Researchers from Carleton University and the Canadian Museum of History Rewrite the History of the Nation’s Capital


(Press release via Carleton University)

Carleton University Journalism Prof. Randy Boswell and Canadian Museum of History Curator, Jean-Luc Pilon, have released groundbreaking research that sheds important new light on the national capital’s archaeological history.

Two co-authored studies in the latest issue of the Canadian Journal of Archaeology (CJA) cite new evidence of an extensive Indigenous burial ground from as early as 4,900 years ago at “Hull Landing,” the present site of the Canadian Museum of History, directly across the Ottawa River from Parliament Hill.

While this site was first investigated in 1843 by the Bytown antiquarian Edward Van Cortlandt, knowledge of the burial ground’s true location was lost for more than a century until a recent series of discoveries by Boswell in 19th-century Ottawa newspaper archives — which also revealed a second major excavation by Van Cortlandt in 1860.

Those findings were shared with Pilon, who is also an adjunct Anthropology professor at Carleton, and led to a broad reassessment of the way pre-contact Aboriginal people would have encountered the place that became Canada’s capital, located at the confluence of three major rivers just below a spectacular waterfall with great spiritual significance: the Chaudière Falls.

The researchers also discovered an 1852 article in the Ottawa Citizen that solved another longstanding archaeological mystery from 19th-century Ottawa and identified what appears to be an otherwise unrecorded discovery in the future capital. These findings, which appeared recently in the Ontario Archaeological Society publication Arch Notes, identified the downtown location of this site as the corner of Wellington and Bay streets, at or near the present-day Library and Archives Canada building.

“These rediscoveries have prompted a major reinterpretation and recalibration of the significance of the Ottawa-Gatineau area in the Indigenous history of Central Canada,” said Boswell. “Thanks to the old newspaper finds and Jean-Luc Pilon’s deep knowledge of the ancient history of this region, we now have a new understanding of the enduring importance of the Chaudière Falls and the nearby burial place in relation to various shoreline archaeological sites around the confluence of the Ottawa, Gatineau and Rideau rivers.”

The two CJA articles, entitled “The Archaeological Legacy of Dr. Edward Van Cortlandt” and “Below the Falls: An Ancient Cultural Landscape in the Centre of (Canada’s National Capital Region) Gatineau,”reveal a much-enhanced picture of ancient Ottawa-Gatineau as an important economic and spiritual centre for Indigenous peoples — a “cultural landscape” — for thousands of years prior to the arrival of European explorers.

“This region was a seasonal hub for Indigenous peoples for millennia, long before it was settled by Euro-Canadians in the 19th century and became Canada’s political capital,” said Boswell.

Pilon is scheduled to discuss some of the findings from the two CJA studies at a National Capital Commission-sponsored archaeology lecture today in Ottawa. “Archaeology in the Capital Region: Discovering Our Past,” will also feature presentations from NCC archaeologist Ian Badgley, Chief Kirby Whiteduck of the Algonquin First Nation of Pikwàkanagàn and Quebec archaeologist Daniel Chevrier.

“Archaeological facts are really pretty scarce, and when something new comes along it can change our understanding of the past,” said Pilon. “In this case, we’ve moved a little bit closer to seeing the land the way the people who lived here must have seen and understood it.”

Pilon added: “From what we now know, it seems pretty clear that the landscape between the mouth of the Gatineau River and the Chaudière Falls was a special place. People came from near and far to meet, exchange and trade.  They also paid their respects to their ancestors and to the power of the place.”

The CJA studies highlight the use of long-overlooked newspaper archives to uncover new research paths. Boswell’s probing of old Ottawa newspapers in new digital databases is linked to a planned biography of Van Cortlandt, a prolific newspaper contributor and frequent subject of press coverage who contributed to the early development of several Canadian fields of science, including archaeology, geology and zoology.

“These discoveries,” said Boswell, “demonstrate that there’s a largely untapped or under-exploited research resource from Canadian journalism history that can illuminate aspects of Canadian scientific history.”

OttawaStart Staff


2 Responses

  1. Luc-Anne Salm says:

    What a good article. All the more reason to STOP the “Zibi” project and allow the Asinabka vision of the late elder Ojikwanong a.k.a Dr. William Commanda, last hereditary chief of the Anishnabe people to be established on the Chaudière falls and islands site which would be a key gesture in Canada’s reconciliation process. Aho!

