PO Box 523, Station B,
Ottawa, ON, K1P 5P6

PO Box 523, Station B, Ottawa, ON, K1P 5P6
Sunday, 28 April 2024 18:56

Going Up the Dumoine

Part One: Pre-Logging

The Kichi Sipi, also known as the Ottawa River, is the thirteenth longest river in Canada. The rivers’ one hundred and forty-six thousand square miles watershed is bisected by the Sibi’s serpentine route as it curls back on itself going west from its source north of Ottawa, then heading southeast from Lake Témiscamingue to the St Lawrence River. It is the traditional unceded territory of the Anishinabe-Algonquin Nation. From the interior, sixteen major tributaries flow from various large headwater lakes to form multiple access routes into the watershed. The only major tributary to have never been dammed, settled, or industrialized save for logging, is the Dumoine. It is now protected as a Quebec aquatic reserve (2008) along with the Coulonge and Noire (2023).

The Kichi Sibi is the watershed that defined the Anishinabe-Algonquin history for time immemorial. Groups of Anishinabe families separately identified themselves as unified self-regulating custodians for ‘their tributary . Together they all formed the Anishinabe-Algonquin Nation. Each family (10-20 related individuals) was assigned approximately a thousand square mile hunting territory, orally defined using natural feature boundaries, and protected by customary law. The Dumoine was a popular route for other nations to cross the Algonquin territory. The Dumoine families, of course, used it frequently to paddle to Algonquin rendezvous for social events. These events were centred on trade, religion, and customary law. The summer wanderings of the families were focused on seasonal harvesting of spawning fish and eels, birds migrating, maturing of fruit, vegetable and medicinal plants, and the gathering of raw materials. These materials were used for creating canoes, hunting and cooking tools, clothing, footwear, dwellings, baskets, and infant cradles. All these goods were often decorated with impressive artwork. The Dumoine group of families, known first to the Jesuits and Champlain as the Otaguottouemin, were identified two centuries later in government documents as the Dumoine Band. Their story is typical of those Algonquins that lived for centuries along the major tributaries.

Long before the Europeans arrived, the Dumoine Band maintained a lifestyle that involved wintering in their designated hunting territories while hunting and trapping. They used the paddling season for travelling throughout the watershed. The chiefs endorsed a few adventuresome individuals to participate in war or trade missions further afield. A wide variety of other First Nations traders brought goods to these families, most often at the trading site at the mouth of the Dumoine. These goods originated from the Mississippi watershed, the Great Lakes, the James Bay, and the Atlantic Ocean, so a variety of food, goods, and cultural ideas penetrated the interior long before the first white man arrived.

The mouth of Dumoine featured a long sandy spit that rose gracefully up into the pine forest as a grass-covered gravel bar capable of growing root crops. It formed a perfect camping and trading site. The Wolf Lake elders (2022), the direct descendants of the Dumoine families, shared with us the name Akonakwasi for this site meaning ‘a long stretch of sand extending far away’ adding Sakik for the mouth and Sibi for the river (now underwater since the Rapides des Joachims dam was built in 1950).

Dumoine mapCanadian Geographic map of Ottawa River Watershed.

It is a challenging four day paddle up the Dumoine which rises one hundred vertical feet as falls, chutes and rapids from the mouth to Lac Dumoine. The creation of magnificent Lac Dumoine is as difficult to imagine being done by a retreating glacier, carving out this eighty-one square mile lake as it is to imagine Nenabojo (also known as Wiske’djak the Anishinabe trickster) chasing a giant beaver out of the south end churning up the land and forming the Dumoine River in the process. But both are accepted stories in different cultures. Lac Dumoine (Anishinabe name is Keewagama one of the many accepted spellings) is unique for four long outlets stretching in each cardinal direction and with a river entering or exiting each. It is a natural traffic circle and has served as an important crossroads for trade and travel since the melting glacier filled it.

French explorer, Samuel de Champlain, was one of the first white men to travel the Kichi Sibi in 1613, preceded by his youthful emissaries Étienne Brûlé and Nicholas de Vignau (1611). Some Anishinabe met white men earlier (i.e. Champlain in Tadoussac in 1603) on their travels outside the watershed. Priests often accompanied Champlain and his emissaries, reflecting that their mission to convert Algonquins (and also exploration) was a priority from France. Champlain himself functioned as both an explorer and soldier, representing New France as an ally of the Algonquins and Hurons against the Iroquois.

