He is a burly, desperate man, the product of settler stock who self-identifies as having both Algonquin and Mohawk blood, yet offers no proof that this is true. No Indigenous community recognizes him as a friend or ally. No Indigenous nation cares to count him among their membership. If he has support at all, it is with people of the settler community, united in their hatred of the Algonquins of this vast, beautiful territory.
Jason Arbour has approached me in a threatening manner twice in recent years. He did so on Parliament Hill (2014), when he found me among the people, who, like me, had gone there to honour the Omushkegowuk Walkers who had walked 1,600 km in freezing winter temperatures (all the way from Attawapiskat) to bring word of the plight of their people to Canada’s politicians. Arbour wasn’t on the Hill that day to stand in solidarity with young Anishinabe activists. As always, he was there with his own agenda in tow. He angrily confronted me below the Peace Tower for my decision to not allow his wild rantings about Ottawa “being Mohawk territory” on my website. I told him to his face what I thought of his nonsense and he walked away after he noticed our exchange was attracting the attention of folks around us.
Two years later on Victoria Island, Arbour was once again making a nuisance of himself with his outrageous claims at a “Decolonial picnic.” This time (after forcing the microphone from a speaker’s hand), he began shouting into it that “Victoria Island is Mohawk territory”. He took great offence when I objected and began moving towards me (we were standing approximately 30 ft. apart) taking wide, furious steps, screaming over and over again as he did so, “you’re a liar, you’re a liar”. He looked to me like he had become completely unhinged. His eyes were wild and menacing. I thought for sure he was going to assault me as soon as he got close enough to me, and I prepared myself to deal with his blows. Thankfully, he veered away from me when he was about 10 ft. away and left our otherwise peaceful gathering without creating more havoc. I believe it is only a matter of time before Jason Arbour totally loses his grip on reality and, out of control, will attempt to beat up on me.
Arbour does not claim Algonquin blood to stand in support of First Nations causes like most other people do. He does so maliciously, to create confusion, discontent and rage and, I believe, even violence. Jason Arbour would drive the Algonquin Anishinabe away, not only from the heart of their homeland (Ottawa) but also from the most sacred of our holy places (Akikodjiwan). His mission appears to be to gather enough support among the settler community so that the Algonquins will be run out of a territory they have been living in since time immemorial.
After their defeat of General Custer at the Little Big Horn, the Lakota Sioux fled to Saskatchewan and set up housekeeping on Assiniboine lands. Eventually, most of the Sioux returned to their traditional lands around the Black Hills of South Dakota. Some of the Sioux, however, remained in Canada. Even though they have been living in Saskatchewan since the 1800‘s, the Canadian Sioux have never attempted to claim Assiniboine land as their ‘traditional lands’ nor have they attempted to take over the sacred sites of their hosting nation. (The Sioux respect the Assiniboine too much to hurt them this way.) Let us keep in mind that it is NOT the Mohawk people who are claiming Ottawa as Mohawk territory. It is a man of European descent who is doing so. Arbour says he has proof that Ottawa is Mohawk territory. Let him produce it. He has failed in the courts. Only people who wish for and hope for the destruction of the Algonquin believe in him.
Let us be clear, like the sky on a bright summer night far from the city: anyone who defends Arbour or gives him a platform to spew his insanity is an enemy for the cause of Akikodjiwan. A grey area does not exist here. If you stand in defence of Akikodjiwan, then you are obliged to condemn Arbour and others like him who work to drive the Algonquin out.
The spirit of this sacred place of waterfalls and rapids knows well the circle of the Anishinabe. It sings in harmony with our songs. It vibrates within that sacred energy moving forth from our drums and rattles.
Unlike the ‘ancestors’ Jason Arbour speaks about whose oral traditions apparently began in the 1870’s, my Anishinabe oral traditions began many, many thousands of years ago. They tell of our sacred place where the Anishinabe have worshipped since Creator gave it to them after the ice of the Long Winter melted away.
Jason Arbour will never be able to prove that a Mohawk reserve ever existed in Hull, Quebec, because of the fact that there never was one. But even if there had been a Mohawk reserve in the region in the 1870’s it would not give the Mohawks the right today to call our Anishinabe homeland their ‘traditional territory’. Creator gave us these lands unto which to build our lodges so we would have a place to raise our families and we are grateful. The Algonquin Anishinabe will defend title to our territory to the very end.
Jason Arbour, a troubled but determined man of settler stock, has seemingly dedicated his life to destroying the Algonquin Anishinabe. He would be well advised to invest his time and energy elsewhere, for we will never allow him victory.
Wow, paranoid much?
Let me share some settler logic with you… when you attack the messenger you discredit yourself and you make it clear to everyone reading it that your argument is weak, because if you had a strong argument you wouldn’t have to attack the messenger. In addition, though, this rant opens you up to a defamation lawsuit. So, I suggest you appologize.
I know Jason and I have never experienced anything similar to what you are claming. In fact, your rant reeks of descrimination, something I never thought I’d see amoung First Nations people. So sad that you haven’t figured out yet that you need to work together. Divide and conquer is the settler way don’t you know?
As for Jason Arbour not belonging to any “group”, that’s not true, he belongs to his nation, whether it’s officially recognized by our settler government or other First Nations doesn’t matter. He knows his history as does his family. Passed down by word of mouth for generations. Do you deny oral history?
I realize his claim causes the Algonquin nation a problem, but perhaps you should reconsider making such a large claim of unceded territory when there is documented evidence to the contrary. The Canadian census of 1871 clearly states the Indians living in Hull (now Gatineau) were Iroquois (https://unpublishedottawa.com/letter/174294/kanatso-first-nation-recognition-requisition-gatineau), a fact that can’t be denied.
Because Jason is both Algonquin and Mohawk, as I am a of both Greek and Irish decent, he is a product of modern Canada. And, therefore the perfect person to help bring the Algonquins and Mohawks together. Unlike you, he is not denying Algonquins we’re living in the region, yet you deny Mohawk existence, which is very short sighted given the Census and other historical evidence.
For this reason, the Algonquin land claim will never succeed. The government knows the truth, no amount of posturing will make a difference. The Algonquin argument needs to be modified to include the existence of other nations or it will fail. There is only one history and it doesn’t mesh with your narrative. Take it from a political communications professional, your story needs to be modified.
James O’Grady, Founder
He’s stating his experiences, you are attacking his message. What is the intent of the claim? if slowing down colonial destruction at the falls and realizing many nation came to these lands, hi5. Tho to say the falls are Mohawk territory because of a colonial document from 1870 in which a few families resided there, plus the known history of iroquois hardship with the Algonquins, during land claims agreements is concerning. The fact Canada/turtle island was far different then planned/known, also other nations are found to have had settlements/history here, especially Anishnaabe peoples. In all I pray this is a catalyst for a better future, one of less entitlement, rather harmony!
I hope a positive resolution will be found to this unfortunate situation. The displacement of indigenous peoples from their traditional territories by colonialism has caused so much disruption and injustice. As a settler I hesitate to comment on this situation. However, a settler, Mr. O’Grady, has commented and I feel it is important to respond. I will also be transparent that I consider Albert to be a friend and mentor.
Albert brought up two issues in his post: Mr. Arbour’s behaviour and Mr. Arbour’s claim that part of Ottawa/Gatineau is Mohawk territory. In this first comment I will address the first point. You, Mr. O’Grady, criticized Albert for attacking the messenger, and claim this discredits Albert. You are referring to an ad hominen attack (attacking the person rather than their argument), and then commit the same logical fallacy against Albert by claiming Albert has discredited himself and that he is “paranoid.”
With respect to Mr. Arbour’s behaviour, the fact that you, Mr. O’Grady, know Mr. Arbour and have not experienced aggression or intimidation from him does not negate the experiences of others. I was there, about 20 feet away, at the decolonial picnic when Mr. Arbour seized the microphone from a speaker, claiming someone was blocking his truck, then used the opportunity to claim Victoria Island was Mohawk land. What Albert describes is consistent with my memory of the event. When Albert challenged his claim, Mr. Arbour appeared furious and unpredictable to me at that time.
