Another Sacred Aboriginal Site become Developer’s Target


 A Perfect Example of Greed and Another Sad loss of a Significant Sacred Site……


This is troubling to hear.  Word is that Montreal’s Domtar Corporation is poised to sell land that they may “possess” but likely do not “own” along the Ottawa River.  Specifically, the small islands at Chaudière Falls in the shadow of Canada’s Parliament buildings is about to be purchased by Windmill Holdings.  Windmill plans to disturb the sacred soil on Chaudière Island as well as Albert and Victoria Islands.

It is always interesting to try to understand the ethics of corporations.  In creating a corporation, the key members shield their identity from public scrutiny and the rightful ridicule they properly deserve.

As interesting, is the attempt to select certain recent historical fact and use it to obliterate a much deeper picture.

According to Windmill, the history of the “Cauldron” and its islands began when Philemon Wright, “entitled” British Empire Loyalist floated his first raft of lumber down the Ottawa River in 1806 and subsequently built a lumber mill utilizing power from the Chaudière Falls.  Within 20 years, his small settler community (called Wrightsville) had grown to a population of 700 and boasted 7 such mills.

Windmill shows an uncanny facility for selective history in outlining the lineage of corporate ownership from E. B. Eddy Corporation who sold the “land” to the Weston group in 1998.  And in all the historical “due diligence” undertaken by the Windmill development group, not a word or thought to what existed on the site before Philemon Wright showed up in 1806.  This to my mind is a very selective treatment of history and, indeed one intended to marginalize Aboriginal history and legitimate title.

Conversely, corporate managing partner Jonathan Weisteinde certainly neglects the fact that even among the Europeans; it was Samuel de Champlain who first set eyes on the site in 1603.  The River, then known as Kitchi-sippi, meaning “The Great River” had long served the Algonquin people along the valley as a hunting and trading route.  The falls at, the islands nearby and the entire shoreline was the home of the Amerindian tribe. They were called the “Outaouak” or the “Ootaooa a name later anglicized to “Ottawa” for simplicity.

Chaudière Falls and the neighboring islands possess great significance in the tribe’s history that predated Champlain by centuries.  Cultural events, blessings and memorials for the dead have long been part of the history of these islands.

It is troubling to know that this Falls and the Islands now is the target of Windmill Developments was never ceded by treaty and that, in truth Philemon Wright and the subsequent “owners” were merely squatters on lands on which they held no legitimate title.  In many other parts of Canada, land was ceded to the Crown by way of negotiated treaties.  The Ottawas held great attachment to their lands and refused to relinquish ownership.  Instead, the lands were simply confiscated and passed along to people like Philemon Wright by the British Crown in appreciation to Wright’s opposition to the Revolutionary War in the Thirteen Colonies.

I should say that Windmill Developments managing partner has not completely left the Ottawas out of his deliberations.  He states, ““There are some great First Nations’ names we could use.”.  Being “used” is the operative term and my mind flashes to the Washington Redskins and the Cleveland Indians etc etc. What shame.

The vision of Jacques Greber (“The Greber Report” in 1949) who envisioned these sites public space with trees and free at last from commercial development is a vision that I can accept as fitting use of Aboriginal lands: to return them to their earliest use.  I happen to share the vision of the late William Commanda OC (November 11, 1913 – August 3, 2011) and ask/beg that the greed of corporations spare this last scrap of land from residential development.

The National Capital Commission MUST seize ownership and stewardship of these sites and preserve them for future generations out of respect for the rightful owners of Chaudière Falls and the islands nearby.

I call upon all Otttawas to resist financial opportunity and demand respect for the culture and history that quietly lives on those islands. Land is Mother – we do not sell Mother.

I ask all fair minded people to contact their Federal Members of Parliament and demand that Chaudière Falls and the islands nearby be immediately designated as a National Historic Site. I have heard it said many times that the vicinity is legitimately a cradle of Canadian culture.  There is lots of land in Canada for Windmill to exploit.  Certainly these little specs of land on the Ottawa River between Ottawa and Hull can be spared the indignity of bulldozers and the sacred bones of Ottawa ancestors can rest where they have rested since before Samuel de Champlain cast eyes upon it over 500 years ago.

A fitting step toward truth and reconciliation would see, on this site a healing lodge and, most certainly a significant marker commemorating those thousands of lives that ended in the Residential Schools.

I invite each of you to listen to the words of “Grandfather” William Commanda and his thoughts on this site, I can say those things no better



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