Prior to contact with the Europeans, the Algonquin economy had centred on trading furs, dried foods, and hand-crafted products, like birch-bark canoes and other practical implements. After contact, the focus on trade changed to European manufactured goods for furs. From 1620-1700 the Iroquois (Haudensaunee) Confederacy attacked the region of the Kichi Sipi because of their desire to influence the beaver fur trade south to their territory. They sent their warriors north to control the Kichi Sibi trade with attacks originating along many of the major portages along the Ottawa River and as far north as the James Bay height of land. It was tributaries like the Dumoine that provided detours north then east to the French trade centres of Montreal and Trois-Rivières for those trying to avoid the Iroquois. Beginning in 1670 (Royal Charter), the new Hudson's Bay Company was attracting Cree and Anishinabe fur traders north to James Bay. In 1686, to protect the business interests of the merchants of New France, Pierre Le Moyne, Chevalier de Troyes d`Iberville, with the assistance of Anishinabe guides, led French Marines from Montreal up the Ottawa River to attack the British posts on James Bay.

The European trade and the Catholic religion influenced the Dumoine family life by the 1600s. Trade brought metal tools, pots, traps, firearms, woollen blankets and clothing, and other luxuries into the family unit. It also brought disease and alcohol. The Black Robes (Recollects, Jesuits, Sulpicians and finally the Oblates) brought Catholicism to the Algonquins. Being a Catholic (approximately half the Anishinabe population converted) required an annual pilgrimage to the Sulpician mission at Oka near Montreal to be properly baptized, married, or buried as a Catholic. However, beginning in the 1830s, the Oblates built mission churches closer to the Dumoine beside Hudson’s Bay Company posts located at Fort William, Fort Témiscamingue and Fort Grand Lac Victoria, resulting in the elimination of this pilgrimage. The route to the mission at Grand Lac Victoria was up the Dumoine from the Kichi Sibi. Oblate priests, guided by Algonquins may have named the river ‘the river the monks travel.’ This was translated onto maps as Rivière du Moine (Hawkins 1836) and later map makers anglicized this to the Dumoine River.

There were temporary trading posts set up at the Dumoine each spring. Starting with trading posts that independent traders set up in the 1700s, followed by the Northwest Company from 1790-1820, and finally the Hudson’s Bay Company, whose trading posts lasted from 1821 to 1840.

Lumberjacks mixed their French, Irish and English accents together to create the unique phrase for travelling to their new workplace “Going Up da Dumun.” Roderick Ryan was the first lumber baron who used the mouth as a base for his operations for travelling upriver circa 1840. He and John Egan lead an invasion of a new type of economy away from furs and at the expense of the Algonquin Dumoine family way of life. The story of Roderick Ryan and John Egan will be shared in Part Two this blog.

Wallace A Schaber

I am not a professional historian or Anishinabe expert. I am a collector of maps, stories, and artifacts about the Dumoine based on fifty years of guiding there by canoe, ski, and foot. Many of these stories are found in my book, Last of the Wild Rivers (2016), which is out of print but available as an e-book online.

Friends of the Dumoine

In 2016, concerned Dumoine guides and travellers formed Friends of Dumoine to keep the rivers portages and campsites clean.

Mission Statement

“To champion conservation of the Dumoine watershed, promote non- mechanized recreation and strengthen knowledge of its natural environment and human history.”

Our major achievement to date is the re-opening and interpretation of the old Anishinabe portages that existed for centuries and linking them to the Dumoine tote road used by the lumber industry beginning in 1840. This hiking trail is now open from the Ottawa River to Grande Chute as a twenty-six kilometre hiking-skiing trail A visitor centre at Grande Chute complete with historic maps and artifacts is located at the northern gateway.

Please join us on the trail or virtually online to explore Canada's history and protect it. For more information about how to volunteer or donate write This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Friends of the Dumoine would like to thank our partners in helping to make this project a reality.

CPAWS Ottawa Valley
ZEC Dumoine
Wolf Lake First Nation

References and Further Reading

Fournier, J-L. Anishinabe Place Names for the Dumoine Hiking Trail, confirmed and sanctioned by Wolf Lake First Nation, May 2022. Prepared for Friends of Dumoine Trail Map published 2024.

Morrison, James. “Algonquin History in the Ottawa River Watershed.” Sicani Research & Advisory Services Ottawa, Ontario, Revised 2005.

Frank G. Speck. “Myths and Folklore of the Timiskaming Algonquin and the Timagami Ojibwa.” Canada Department of Mines. Geological Survey, Memoir 71, No 9 Anthropological Series. Ottawa: Government Printing Bureau, (1915):1-3.

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Our final in-person speaker session of the year, hosted by the Main Branch of the Ottawa Public Library on May 10th 2023, featured presentations from two organizations with whom we have some past connections.

Grant Vogl has been with the Bytown Museum since 2010 and is now the Senior Manager, Collections and Exhibitions. He spoke to us about the changes that have taken place at the museum over the last couple of years and their upcoming season.

bytown museum Bytown Museum Grant explained that, like most organizations, the pandemic disrupted the plans of the Bytown Museum. Closed for their 2020 and 2021 seasons, they opened for a shortened 7 week season in 2022 and were pleased to welcome some 12,000 visitors to the museum. They are very excited to be opening this Friday, May 12, 2023 for a full season. Though mostly out of the public view, much was done behind those closed doors. Grant described the work undertaken by the museum toward Reconciliation. Working with the Algonquin communities of Kigitan Zibi and Pikwakanagan, the museum reviewed their exhibits to ensure that Indigenous perspectives are included. It is important to the museum that visitors with an Indigenous heritage see themselves, their symbols, their culture and their language represented in the displays. As such, the museum has a new mural created by Indigenous artists and has 31 new tri-lingual information panels carrying English, French, and Algonquin language explanations.

Grant also gave us a “sneak peak” into their 2023 season. The Community Gallery hosts an exhibit by artists Gary Blundell and Victoria Ward entitled “Sourcing the Canal”. The exhibit highlights the natural and human landscapes that have been created by resource development whose resources would very likely have travelled through the Ottawa River and the canal. The temporary gallery features an exhibit entitled “City in Flames: Ten Fires that (Re)shaped Ottawa “. Grant explained that Ottawa’s history and landscape have been shaped and re-shaped by fire. Prominent buildings, industrial areas, landmark businesses, homes, and indeed entire neighbourhoods have all fallen victim to flames. These destructive fires not only devastated, but also renewed, allowing for architectural growth, the evolution of the cityscape, new iconic tourism locales, the passing of new laws, and more.

The Bytown Museum and the Historical Society of Ottawa share a common ancestry, both starting by the Women’s Canadian Historical Society of Ottawa. Grant reminded us that the Bytown Museum still recognises this shared heritage by offering free admission to Historical Society of Ottawa members.

To learn more about the Bytown Museum and their 2023 season, please visit their website:

We were then pleased to be joined by Donna Shields-Poë, the President of the May Court Club of Ottawa, who introduced their Past President, Nancy Pyper. Nancy is one of those who has spent her life volunteering at whatever was needed, where ever she was, having been almost everywhere across the country as a military wife. She joined the May Court Club of Ottawa in 2013 and soon found herself drafted into leadership roles with them. She started her talk by giving us some background on their founder.

a025771 Lady Aberdeen (née Ishbel Marjorbanks) - Topley Studio / Library and Archives Canada / PA-025771Ishbel Maria Hamilton-Gordon, Marchioness of Aberdeen and Temair, GBE, was a truly remarkable person. She had been a social activist in England and Scotland promoting education, health care and women’s suffrage. So when Lady Aberdeen, who also became the Patron to the WCHSO, came to Canada in 1893 as the wife of the Governor-General and discovered that there was no social safety net or supports for women, founded the National Council of Women of Canada, the Victorian Order of Nurses and on April 30, 1898, held an elaborate garden party at Rideau Hall to which she invited young women of prominent families and challenged them to use their time and skills to provide service to those less fortunate. Thus a May Queen was crowned, her Court established, becoming the May Court Club of Ottawa, the oldest women’s service club in Canada. The May Court Club of Ottawa is one of nine now operating in Ontario.

Lady Aberdeen’s call to the young ladies of leisure to do good works was taken up then and has been equally well responded to by subsequent generations of Ottawa women. Nancy shared that there has been a transition, as the world has changed, from single women, an initial requirement for membership, to (still only) women who are now mainly retired. This has in no way dampened their enthusiasm or commitment, their most senior member, now with 66 years of service to our community, at age 93, still does her weekly shift in the Bargain Box nearly-new store. Their motto, “Enriching the lives of others as well as our own”, is clearly heartfelt and heeded.

Nancy explained that the Club has always focused their services on women, children, and the disabled and told us some of what they have done in their century and a quarter of service to the families of Ottawa. These include support to the Victorian Order of Nurses, help in and funding for hospitals, creation of an early lending library for hospital patients (now at the Civic Campus but still closed due to Covid), help to the Red Cross, operation of one of the first (1905) Tuberculosis clinics and the creation, expansion, and operation of a Convalescence Home. Doing things “The May Court way” has allowed the Club to continue to support the families in our city and the many new Canadians who now make their homes with us.

Knitting has always been a major activity of the May Court Club. Nancy told us that this continues today with items being made for sale at artisan festivals, or items such as tuques for preemies or hats for cancer patients made and given as needed. She said that during the two World Wars the Club knitted thousands of pairs of socks for our soldiers, sailors and airmen, as well as cutting fabric and doing much other work for the war effort.

Nancy explained that some confusion exists in the mind of the public between “The May Court Club of Ottawa” and “The Hospice at May Court”. When the Club closed their Convalescents Home, in 1997 after 80 years of operation, they looked for another use for their building. The outcome was a partnership between the Club and All Saints, (now Hospice Care Ottawa); the Club provides the building, looks after maintenance etc. and makes an annual donation of $100,000, but does not actually operate the Hospice. Club members do, however, volunteer their time providing some administrative and other support services.