I have witnessed Mr. Arbour disrupt other events. The first example is January 2011, when there was a sacred fire at the South March Highlands. There were talking circles at the fire, and the protocol was to leave politics aside and focus on the sacred place and our commitment to stop Urbandale from destroying part of the forest. Mr. Arbour declared it was Mohawk territory (this was in Kanata, not near Akikodjiwan), and said nothing about the place.
Like Albert, I experienced Mr. Arbour seeking to post comments on my website to promote his agenda. He and Albert exchanged comments on a post. Eventually, I refused to publish Mr. Arbour’s comments as they were completely off topic and hijacking the conversation about protecting Akikodjiwan/Asinabka from Windmill’s condo development. This is the post: http://juliecomber.com/opportunity-to-honour-sacred-chaudiere-falls-and-nearby-lands/
I have a toddler and this all I can write for now. I do wish to address the second point, about Mr. Arbour’s claim itself, in another comment.
I wish everyone well.
James O’Grady, there is significant & troubling questions about Jason Arbour’s claim to Indigenous identity.
I’m a settler, but what I’ve heard over & over again from Indigenous people is that they derive their Indigenous identity not from ‘blood quantum’ ideas imposed by settlers, but from connection to community. Being Indigenous is about being claimed by a community/Nation. “All my relations”. That belonging & connection is how Indigenous nations have defined themselves in the past & continue to define themselves today. So I ask you:
What Indigenous communities/Nations claim Jason Arbour? Specific Indigenous community/Nation, & which Indigenous kin?
I ask you this not to be rude, but because there is a LOOOOOOOOOOOOOONG history of white settlers claiming Indigenous identity for personal & financial gain. One need look no further than headlines about Joseph Boyden or current claims by settlers in eastern Canada to Metis identity. Many settler Canadians may have Indigenous ancestors in their history–that doesn’t make them Indigenous, it makes them settlers with some Indigenous ancestry. Claiming Indigenous identity when you’re a settler with some Indigenous ancestry is disrespectful, shameful, harmful & greed-driven behaviour. In my opinion it’s the responsibility of settler Canadians to challenge our settler brothers & sisters when they undertake this harmful behaviour.
You are so very right. Migwech for your excellent comment.
Please and kindly know that not being claimed by an Indigenous community does not mean a person is not who they claim to be. Indigenous identity is laden with many layers that is hard to walk through. It is more complicated. That said, I do think a lack of community belonging may be the very reason we are all discussing this.
An 18th century colonial document, and the oral tradition that circulates the context of the production of this document are only two methods of coming to knowledge. One archival document from the 1880s is not enough. And further while the oral tradition is a valid method now valued by the Supreme Court of Canada – it alone does not trump all other methods of coming to knowledge. Please also keep in mind that much of Ontario and Canada’s resources and energy is invested in the extinguishing Indigenous land rights. This situation will not change this. Which is awful.
I have lived here in Ottawa for 56 years. My family moved here from Richmond Hill when I was 10 years old…(so you now can calculate my age)…
I was raised here as a white English girl, with my 3 sisters by my my mom (who I thought was an Irish descended housewife) and dad (who I thought was an English and possibly but not spoken of, Indigenous descended area supervisor for F.E. Shaw pipelines Ltd.). We lived in a middle class west end subdivision with manicured lawns and white picket fences. It was almost entirely white, and almost entirely English speaking. I went to public schools, and attended the local United Church on Sundays. I was taught that Canada was born out of civil compromise and dialogue. I was taught that there were no losers in the creation of confederation and that as a nation, we were unique in the world in our ability to use diplomacy to create good relations between different cultures. Sadly, I now know that this was a fairytale.
The Canadian history that I was taught was taught by colonialists, descendants of a proudly conquering British Empire. It was taught in a ‘civilized’, fashion. Nevertheless, it was a complete lie.
I was not taught anything about the land I was living on other than that it used to be called ‘Bytown’ and because of a feared American invasion, both French and English agreed that it become the Capital of ‘Canada’ instead of Kingston.
