Algonquin Elders to hold Sacred Walk in Ottawa, June 17

Algonquin and Traditional Grandmothers from the Algonquins of Pikwàkanagàn First Nation (an Algonquin community about 160 kilometres north-west of Ottawa) will be holding a sacred walk on June 17 to "save Ottawa's sacred site from development". They are opposed to the Zibi development on Chaudière Island and Albert Island, which are situated on the Ottawa River just a short distance from Parliament Hill.

What is the Zibi development?

The Zibi website says, "Zibi is a world-class sustainable community and redevelopment project by Windmill Development Group and Dream Unlimited Corp. ...Through this multi-phase development, Windmill and Dream will transform the derelict land into a blend of residential housing types of low and high rise condominium towers and townhomes, commercial and office space, unique waterfront plazas and outdoor squares, recreational facilities, and more. Truly one-of-a-kind, Zibi combines unparalleled views of the Ottawa River, Parliament Hill, Chaudière Falls, and downtown Ottawa and Gatineau skylines framed by a modern architectural design that still respects the heritage of the area."

Construction on the site began this past December. At that time, the Ottawa Citizen reported, "The first building to go up in the $1.5-billion, ultra-green, mixed-use project will be the six-storey condo O on the Gatineau shoreline. Featuring 66 units, it launched in the spring and is just over half sold. Remaining units start at $220,000 for a 500-square-foot studio." The Globe and Mail has noted, "[The project will] eventually bring 1,200 condo apartments, office space, retail and a substantial amount of new park space to this place, just two kilometres from Parliament Hill."

The Zibi proposal has been endorsed by the City of Ottawa, the National Capital Commission (NCC), Chief Kirby Whiteduck of the Algonquins of Pikwàkanagàn First Nation (but opposed by some in that community), the Algonquins of Ontario (which is made up of ten communities, including Pikwàkanagàn), and Wanda Thusky, a member of the Algonquins of Barriere Lake who also sits on a Windmill advisory board.

It is opposed by the Grandmothers from the Pikwàkanagàn First Nation, architect Douglas Cardinal, Wolf Lake Chief Harold St. Denis, Kitigan Zibi Chief Jean-Guy Whiteduck, Kitigan Zibi poet and traditional teacher Albert Dumont, the Eagle Lake First Nation, the Assembly of First Nations, and the Assembly of First Nations Quebec-Labrador.

The Globe and Mail reports, "Cardinal, an Ottawa resident who has Blackfoot and Métis ancestry, has long supported the vision of the late Algonquin Chief William Commanda for an indigenous cultural centre on the islands." He says, "The falls are like our Mecca or our Jerusalem, or St. Peter’s Square. For 10,000 years, people have come there for spiritual ceremonies, and it was only taken over by force. Now, we don’t do things that way. We are supposed to treat each other with respect. Would they build condos on St. Peter’s Square? No. But here, it’s a bunch of Indians.”

The outreach for the Sacred Walk on June 17 says, "For over two hundred years we have asked the Crown and later the Government of Canada that our Sacred Site be returned to our care. Our Sacred Site was taken from us and we have been locked out of its reach - unable to pray at our Falls and Islands. ...We call on the Canadian Government to declare this site sacred by National Aboriginal Day, June 21st, 2016. We also call upon all Nations, all Inter-faith groups and all citizens to join us in [this] massive sacred walk... In our Nation, the traditional Grandmothers carry the spiritual and ultimate authority - only at crucial moments do we call upon it. This is one of those historical moments!"

For more about the Sacred Walk, please click here.