labrador, and then south to the Gulf of Mexico? My guess is probably not. These were the hunting grounds of Grand Chief Pinesi.
The first day of July this year marks 155 years since Canada became its own country. In recognition of Indigenous Peoples past and present, Chief Pinesi Day will be held on July 1, 2022, in New Edinburgh and Rockcliffe Park to celebrate the Algonquin Anishinaabe history of the area. It will be an opportunity for reconciliation, and to learn about of the past and present of the New Edinburgh and Rockcliffe Park area from an Algonquin Anishinaabe perspective.
The day will start off with a portage to Governor Bay on the Ottawa River (between 24 Sussex Dr. and the road through Rockcliffe Park) where settler and Algonquin canoeists will meet to walk together to Rideau Hall and hopefully meet the Governor General. This meeting between Chief Wendy Jocko and Governor General Mary Simon, should it take place, will make history, Chief Jocko is the first woman Chief of Pikwakanagan and a direct descendant of Chief Constant Pinesi. Pinesi was appointed Grand Chief by Governor General Simon’s antecedent in 1830. Mary Simon is the first Indigenous Governor General of Canada.
After this event, canoeists will portage to the Rideau River and paddle to the New Edinburgh Fieldhouse at 203 Stanley Ave., where most of the celebrations will take place.
Not a canoeist? No problem. There will be storytelling about the ways plant species (still resident here) were traditionally used, their Algonquin stories, and about Chief Pinesi. Medicine paddles and walking tours will also take place. The walking tours will start at 10:30 a.m. and run throughout the day. Some tours will be as short as 45 minutes; others will last up to two hours.
The main festivities will be held at the New Edinburgh Park Field House starting at 2 p.m. This will include the inauguration of the Kichi Sibi Trails’ trail markers. These markers will identify known active portage routes, as well as historic routes across eastern Ontario and western Quebec. The logo is being made by Algonquin Anishinaabe artist Simon Brascoupé. Other social events will include storytelling for people of all ages.
Also, a new ceramic mural will be unveiled. It will feature Chief Pinesi in symbolic form. The mural will describe some of the myths and animals that live in and around the hunting grounds along the Ottawa and Rideau Rivers, the great water panther, and Algonquin stories, including stories about Rockcliffe Park. The mural is being created by Doreen and Charlotte Stevens, artists from Kitigan Zibi First Nation.
There will also be an opportunity to meet many other descendants of Chief Pinesi who will be meeting each other for the first time on July 1. Noreen Kruzich, author of The Ancestors Are Arranging Things, will be signing copies of her book.
The event will also include traditional Anishinaabe drumming and powwow dancing. Organizers hope that Highland dancing will also take place, to represent the Highland Scottish side of Chief Jocko, and many of those who later settled New Edinburgh, like Thomas McKay.
The day will end off with a walk to view the Parliament Hill fireworks from Rideau Falls.
Learn more about Chief Pinesi Day on Facebook. Search for “Chief Pinesi Portage at Rockcliffe.”