  2. Jason says:

    Notice Of First Nation And Aboriginal Land Title
    (1.) Introduction;
    My name Is Jason (Rotisken’rakehte) Arbour, I am Wolf Clan from Tsit-Kanaja and my Nation is Kaniengehaga. Our community members have appointed myself Chief and legal representative to our distinct First Nation Community. I have the onus and initiative to inform the Canadian Government and public of our existence. I would appreciate your patience and would encourage you to open your mind while I share some of my family’s oral history, that can now be supported with a compelling collection of legal Canadian documents.
    (2.) History;
    Since time immemorial, members of our Kaniengehaga Nation and communal ancestors have occupied the Ottawa-Hull region of Canada, this occupation included both the North and South side of today’s presently named Ottawa river. Kaniengehaga means (People of the Place of the Flint) and Tsit-Kanaja means (Floating Kettle/Pot). The presently named Chaudiere falls is still called Tsit-Kanaja by its original people. My Kaniengehaga ancestors had given the falls this name because the mist that arose from the falls resembled that of a steaming pot or kettle, and if you were to bring your canoe up into the mist it would feel like you were floating in a kettle. The bedrock of limestone flint at Tsit-Kanaja was the place of my bands flint and hence this is why we call ourselves Kaniengehaga. Our main Village (Kanata) was located on the east shore of Brasserie Creek in Hull, this area was littered with works of flint, here you could find arrow heads, tomahawks, skinning tools and everything we made out of flint, as this location was our main work shop and quarry. In the early sixteen hundreds one of our fortified Iroquoian encampment located in Torbolton, Ontario was violently attacked and burned to the ground by the French. This barbarous act of violence spared few and left the remaining human beings from our village without food, shelter and in a state of turmoil. Pestilence had weakened us originals from the Ottawa-Hull region. In 1660 there was another attempt of massacre by the French on the indigenous people of Ottawa-Hull. This militia was led by Adam Dollard Des Ormeaux. Ormeaux led his militia up the Ottawa river to plunder and slaughter us Kaniengehaga, fortunately we received notice and led our own war party down the river to intercept. We met up with Ormeaux’s militia and rendered them there fate, see, (http://en.wikipedia.or/wiki/Adam_Dollard_des_Ormeaux
    ). On March 7th of 1800, a British man named Philemon Wright from Massachusetts had led a English militia up the frozen river to our encampment at Tsit-Kanaja. To Philemon Wright we were known as the Canada’s, and it was our sacred falls that separated the dominions. Philemon Wright stated he was going to live beside us in harmony, and if we had any concerns we should contact his government, which a majority of us knew nothing about. Immediately this large group of squatters began cutting down trees. In 1843 the new people had unearthed our sacred ossuary, upon the desecration they had discovered several skeletons, a perfectly petrified war club and two dog skulls, this act of profanity is still incomprehensible see (…
    ). In 1871/72 our community was suffering from a exceedingly severe epidemic of Smallpox, several of our community members had perished from this disease see (…/8625560-smallpox-…
    ). By this time in our history, our community was enveloped by Europeans, and we were also recognized by the Canadian government, and considered a rights bearing community. This recognition ended when Mrs. Janet Louisa Scott/Wright had taken three of our eleven family’s to Provincial Court in 1902. Our communities fate fell in the hands of others, this did not work to our advantage, aboriginal people were not permitted legal representation until the mid 1900’s. Our eviction date was set for April 15th of 1903, we were told to remove on or before that date, all of our houses, property and personnel see (…
    ). The Canadian Government had a fiduciary obligation to relocate our distinct aboriginal community as a whole, failure to do so, violated my bands human rights. This unjustified action has coerced our community underground, we remain here in our traditional territory (Ottawa-Hull), hidden in plain site without access to our land and resources.
    (3.) Concerns;
    A few concerns I have involve, Aboriginal land title, and what constitutes that Aboriginal right? Aboriginal land title is based upon Occupation, Hunting and Harvesting activities as there was no maps, boundaries or fine lines before European contact. The Algonquin Land Claim to this portion of the Ottawa region of Canada has been held behind closed doors and may lack merit and justification. Mr. Bob Potts is the head negotiator and legal representative for this claim. Mr. Potts has been informed about our Iroquoian occupation. Mr. Potts states on television this may have been something he has overlooked, see- (