Though I have all levels of public education and post graduate university as well, I did not even imagine that there was a need for me to study Canadian/Indigenous history. I was not taught about residential schools, or the reserve system. I knew nothing about the Indian Act or the systemic human and cultural genocide that has been and still is going on ‘legally’ in Canada.
I take personal responsibility for my part in that ignorance. My waking up began with Elijah Harpers wonderful actions concerning Meech Lake. I have perhaps too slowly, for about 10 years now, been following my heart and making it my spiritual priority to do what I can to change this.
This history is deeply shameful. It is deeply inhuman to treat people as lesser for any reason. It is time to stop it completely.
I have worked privately in the field of ‘healing’ for over 40 years. What I know from this experience is that the healing path is not always pretty, not always gentle and not always peaceful. How could it be? Sometimes, uncovering wounds is the only way to bring compassion to them.
I can say, that though I am always going to be seen as ‘new’ to this discussion (and that’s ok)… from my experience, Albert Dumont has always done everything possible to be a healing compassionate and truthful man on this subject. I would trust him with my life.
What I have experienced of Jason Arbour, more than once is that he is deeply wounded, and often extremely angry and frustrated. I do not say this to hurt him. In fact, I have said it to his supporters as well as to him.
I know nothing about the original history of this land and water that I have loved for over half a century. This history was, by my own country hidden intentionally. That was and continues to be deeply tragic.
However, I fully support Alberts intention to legally liberate and bring healing, sacred ceremony; the Algonquin Anishnabe purpose back to Akikodjwan.
I know that everyone, including Jason would be healed by it. And I am not ashamed to say that I know that everyone, including me needs it.
These truths are not easy, but to me it seems that they are the only way to reach compassion. Thank you Albert for your courage, your intention to heal, and your honest words. I pray for full healing, and right relations for all creatures. I pray for all of creation, all nations, all families, all individuals , in short full healing for all.
Kichi migwech, Maureen, for your beautiful letter. You have really touched my heart with your good words. The circle is truly stronger when splendid human beings such as yourself are in it.
All I want really, is to have anger, rage and the threat of violence kept away from Akikodjiwan. The people of this territory and far beyond need a healing place. Let it be Akikodjiwan!
All the best,
Your anger and sadness is justified.
You are so right. I am truly saddened by all this trouble. I am also weary and a bit annoyed by it. One thing I am not, is angry. It takes a lot for me to go there. Many miles are yet to come before I get angry.
Miigwetch Maureen for sharing.
Maureen Stark …..Facts over rule emotion . Respectfully saying .
In a Gatineau Quebec court on a question of fact file #550-61-019736-103 the courts recognized the historical rights bearing community of Kanienkehaka located at Kanatso (Chaudière Falls) . Chief Arbour has done his research with due diligence and integrity . He’s always been respectful to his elders in all communities. This is his family ! Wouldn’t you do the same for yours ? Respectfully asking. He is a true product of Canadian history . His ancestors quarried flint from the falls and more . He didn’t make up his research or draw modern day maps like I have seen in other presentations on TedX . Chief Arbour would never cyber attack someone’s decade proven research . He is a man at heart with all nations . Why should let his ancestors be erased from history ? These are his grass roots
It is now valued that colonial records require interpretation which means they are not facts. It is interesting to think critically about interpretive lenses when seeking knowledge. I am happy people are rethinking colonial “facts”.
Are you serious? Do you actually believe that a no-name brand, misinformed, unqualified judge can, with a stupid declaration, remove Algonquin Anishinabe title to our traditional lands? Please man, wake up and smell the coffee. I respectfully ask that you cease to clog the comment section of my post with your so-called “court decision”. It makes you look quite foolish. If you continue sending the same comment again, I will block you completely from this discussion.
yup . very serious Albert
“We create powerful energy for transformation by acknowledging the unfoldment of things, developing mindfulness of how we speak and creating patterns of right speech, planting affirmation seeds. It is speech, vibration, that is determining our reality. In this time it is for us to master vibration, that we may make the right sound, the right harmonic to go through into the new world unfolding.”
~ VDY from her book, Voices of Our Ancestors
This quote that I am sharing is from the Venerable Chieftess of the Tslagie (Cherokee) Dyhani Yawahoo. She resides at Hope Mountain Vermont. I met her in 1987 during an open family gathering of teachings by different Elders from many parts of the Globe.
This quote reminds me of a teaching about the sound of the Chaudiere Falls, the Great Boiling Kettle, as a sound that maintains sanity for humans.
I humbly submit, that we all need to be willing to be the unimpeded/ restoration/ liberation of that sound.
It is what calls us together.
With love to you all.
My dear Albert,
I have known you for so long and witnessed your evolution from a stone mason to a respected elder. So many changes, so many things that have remained the same.
This body of writing, from all participants, repeats the story of separation born from our collective sadness and fears. That sadness and fear would dissolve if our hearts would be filled with love as the Creator intended.
Do you think this is how the Source of All Life wishes us to act and speak about one another?
I can imagine that some will think that am not dealing with reality by writing these things. Love is the only reality. Everything else is our resistance to love.
Jason is not perfect. Guess what we are all flawed. Albert, you have said and done things that have made my head spin. You were not a fan of Grandfather’s. Actually I didn’t agree with everything he said either. Although that did not diminish my love for him and I did not judge you for your imperfections.
I count myself as one of the Free the Falls group. Here I speak only for myself. As part of that group my intention is to keep that place of spirit and sacredness free of development. It breaks my heart when I think of how it has been raped and desecrated and emotionally abandoned by some of the descendants of the people who prayed and met there generations ago. The most used strategy that seems effective is educating everyone that our group can come into contact with to share the amazing story of the falls and islands. So many people just do not know.
My intention never was to have to choose between different First Nations regardless of what claims anyone made. Silly me, I imagined we were all standing with Spirit for the same cause. I for one will maintain my focus on the original intention of freedom for the waterfall and the islands because I love them, they are sacred and they need to be available for everyone. Albert, I will not choose and I feel sad that you find it necessary to ask Free the Falls to do so.
In the newness of this year I’d like to make a request. Can we all move towards unity, finally, and evolve beyond the toxic and limiting energies of separation? Just do it. What have you got to lose? Sadness, lack, fear, guilt, revenge, hatred, rage. I’d prefer joy, abundance, peace, freedom. love and light Joanna Dragonfly Water Woman
Why do you bring William Commanda into this?? The only reason I can see is that you do so in a vicious attempt to portray me in a negative light. Only a few short years ago there was solidarity in Algonquin Anishinabe territory. All peoples agreed that this (including Ottawa) was the traditional lands of the Algonquins. And then Jason Arbour showed up with his outrageous claims that the lands of the Anishinabe were really those of the Mohawk. Hence, division and intimidation tactics flourished.
I am 100% certain that if he was at your doorstep claiming ownership of your house, your view of him would change right quick. I want you to know that I never set out to be known as an “elder.” If I am regarded as such, ask the folks who do so why it is.
I never asked anyone to “choose” between who is right and who is wrong, i.e. me or Arbour. So do not put words in my mouth. To say that I asked anyone to choose is a clear attack on my integrity. I said very clearly, that anyone who supports people whose purpose is to destroy the Algonquin Anishinabe and run us off our traditional lands and holy places is an enemy to my people. If Free the Falls supports Jason Arbour in his quest to do this, then yes, I will no longer regard them as friends of Akikodjiwan.
I am NOT asking you for a choice. I am stating a fact. Do you stand with the people who work to erase the People of the Great River from a place we have worshipped upon for many thousands of years? It will sadden me tremendously if you fail to condemn them.
Finally posting the second comment, about Mr. Arbour’s claim:
One point Albert has made that I want to emphasize is that Mr. Arbour is claiming Akikodjiwan/Chaudiere is traditional Mohawk territory. Not Mohawk and Algonquin. Just Mohawk. What would he do he if was granted title to Akikodjiwan?
In contrast, the Algonquin have hosted many other Nations at their sacred place for thousands of years. I recognize there may be some difference in opinion about what would be done with Akikodjiwan if it were returned to the Algonquin, but I know that Albert, for one, has an inclusive Vision for this sacred place. Because we ALL need this sacred place.
Here is my perspective on Arbour’s claim: There may have been a Mohawk community living near Akikodjiwan in the 1800’s once the Algonquin were pushed away from their sacred place. The fact that these Mohawk would settle there shows they were not honouring it as a sacred place since Akikodjiwan was not supposed to be permanently settled. It was available for ceremony and peaceful meetings, and anyone from any Nation was welcome if they behaved honourably. If what I have written about Akikodjiwan is incorrect I welcome being corrected by elders, traditional knowledge keepers, or indigenous scholars.
If Arbour proves this Mohawk community existed, then all he is proving is that the community existed. This does not prove it was a reservation. It does not prove it was traditional Mohawk land.
If he proves the Mohawk community existed, and that he is descended from it (this is a separate thing), then of course he will be motivated to have this important part of Ottawa/Hull’s history recognized. Just like other indigenous and non-indigenous immigrants to Ottawa/Hull likely want their community’s contribution to the multicultural diversity and beauty of Ottawa/Hull recognized.
Two terrible tragedies in all this:
1. Energy that could be used to protect Akikodijwan/Asinabka from development being wasted on Arbour’s claim it is traditional Mohawk territory
2. Arbour’s energy and determination being wasted on something fruitless and divisive, when it could be directed to something constructive: getting his ancestor’s community recognized as part of Ottawa/Hull’s history
I am praying Akikodjiwan will be returned to Algonquin stewardship. And that, like in years gone by, they will welcome us all there to pray, meditate, and heal. I’m sure Mr. Arbour will be welcome then, too.
Nopimi Nagamo (Julie)
Hey there again,
I do remember your saying that it matters little to you to be regarded as an elder.
Someone who works as hard as you do for his community and has much wisdom to share with people hungry for knowledge is inevitably going to be recognized as an elder. At this point one must step up and acknowledge one’s accomplishments and assume responsibility for the role or step aside if there are feelings of unworthiness.
You are a strong man and one we need to do what you do. I don’t mean Free the Falls but all of humanity especially the Algonquin community.
I brought up Grandfather to illustrate that no matter how much an individual is loved and respected they can do or say things we do not agree with. This is not a cause to condemn them and require everyone to do the same.
Our world is in constant, dynamic change. New information comes our way all the time causing us to reevaluate our beliefs about people and situations. We get comfortable with the status quo then along comes a Jason Arbour and upsets the proverbial apple cart. There will always be the Jason Arbours and Donald Trumps who show up to stir the pot. They are absolutely necessary to bring to the light all manner of misqualified energies humankind and other beings have collectively manifested and stored in the 4th dimension archetypal realm.
In no way, shape or form am I saying there is any truth to Jason’s claims. I am also not saying it is all untrue. I don’t know and I don’t care. It is not relevant and is part of the illusion. His function/mission/ agreement is what is important and he’s doing a great job of bringing our personal demons to the light so we can all have a look.
It’s all part of our healing, Mama Gaia’s healing too.
The perceived unpleasant emotions of anger, fear, hate and rage have to be acknowledged, loved and released to be trans mutated into love so we can love and appreciate ourselves and one another. Jason is a catalyst for us to see the work that needs to be done to become free, sovereign beings on this planet.
We need to clarify the choice issue. I am quoting you, ” If Free the Falls supports Jason Arbour in his quest to do this, then yes, I will no longer regard them as friends of Akikodijiwan. ” So if someone supports Jason you will unfriend them. To support you Jason has to be condemned. This seems to me like a choice is being demanded. That’s a heavy burden you’re asking people to take on; karma producing in fact. I have no authority or inclination to condemn anyone.
I and I don’t think anyone with Free the Falls would support an individual or group whose purpose is to destroy the Algonquin Anishinabe and run them off traditional lands.
The people who work to erase the People of the Great River and take all their land are on Parliament Hill overlooking the sacred site and Big Corp waiting to sink it’s greedy teeth into the once magnificently beautiful waterfall and islands below.
I stand with the spirit of the waterfall and the land. I stand with the spirit of Grandfather and his vision of oneness, harmony and his dream of Circle of All Nations. Meegwetch love and light Joanna….Dragonfly Water Woman
I trust you had good intentions with these comments on Albert’s blog post. However, both comments come across as patronizing and condescending. In your comments it seems like you think you know better than Albert how to approach this situation of a person claiming Albert’s sacred place. I think it is problematic when a settler positions her/himself in this way, claiming, in this case, to know better than an indigenous elder and activist how to protect his indigenous territory, sacred site, and spiritual beliefs. This is just colonialism all over again.
Who doesn’t want “joy, abundance, peace, freedom”? Trusting in the wisdom of Love does not mean anything goes. We still need to exercise discernment and take action accordingly.
Since you have known Albert “for so long,” perhaps you could have done him the courtesy of speaking with him in private first. And based on that discussion, decided what to post publicly for the greater good.
Nopimi Nagamo (Julie)
This is a quote from “An Acre of Time” by Phil Jenkins regarding the continued presence of the Anishsinabe/Algonquin people in the National Capital region.
Constant Penency was born in or around 1786. He fought in the War of 1812 with the British and then returned to the ways of the game hunter, spending his summers at the Lake of Two Mountains and his winters with his family upstream on the banks of the river. He was the father of at least four boys, two of whom died and left him young children to care for. The hunting grounds of Constant Penency had provided his ancestors with deer, beaver and fish for many generations.
Because of a petition Constant made to the British department of Indian Affairs in the February of 1830, when he was 44, we know where those hunting grounds were. In the document Constant says,
“That after several years the hunt has more and more diminished with the destruction and the distancing of the beaver and of game. The only means of subsistence of the supplicant whose hunting grounds, situated to the South of the Ottawa at the top of the Rideau, are almost all ruined by the incursions that were made and the numerous settlements that now run along them.”
The expanse of Constant’s family territory can only be guessed at, but the average Algonquin grounds was 100 square miles, or an area ten miles by ten. The “incursions” that Constant mentioned in his petition were the first stirrings of settlement, stirrings that would divide, sub-divide and eventually become Bytown, then Ottawa, the capital city of the British invasion. Constant and his family were to be replaced, in six generations, by half a million people.
Within a couple of months of his petition, Constant got a form letter. It was a fancy-looking document dressed up as a certificate, flourishes and filigreed edges, designed to impress the receiver. It came from Sir James Kempt who was, as it said at the top of the paper, “Captain General and Governor-in-Chief in and over the provinces of Lower and Upper Canada,” as well as of other glories. Sir James wanted Constant to know that he was “reposing especial trust and confidence in your courage and good conduct, and in your zealous and faithful attachment to His Britannic Majesty King George.”
Four years after Constant, together with a Nippissing chief, went to visit James Hughes, an Indian Affairs agent in Montreal. Hughes later reported the meeting to his employers, giving his take on what the two chiefs had on their minds. An edited version of his letter reads,
“Old Constant Pinaisais [French spelling] was here a few days ago. He brought a map made a few years past. These lands on the borders of the Ottawa are now almost all settled.
They however have marked out a lot above the Grand Calumet Portage some distance above the last settlements. They would wish to have a township or a seignorie given to them there, before these lands are granted.
It is on the south side [of the river]. There is an island before it which they would also like to have, to make hay thereon and place their cattle in summer. They say they have no encouragement to work on pieces of land that are in manner only lent to them, whereas were they masters of a certain tract that they could call their own, they would be happy and industrious. They would have it in their power to make better hunts – find more deer and catch plenty of fish.
The history of the British theft of the Algonquin way of living is right there in those few words. No-one goes through life without feeling great change, but Constant Penency found himself pushed over the edge of an era. He was born a free hunter’s son, and by the age of 50 he was asking men born in another world for the right to relinquish any claim on his birthland, and to become a sharecropper and part-time trapper far away from their incursions.
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