The Kettle of Boiling Waters: Chaudière Falls, Algonquin Territory

I recall many years ago, standing on the Chaudière Bridge in Ottawa with an elder from Pyramid Lake, Nevada. She was in the territory to share teachings of her people, the Paiute Nation. I had been delegated to assist her during her two-week contract at the Kumik Lodge at the then Department of Indian Affairs. Over the course of the first few days of her stay, I had occasion to speak to her of the mighty Chaudière Falls nearby, where it was customary for my ancestors to offer the gift of tobacco into them before undertaking a hazardous journey.

The elder, intrigued by what I told her about the falls, wanted to see them for herself. We went for a walk one day and found ourselves on the bridge, completely mesmerized by the power of the falls. We listened to the painful roar of waters rushing over shale rock blackened by currents no longer free like they had been before the islands and shores were developed and the river’s flow was harnessed to operate paper mills and power stations. Though in a weakened state, the Ottawa river’s waters fell into the Kettle with a great spiritual force, still carrying within its boiling bubbles the hopes and dreams that the Anishinabe, who had lived around them for many thousands of years, had for their descendants living today and far into tomorrow. The falls are a place of tremendous spiritual energy and a person sensitive to such energy can lose control of his/her emotions when standing in close proximity to them.

The elder at my side suddenly clasped my arm with one hand and grabbed the bridge railing with the other. I saw tears roll down her cheeks as she silently wept. I did not respond until she began sobbing uncontrollably. I asked what was wrong, and she answered that the power of the Spirit coming from the Kettle had overwhelmed her. “I feel the love and strength of your ancestors at this place,” she told me.

Water, even when quiet and not stirring, still contains life. The spiritual messages of the wise moon are reflected on its mirrored surface. The birds go to it to bathe. It quenches the thirst of the bear. Water sings! It brings out songs from us. Where water is silent, power remains. But where it roars is the place where the spirits of the river gather.

Illustration of Chaudière Falls before it was dammed in the 1800’s.

Since the “Kettle of Boiling Waters” (Chaudière Falls) first sang its mighty spiritual songs for the Anishinabe, the people have revered it as a sacred site. The people saw that the spirit of the strongest men and women among them shook with excitement when in the presence of the boiling waters. In prayer, the people heard the falls, even as they lit their pipes many leagues away. The voice of the sacred falls was ever-present in their ceremonies.

Nothing was more free than were the waters of the great river before contact with white people was made. Nothing was more pure of spirit, nothing nurtured and sustained more life! For all which the river provided, we were thankful. The Kettle of Boiling Waters was a special place on the river and known as such spiritually to all Anishinabe of our territory. We gathered there to pray and acknowledge and honour the force of Kichi Manido. The falls were truly the centre of our woodland cathedral.

But much has occurred over the past 200 years. As a place of spirituality, the falls have been neglected. Forgotten by a people converted to Christianity! We can measure the health of our people by the wellness of the river. The falls were placed where they are by the Great Spirit, to act as a gauge to do this. That is the way it was before the white people came here and it will remain as such for however long into the future we exist as First Peoples. We will only survive if the river is healthy, and only as long as the great falls of our river are held sacred to us as a special place of prayer and ceremony.

You have probably heard about Windmill Development Group signing an “Agreement of Purchase and Sale” for Domtar’s property on Ottawa’s Chaudière Island and downtown Gatineau.* Chaudière Island is right next to Chaudière Falls. You may also have heard about late Algonquin Elder William Commanda’s Vision for the area, which included plans for Chaudière Island. Windmill wants to build a sustainable mixed-used community (with residential and commercial areas) on Chaudière Island. Commanda wanted Chaudière Island to have a City Park and a Historic Interpretive Centre, part of his overall Vision that included an Indigenous Centre on Asinabka (Victoria Island). Kitigan Zibi Algonquin Chief Gilbert Whiteduck stated in the Citizen that this Indigenous Centre “should be the jewel in the crown” of any redevelopment of the former Domtar lands. Chief Whiteduck also said he and his community members are concerned about the future of the Chaudière Falls, whether they will be visible and “free”, or turned “into a tourist attraction on the backs of the Algonquin people.”

The current debate about the fate of Chaudière Island is important to resolve. But my focus here is on the sacred Chaudière Falls. One thing I feel is important, and has not to my knowledge been discussed in any of the plans for Chaudière Island, is that I believe a place must be provided at the falls where the Algonquins can go and once again offer tobacco and prayer for the health and well-being of the river. I only speak for myself, but nothing less would be acceptable to me.

Keep the Circle Strong,
Albert “South Wind” Dumont.

* A note about the purchasing Agreement, from Windmill’s Press Release: “The Agreement with Domtar commits Windmill to purchasing the property, with the only remaining condition being rezoning of the property for a mixed-use community-scale development. Windmill plans to present its planning application to Ottawa and Gatineau city councils in the spring. The financial terms of the Agreement are not being released at this stage.”

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17 Responses to The Kettle of Boiling Waters: Chaudière Falls, Algonquin Territory

  1. Dear Albert, I always enjoy listening to you or reading your poetic writing; needless to say your message is very beautifully written but it is also a very important and and powerful one. I will carry those words with me and share within my community if I may “We can measure the health of our people by the wellness of the river”. those words really hit home with me and I felt my heartbeat change. I go to the island and offer my tobacco almost every week, I say almost because in the winter time I find it a little bit harder to get around and of course I also feel the power of the Sacred space we call Asinabka….We are very much aware of the Chaudiere Falls, we, as the people of the circle of all nations, need all the support we can get and I want to thank you for this beautiful blog helping to share the importance of saving the Falls and like you said keeping our sacred space for our offerings, for the wellbeing of the river and the people… chi migwetch South Wind, Aki Songideye Ikwe x

  2. Pingback: Opportunity to Honour Sacred Chaudière Falls and Nearby Lands | Julie Comber

  3. Mireille Casavant says:

    Meegwetch for this beautiful testimony regarding chaudiere falls this ground is vital and deserves to keep and reflect its timeless sacredness as a heritage to all nations our world is water so are we as human and these special waters have inspired respect for thousands of years any human approaching this site can surely feel in its true self that grandeur and beauty. some time ago a Paiute elder her name numu Nama. Made a shawl regalia it was for me she also lives in pyramid lake Nevada thanks to this possibility of native dancing I was then introduce to Victoria island and chaudiere falls a place of prayer well being where I also go offer tobacco as often as possible. May a lot of people join us in this beautyfull dream of protecting sacredness which is the fundamental essence of our own protection as organic being that still can recognize the real values of the living spirit … Meegwetch for reading me. We are all One.

  4. Marcelo says:

    Water is the most fundamental element for the two-legged humans. The conclave of nations, long ago, had given the two-legged the guardianship of fire and the spoken word. We had shown our merit to be the custodians of such sacred things. When we inhabited the land in deep respect and understanding humility, we were the appropriate nation to be true to the commitment to all other nations, deployed in the mysterious circle of life.
    Then, the Europeans arrived, 522 years ago. Since then, there was a shift of how things were ordered. Profane time fell onto us displacing sacred space. Within space, Pachamama, everything grew to become part of the sacred and mysterious circle of life. Water was the spirit, the female spirit, behind everything. The roaring Chaudiere Falls are but one expression of mighty natural forces yet gentle reminders of the stuff we are made of.
    The arrogance of the Europeans and their perceptions is now trying to flatten everything out, including the Chaudiere Falls. If you take a moment to reflect, you can see that all of Mother Earth’s beauties are being converted into commodities, into ‘resources’, into landscapes and waterscapes of desperation, anguish and greed. What is it going to take us to stop this insanity? Is it going to be the Chaudiere Falls? Is it going to be the annihilation of the salmon? Is it going to be the consistent rape of our future generations? When are going to not only speak up but rise up to dismantle Western civilization? What does it take you sister of mine, brother of mine, to halt all this nonsense?

    Jallalla! (a salutation of joy and victory of Abya-Yalan people of the land)


    • South Wind says:

      Kichi Migwech to Julie, Dan, Mireille, Judith, Marcelo and Francine for your good words of support and commitment to the health and wellbeing of the land.

      God bless all of you in 2014.

