For more than 200 years, colonial authorities – first the British Government and now the Canadian one – have used force and fraud to transform traditional Algonquin territory into ‘private (settler) property’. And for 200 years, Algonquin have protested and resisted their dispossession.
That ongoing conflict is now assuming a more visible form in the heart of Ottawa-Gatineau, as the developer Windmill proceeds with its office and condo project on two of the Chaudiere islands.
With one Algonquin land claim (Ontario) underway, and another forthcoming (Quebec), you might reasonably expect that the Chaudiere Islands — regarded by the Algonquin as sacred ground, but occupied by the lumber, pulp and paper industries for most of the past 200 years — might be returned to the Algonquin as part of one or both claims.
When Domtar closed its pulp and paper mills on Chaudiere and Albert Islands a few years ago, many people expected the industrial site would revert to its original status as a sacred place under the stewardship of the Algonquin. That would have been in keeping with the vision for the Islands developed by Algonquin spiritual leader, William Commanda, and Metis architect, Douglas Cardinal.
More than a decade ago, the two men proposed the creation of a National Indigenous Centre on the Islands they call Asinabka. The islands were to become a cultural and historical meeting place that emphasized reconciliation with nature and reconciliation between nations.
However, with the purchase of the Domtar properties by Windmill, the original dispossession of the Algonquin of their Chaudiere lands seems set to continue. Plans for Windmill’s ‘condoland’ project, which they insultingly call ‘Zibi’ (the Algonquin word for river) are now well advanced.
With a few exceptions, Algonquin leaders and organizations are opposed to the Windmill project. Initial opposition to the Windmill project has been legal/political in nature, with arguments before Ottawa City Council, the Ontario Municipal Board, and in the Ontario courts. But on May 27th there was a small picket of a Windmill backed fund raising event for the Ottawa River Keeper, held on the Chaudiere site. That is likely only the first of many protests to come, given Algonquin opposition.
The campaign against the Windmill project will provide a chance for local members of settler society to begin genuine reconciliation with the Algonquin Nation by assisting them to halt the Windmill project and regain control of Asinabka.
Residents of the Ottawa-Gatineau region can play an important role in furthering the process of genuine reconciliation by assisting in the reconversion of stolen ‘private property’ back into Algonquin-controlled land.
For more information and to learn what you can do, please see the following websites: