Ottawa marks first Chief Pinesi Day

It was a personal journey for Wendy Jocko as she retraced the portage route of her great-grandfather, Chief Constant Pinesi, on Friday.

Jocko is Chief of the Algonquins of the Pikwakanagan First Nation and she helped launch “Chief Pinesi Day” in Ottawa.

The day will be observed on July 1 to honor Grand Chief Constant Pinesi, the history of the land and the Algonquins of the Pikwakanagan First Nation.

“This is the first ceremony we’ve held to honor our great chief Pinesi,” Jocko said. “And I think it’s important for the City of Ottawa to be aware that this was their traditional hunting ground and this is where the nation’s capital is on their territory – Algonquin territory.”

Jocko took a canoe down the Ottawa River and docked near Stanley Avenue in New Edinburgh.

“It felt good, I was putting myself in the past of the 1800s,” she says. “It was very special to retrace the footsteps of my great-grandfather.”

Chief Constant Pinesi was a hunter, band leader and warrior. He fought in the War of 1812 and his hunting grounds were along the Ottawa River. Many descendants of Pinesi gathered in the field to bring attention to the long-forgotten great leader.

For some members of First Nations communities, Canada Day is a difficult day due to the country’s dark colonial past, including former residential schools and unmarked graves.

“Today is personal for me,” says Merv Sarazin.

Sarazin is a member of the Pikwakanagan First Nation and says he recently learned he is a descendant of Pinesi.

“July 1 is a day when we should recognize truth and reconciliation, and in light of that, we must bring the truth to Pinesi,” Sarazin said.

The Algonquin community along with other Ottawa residents gathered at the New Edinburgh Fieldhouse to learn more about the Chief and his historical significance.

“Everything was hidden. And we bring it to light,” Sarazin said.

Events included traditional drumming and dancing, as well as a holy fire and prayer. Groups also took part in a walking tour of the area to learn about the surrounding nature of the land.

Sylvie Beaudry lives in the area and took her family to, “Learn about the history of the beautiful lands we live on and share that with my boys. And sharing the space with a variety of different people is really nice. “

The Chief Pinesi Portage Trail was also introduced on Friday, with interpretive markers along a two-mile course from the river to Rockcliffe. The road is believed to be where Pinesi portaged around Rideau Falls.

“I hope people will take the time to learn about First Nations history, not just here in Ottawa, but across Canada,” Jocko said. “We have a very rich history, we’ve been here for thousands of years and we’re here to stay.”

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