  5. Jason Arbour says:

    In order to claim a territory as traditional you must have a ancestral connection to the land being claimed. Mr Dumont states his ancestors occupied the territory, the Chaudierre falls, who is his ancestors and what where there names ? My Kaniengehaga ancestors occupied the Chaudierre falls since time immemorial, my family had a historical rights bearing community located at the Chaudierre falls, we also buried our dead there. Our ancestors have names like Joseph Cole, Louisa Tay-Hawkakta, Louie Tiahakate, Pierre Tsi-Tisirron and many, many others. We were evicted from our traditional territory on April 15th, 1903 by Louisa(Wright)Scott and her Judge husband John Scott, Ottawa’s first mayor, we original people are still here hidden in plain site. Before our eviction in 1871/72 our band was given Smallpox by this Canadian government. The very first church in this region committed genocide and stole identities while faking deaths. I respect the Algonquins from Kitigan-Zibi and there traditional territory north of Ottawa/Hull, can they show the same respect for our Kaniengehaga heritage and territory and stop this propaganda? Have a look at this web page, here you will find Canadian Census Records, Church Records, Indian Affairs Records, Doctor Records, Police Records, Court Records and a Land Surveyors Map of the falls that show our Indian Reserve. This is the truth, one of the seven teachings, I understand when words leave my mouth, I can not get them back, therefore I speak truth !!!!
    Tsit-Kanaja Kaniengehaga
    Ottawa-Hull’s Indigenous Peoples Pre-History and History.

    • South Wind says:

      Kwey Kwey Jason,

      You say to me “stop claiming Kanata, Ottawa and Gatineau as Algonquin territory”. I will not stop, NEVER!! And after my life comes to an end, it will disappoint you to know that my children, my grandchildren, my grandchildren’s grandchildren and so on and so on, all the next of my generations, will continue to say it is our land. They will continue to say it and honour it as such because it is Algonquin land now, it always was in the past and it always will be in the future. Nothing will ever change this fact!

      You have “ideas” for me Jason? I have one for you! Have you ever heard of the “Mohawk Valley” in what is now New York state? Have you ever wondered how the valley got such a name? My “idea” is that you do some research into this and learn the real “facts” about your Mohawk ancestry.

      The Jesuit missionaries recorded in their early journals (the commencement of the 1600’s) how the “Algonquin People” (before converting to Christianity) would perform tobacco ceremonies at the Chaudière Falls. The title to the land the People of the Great River have did not begin with the arrival of the lumber barons who came to rape and pillage our forests or with the missionaries who came to poison our spirituality. We were here long before that time and we will continue to live here as stewards of the land for as long as the waters flow into the future!

      Jason, if your Christian ancestors were displaced from their own lands because their religious beliefs brought persecution against them or because they bet on the wrong horse (the British) during the American War of Independence, it does not give you the right now to claim that lands on which your people were displaced, to say they (the land) has been yours “since time immemorial”.

      I know this land is that of my ancestors. And it is not because of settler/colonizer records that I know it. I know it because of the oral tradition of our Peoples. I know it with every sacred particle contained in the winds I take into my lungs when I breathe. I know it with every beat of my heart when swollen with pride as I look around me to see the greatness of the territory. I know it with each of the blessings I count every day because I am a human being. My soul sang and danced at the Kettle of Boiling Waters even before the breath of Kichi Manido gave human beings life those countless millennia of the past. My ancestors were the “People of the Great River” and were called as such because we lived and thrived upon her shores since her birth as a waterway. The Kettle of Boiling Waters was the centre of their woodland cathedral. You or no one else will ever take this place from us.

      Jason, your claims throw people who want peace and harmony for all off balance! You confuse the issue at hand! Why can you not lend support to a great cause (Chaudière Falls) instead of entering into it with your own personal agenda? Is this what your elders are teaching you?

      Albert Dumont

      • Julie says:

        Dear South Wind,
        This same comment from Mr. Arbour was posted on my blog about the proposed redevelopment of the Chaudière area. Could you please take a look?? Maybe post this response?
        Thank you!

      • Jason Arbour says:

        She:kon, Kwey, Kwey, Mr. Dumont (Shawanodin)
        I would like to wish you a very happy new year while respectfully disagreeing with your out look on this portion of the Kitchi-zibi, I respect and share your passion for this sacred place. I am aware of the Mohawk Valley and the history of the Algonquin and Iroquoian people who lived on that portion of North America or Turtle Island. The Dutch claimed that portion of our traditional land in 1609, and somehow purchased Manhattan Island in 1626, New York received the name in 1664. The name Mohawk was given to the Kaniengehaga by the French and Algonquin’s, this means we eat things, possibly people. Our Kaniengehaga territory was north of the European made border of 1812, we were in eastern Ontario, western Quebec and northern New York. Look at the map without borders, you will notice Ottawa-Hull is directly north of New York State, to think our territory coincides with the USA/Canadian border is ridiculous. Are you aware of a ancient Iroquoian Village that was unearth in Brockville, Ontario, only eighty kilometers south of Tsit-Kanaja or the Chaudierre Falls, these remains were repatriated to Akwesasne. There are Archaeologist reports of our Kanata in Torbolton, Ontario being massacred by the French and their allies in the beginning of the 1600’s. Once again there was attempts of massacre on us Iroquois in 1660 by Adam des Oremeaux, (the French), this failed as several Kaniengehaga came eighty eight kilometers down the Ottawa river from Tsit-Kanaja and went to war in Hawkesbury, there are records of this as well. This is ten years before the French convinced some Kaniengehaga families to settle at the rapids (Kahnawa:ke), south east of Hochelaga, today’s Montreal. Philemon Wright arrived with his militia at our village on the island of Hull in 1800, he walked up the frozen river after swearing allegiance to the crown, with him he brought tools, rules and guns. My extended family or ancestors were just as concerned about the loss of our maple sugaries and resources as you are. As for Spirituality, I am animistic (not Catholic) and I am proud of my ancestral connection to the Chaudierre falls. Mr. Dumont, I am a Kaniengehaga from Tsit-Kanaja and I am also a proud Weskarinni, Anishnabek from Lac Simon in Cheneville, Quebec. This is the same place the Whiteduck’s got there name after migrating there to from Lake of Two mountains in 1845, that family as well as others migrated to Kitigan-zibi in 1850, my Algonquin ancestors stayed in Cheneville and were given the name St.Jean. In 1843 the Wright militia desecrated our Kaniengehaga ossuary located where the museum of civilization is located today. My Kaniengehaga familie’s remains were repatriated to Kitigan-zibi a short time ago at the request of your Chief Gilbert Whiteduck. There is so much more history and pre-history I could share with you and the public about my place of origin if people would not plug there ears and role there eyes. My family had quarried limestone flint from the falls since time immemorial, there is evidence of Kaniengehaga pottery, arrow heads, skinning tools and tomahawks located all over this region that predates European contact. This is why our first clan mother sky woman gave us the name Kaniengehaga (People of the Place of the Flint) not Mohawk. Please believe the church and state had committed horrible acts of genocide on my historical rights bearing community from Tsit-Kanaja (floating kettle). I will respectfully never stop sharing the truth of my ancestry even if it is not in the best interest of other communities. I would respectfully encourage you to do your own genealogy and research as I have, and if you have any questions or need assistance, I would be more than willing to assist you. Skennen’kó:wa

        • South Wind * says:

          Kwey Kwey Jason,

          Migwech for your kind wishes, I extend the same to you and yours.

          A real “fact” you might want to research is this. When the war between the British and French escalated (into the late 1600’s) to the point where massacres of the indigenous peoples were occurring at an alarming rate throughout our territories, the propaganda machine, already perfected to a science by the invaders, went into high gear. The purpose being, to confuse, distort, complicate and promote false “facts” about land boundaries, atrocities and the spirituality of our Peoples, all done to keep us off balance, and for us to stay fixated on war against one another. Some of the “reports” you mention as authentic occurrences were part of that campaign, I’m afraid! Take the so-called “Lachine Massacre” I was taught in school in my 5th grade history class. The story went that Iroquoian warriors allied with the British had massacred the men, women and children of the town of Lachine. Guess what, Jason, it never happened. It was proven to be propaganda by the French to rile the people of France to join up and fight the British in the New World.

          It is a fact that the British supplied their Mohawk allies with guns. With them (guns) the Mohawks were able to make incursions into Algonquin lands. The French only supplied guns to their Algonquin allies who had become Christians, big mistake! We were not able to defend ourselves properly and lost land.

          The Mohawk held Algonquin land won through warfare for a period of time but were eventually driven from them.

          You say that pottery, tomahawks, skinning tools and such which pre-date European contact are “located all over this region”. Maybe they are, what of it! Are you not aware that trade, peace and respect existed among the Anishinabe and Iroquoian Peoples before Europeans arrived? Your people supplied items for trade, as we did. We took these things home. What is so strange about it?

          What you need to know, Jason, is that “teams” of historians of great merit and unquestionable ethics and researchers with expertise in the area of indigenous cultures and their pre-contact land masses have studied the facts about Algonquin title to the land here, to death. They confirmed what is real about our history and what was invented through the propaganda machine of the past. An astronomical amount of money was spent to get it right. And that is why, Jason, there is today, a tentative land claim (including Chaudière Falls) on the table. It is between the Algonquins and the Government of Canada. The Mohawk do not have a say in it because it is “NOT” their land.

          Jason, you seem to be a man with an enormous amount of energy for this sort of thing. I suggest that instead of working to steal Algonquin land for yourself, you go to New York state and fight to re-acquire lands lost to your people in Mohawk Valley. Your people were displaced from land given to you by Creator. I wish you luck in getting it back!!. First you can take New York and then Berlin if you wish, but Algonquin land, especially our sacred sites, it is just not going to happen. And about your kind offer to help me in researching my rights – no thanks! The day will never come when I seek advice and direction from anyone else but my Chiefs and my Elders.

          Jason, write what you will. Comment what you wish to, but I will no longer respond. I am much too busy to waste any more time on this.

          You might be interested to know that I am working on a play with Phil Jenkins, a respected writer, about an Algonquin Chief and veteran of the war of 1812. We are hoping that the play will be ready for the Fringe Festival taking place in Ottawa next June. Check it out, you just might learn something?

          Albert Dumont

      • aho South Wind…..well said!

  6. Catherine (Sharbot-Antoine) Duchene says:

    Well, firstly I would like to say that over the years I have learned one thing, never comment on anything without putting it under my pillow and giving it to the Creator first.
    We have a huge problem when it comes to His-story and history itself. One HUGE problem I have is when people come forward claiming to be an Elder and attempting to push forward the European His-story without speaking to the Elder’s themselves.
    This is what has happened since this Land Claim process has been put forward. There are people like Jason and myself who have taken not only the words of Elders but tried to resolve some of this twisting of our history to studying it and gathering the evidence to prove there are many errors.
    When Jason and I met with Grandfather William, we spoke of ALL of this as well as I asked him what he knew of my family because they are part of the Algonquin Land claim. He told me straight out as well, that my family were MOHAWK. Now, in turn for that, we must also remember that at the time of invasion, SOME of us agreed to Christianize my the Jesuit’s and hence why we a lot of errors. If you were a Mohawk, you were known to be allies of the British even if you weren’t and the same goes for the Algonquin people with the French. Some fought along side each other and some chose to go with the other side…just like life in General.
    So, how do we change this? well, its tough at times, but if we as Original People would stop with our aggressive attitudes towards each other and our history, we would become a LEADING people.
    This Land claim and other land claims have proven to DIVIDE us further, and that is intentional. Mr Dumont, Jason and I have spoken at great lengths to Grandfather, and Gilbert and Kirby, now when it comes to the ELECTED Chiefs, they have a job to do as employees of the Federal Government, and they are doing their job, dividing us as a WHOLE. Both Jason and I are of mixed Ancestry, we are BOTH Mohawk and Algonquin so we have had to work very diligently with grace, respect and Honor of both sides of this. We do NOT want to divide us further, because the TRUTH will set not only our Nations free of further Genocide, but ALL Nations of Original Peoples.
    WE are who we are, we can not change this, but we can work towards a great peace as long as we follow the Laws of the Creator. Skennen’kowa

  7. Pingback: In Defence of the Sacredness of the “Kettle of Boiling Waters” | Albert Dumont

  8. Lynn Gehl says:

    During this time of “reconciliation” Canada is permitting the further destruction of an Algonquin Anishinaabeg sacred site located in what is now called the Ottawa River, more specifically a site that is known to be the place of Creator’s First Pipe and the islands located downstream which historically were a meeting place where many Indigenous Nations converged to ceremonially discuss peace and friendship. This continued destruction is part and parcel of the land claims process where the Algonquins of Ontario (AOO) are being forced to extinguish their land and water rights through Canada’s land claims policy. While there are many contentious issues with this desecration, and with the AOO who had to agree to leave private property ownership outside the scope of their land claims, it is most imprtant to understand that the Ontario-Quebec provincial border is a colonial construction and as such the voice of the Algonquin Anishinaabeg in what is now Quebec must not be ignored or dismissed. This sacred place was and remains the jurisdiction of all Algonquin. Indeed corporate colonial Canada is a creep!

    This blog offers a compilation of forty annotated resources consisting of news articles, blogs, videos, websites, letters to the editor, and Letters from First Nation Chiefs on this very topic.

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