As I write, Chief Theresa Spence of Attiwapiskat is in her 23rd day of her hunger strike on Victoria Island halfway across the Ottawa River, not far from here. The following press release re-iterating her cause was sent out on New Years Eve.
The entire National Capital Region is of significance to the First Nations as they were its occupants and guardians for thousands of years before Champlain visited in 1615. On Monday I toured a few sites and locations with specific reference to the First Nations. Here’s how.
First stop was the Odawa Friendship Centre on Stirling Avenue (UPDATE – The Odawa Friendship Centre has moved to 250 City Centre Ave.), whose mission is ‘To enhance the quality of life for Aboriginal people in the Capital region. To maintain a tradition of community, an ethic of self-help and development as well as to provide traditional teachings from our elders.’.
Around the side and back of the centre are the following murals.
Next stop, Victoria Island, or Asinabka. In the Algonquin language the word “Asinabka” means “place of glare rock”. It is considered a sacred site, where for thousands of years ceremonies and offerings have been made. Lots more on Asinabka here.
The cedar fence was constructed to house a summer interpretive program called Aboriginal Experiences. The tee-pee is where Chief Theresa Spence is holding her fast.
On the opposite side of the river at 10 Wellington in Gatineau are located the offices of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada.
A bit further down river sits The Canadian Museum of Civilization, designed by architect Douglas Cardinal who is of Metis and Blackfoot heritage. His First Nations background is said to have greatly influenced his indigenous style of architecture, as described in this CBC radio interview.
Back over on the Ottawa side, behind the National Gallery, atop Nepean Point stands this statue of Champlain looking out over the Ottawa River. There used to be a bronze sculpture of a kneeling Anishinabe scout at the base of the plinth on which Champlain stands, but it was removed in 1996 at the request of Ovide Mercredi, former National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations. I did not know that the sculpture of the scout had been relocated to Majors Hill Park a short distance away.
Near the National Cenotaph is the Valiants Memorial made up of a number of sculptures of key figures from the military history of the country, including that of Thayendanegea or Joseph Brant, a Mohawk who supported the British during the American Revolution. He relocated to the area near the present day City of Brantford in southern Ontario after the revolution.
I then rode up behind Parliament Hill to photo the Ottawa River, the highway used by First Nations for millennia before more modern forms of transport took over, first by rail, and now by road and air. There is Victoria Island in the middle, with the Supreme Court on the cliff to the left.
My final stop was in Confederation Park where stands this monument ‘To Aboriginal War Veterans in Canada and to Those That Have Fallen’.