    ) – (
    ) . The head researcher for this claim is Joan Holmes and associates. I have personally shared some legal documentation with Joan in her office, so she too has been well informed. I have a personal e-mail from Joan Holmes stating she has not researched the area specifically, archaeologically or in documentation, see e-mail – (…
    ) . The land claim diligence conducted by the participants mentioned above may be frivolous. Overlooking our Historical Rights Bearing Community should be considered negligent, irresponsible and possibly even criminal. Another important issue is our missing children from the Hull cemetery, the St. James Church located in Hull PQ,list burial records of several children. Upon investigation not one child from our reservation could be located. This issue alone deserves and requires a inquiry. Other concerns include the Defamation to our heritage, history, Historical Rights Bearing Community and/or place of origin. Claudette Commanda and Gilbert Whiteduck from Kitigan-Zibi and many others (Kirby) very frequently welcome the public to unseeded Algonquin territory while they visit the Ottawa-Hull region of Canada. These families have been claiming this territory and aboriginal land title without holding a ancestral connecting to this region or community from the Chaudiere Falls, this is disingenuous. Please understand that we Kaniengehaga from Tsit-Kanaja have the utmost respect for William Commanda, Kirby Whiteduck and the Algonquin Nation. Respectfully I must take a stand for my family, ancestors and descendants while the Algonquin nation asserts there sovereignty into our communities territory.
    (4.) Collection of Legal Documents;
    I had mentioned, I have a compelling collection of legal Canadian documents that will support my family’s oral history and occupation to the Ottawa-Hull region of Canada. This collection including and is not limited to;
    : Ottawa-Hull’s First Archaeologist Reports From T.W.Edwin Sowter
    : Ottawa-Hull’s First Church Records
    : Dr. Malloch’s Hand Written Records On Smallpox Regarding Indian Encampment At Hull, P.Q.
    : INAC’s First Comparative Statement Of Bands And Tribes Across Canada, This List Our Band In The Township Of Hull, P.Q.
    : Canadian Census Of Hull, Township P.Q. Listing Our Kaniengehaga Community Members
    : Indian Affairs Files On My Great Grandfather From The Indian Reserve Tsit-Kanaja In Hull, P.Q.
    : A 1882 Land Surveyors Map Of The Chaudiere Falls That Shows Our Scant Indian Reserve In Hull, P.Q.
    : L. Genest Police Chief Records, Regarding Our Indian Community From Hull, P.Q. : June 15th, 1843 Bytown Gazette Article Regarding The Desecration Of Our Indian Burial Ground Or Ossuary Located In Hull, P.Q.
    : Superior Court Records Of Our Community’s Eviction, Only Three Of Eleven Families Were Present
    : Hull Provincial Court Judgment Dated May 14, 2012 (File # 550-61-019736-103) That Recognizes The Historical Rights Bearing Community Of Kaniengehaga People From Tsit-Kanaja Or The Chaudiere Falls
    (5.) Objective’s;
    1. Reconciliation and Recognition to our Lawful Right of Existence.
    2. Acknowledgement by our Federal Government of Entrusted Fiduciary Duty and Agreements.
    3. Respect and Protection by the Customary Legal Order witch Created the Terms Described Royal Proclamation, October 7th, 1763, Interpreted and Applied by Lord Mansfield at Campbell V. Hall, [1774].
    4. Restoration of Language, Spiritual Beliefs and Cultural Practices as well as Land and Resources.
    5. Improvement of Education, Health and Wellness.
    6. Protecting our Traditional Heritage, Territorial Land Title, Resources and Environment from Pollution .
    7. Protecting and Sharing our Band’s Oral and Extremely Compelling Documented History.
    8. Inquiry Investigation for Smallpox Death’s and our Missing Reserve Children.
    9. Participating in Canada’s Social, Political and Economic Development.
    (6.) Conclusion;
    Our community Tsit-Kanaja from the Chaudiere falls is from the Kaniengehaga tribe says our mother tongue, but our band and geographical region is very different than that of Akwesasne, Kanesatake or Kahnawake. This part of Canada’s history is not attractive, but we the people of the flint should no longer be refused our Human Rights, it is imperative that Canada reconciles and shows good will. Can the Canadian public and First Nation Communities please assist our First Nation community in receiving respect, recognition and the justice we deserve, Niawen for your time and consideration.
    Jason (Rotisken’rakehte) Arbour
    Chief and Legal Representative TKFN

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