Thunderbird Rock, Kitchizibi Territory


On page 295 in my book Quest for the Thunderbird Nest there is this picture (above) of me atop Oiseau Rock on the Quebec side of the Kitchizibi - The Great River. Oiseau means "Bird" in French, which is actually short for "Thunderbird". In the Algonquin language this sacred site is called "Pinesi Asin" which means "Thunderbird Rock". In the photo I am looking beyond the point, directly across the Ottawa River to the Ontario side, to the exact spot - the green dot on map - where my Métis great, great, grandfather and his family once lived in 1894. Due to the existence of the ancient sacred site of Pinesi Asin/Thunderbird Rock, this whole area is considered to be the spiritual heart of Kitchizibi (Great River) Algonquin Territory. Yet today the region is simply called the Ottawa River Valley. But where did my people go? What happened to my ancestors? And what happened to all the original Indigenous peoples who once lived here on the land by the water and thrived in this most beautiful and spiritual place of Kitchizibi - the Great River?

Here is what happened: In 1907 all of this land was expropriated - taken - by the "Dominion Government of Canada" for the creation of a Militia Camp Site. See it marked in red on the old map above? All this land is now "owned" by Canadian Forces Base Camp Petawawa. Yet at that time, when all this land was taken, my great great grandfather's family (and other families too) were not compensated nor remunerated (paid) whatsoever for the very land that had sustained their simple, humble existence here on the Ottawa River. This is because the government authorities, the powers at the time, practiced cruel colonial policies that intentionally promoted blatant discrimination and racism upon "native" peoples. The governmental system saw Indigenous peoples as just being illegal "squatters" on the land. At that sad time Algonquin people and "French Breed" Algonquins and Métis - also called "Bois Brulés", meaning having skin the brown colour of "burnt wood" - were derogatively seen as squatters with no rights or ownership to the very lands they had been living on for generations.

However the European settlers, who were brand new to the area, were indeed paid money for their lands and farms due to previously having been granted "title" (ownership) to the land even though they, themselves, had never actually paid for it! At that time European settlers didn't need to buy the land because the Canadian government just gave it to them - for free! But if you were Indigenous or "native" in any way - like being Algonquin or French-Algonquin or Métis or Bois Brulés - you could not legally own your own land due to the unjust laws contained within the government's own racist policies embedded in The Indian Act.

In 1890 in this very area the government, the "Dominion of Canada", began implementing their harsh "Effective Control" system - a land grab strategy - up the Ottawa River Valley. If you and your family were Indigenous - namely Algonquin, French-Algonquin or Métis - when the government "took" your traditional homelands from from you, you got nothing! You were "forced" to move and your home and buildings would all be burned down to the ground. In truth this is really called "colonial violence" and "dislocation." Both are severe root causes of intergenerational trauma, poverty and unfortunately all the negative consequences that go along with it which, ultimately, takes away and destroys people's spirit. So today, please be mindful of just how the Canadian government and settlers in my ancestral territory actually got their so-called "property" due to who it was illegally and literally stolen from in Kitchizibi territory not so terribly long ago.

-- Tim Yearington/Grey Thunderbird Man