Traditionally, with the exception of the two World Wars, the Club funded their activities through balls, galas, vaudeville shows and other social events, which were attended by Ottawa’s leading citizens. Times change and now the Bargain Box, which has been open on Laurier Avenue East for 50 years, is the major source of their funds. It survived all the closures and restrictions of the pandemic and is well supported by the local community, especially the students at the University of Ottawa, who appreciate the quality and love the prices.

Like HSO, the May Court Club of Ottawa is celebrating their 125th anniversary this spring. To mark the occasion the Club has just announced a donation of $125,000 to the Crossroads Children’s Mental Health Centre. A wonderful gift from an organization that has certainly more than net the challenge laid down to them by Lady Aberdeen all those years ago.

To learn more about the May Court Club of Ottawa, please visit their Facebook page at maycourtclubottawa or their website at

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Sunday, 30 April 2023 20:17

Uncovering Our Region’s Ancient Past

The Historical Society of Ottawa was honoured to welcome back Dr. Jean-Luc Pilon as the featured speaker at the April 12, 2023, speaker series session, hosted by the Main Branch of the Ottawa Public Library. Dr. Pilon is a renowned archeologist, long-time curator of Central Canada archaeology at the Canadian Museum of History, an educator, and was the first recipient of the J.V. Wright Lifetime Achievement Award from the Ontario Archaeological Society.

Dr. Pilon, who had spoken to us in November 2016, led us through some of the history of archeological activities in the Ottawa area along with the views of some individuals, organizations and governments. He pointed out that Europeans immediately grasped the importance of this location, Champlain making note of it in his journal in 1613. A Royal Proclamation of 1763 offered a degree of protection to Indigenous lands west of the Appalachian Mountains, but land grants from the Crown and later questionable Crown treaties and purchases, such as the Rideau Purchase of 1819, served to strip the Indigenous peoples of their land and heritage. Philemon Wright noted the objection of the local Indigenous population as he expanded his own enterprises in the area in the early 1800s, especially logging in support of the Napoleonic Wars. Later, about 1843, Dr. Edward van Courtland, a local medical doctor, naturalist and archeologist, identified a major ceremonial and burial site in the area, collecting many artifacts from his find. Archeology, at that time, had little concept of context and would from today’s perspective be more closely associated with looting than science. In describing the site, Dr. Courtland failed to mention on which side of the Ottawa River it fell, leading to a misunderstanding about the location of his discovery that was to endure and propagate for over 170 years. Writing for the Women’s Canadian Historical Society of Ottawa in 1901, Gertrude Kenny provided an anecdotal account of the Indigenous culture that had existed in the area for hundreds of years, but provided no sources for her account. Dr. Pilon noted many others who found artifacts or provided their own interpretations.

Dr. Pilon described how the artifacts flowed to and through a series of museums including the Bytown Mechanics Institute, the Literary and Scientific Society of Ottawa, the Geological Survey of Canada, and now the Canadian Museum of History. The artifacts that have been collected in the valleys of the Ottawa and Rideau rivers have a story to tell. Implements of stone quarried from deposits in Labrador, the Hudson Bay / James Bay and New York State areas, copper from west of Lake Superior, pottery of the Middle Woodland period, virtually identical to that found in the Lake of the Woods area, speak to a broad-based and sophisticated trading network with a critical hub in the Ottawa / Gatineau area that had been active for more than 4,500 years before the arrival of European settlers. The meeting of the Gatineau, Rideau, and Ottawa rivers made this an ideal location for the exchange of goods and ideas, while the presence of the Chaudière Falls, also known as Akikodjiwan, made this a significant spiritual location as well.

During excavations associated with the renovation of the Centre Block of the Parliament Buildings, a stone knife, dated between 2,500 and 4,000 years old was discovered. The knife has been returned to the stewardship of the Algonquin Anishinabe peoples and it is expected that it will be displayed in the Center Block when it reopens.

Dr. Pilon reminded us that as we think about our city, we must remember that this was a center of commerce and culture for thousands of years before anything we see today.

Following Dr. Pilon’s presentation, we were privileged to be joined by several students from Anishinàbe Odjìbikan. Anishinàbe Odjìbikan is an Indigenous Archaeological Field School that provides First Nations students from Pikwakanagan and Kitigan Zibi the phenomenal opportunity to take part in archaeological digs along the shorelines and uncover and better understand their own ancestral past. Jenna and Kyle gave us some background to their program,. Planned in 2019, it, like most things, was delayed by Covid. In 2021, 8 students, 4 from each community participated, while in 2022, 16 students, 10 from Kitigan Zibi and 6 from Pikwakanagan took part. Their hope is to continue the program for at least another three years. The program has strong support from the communities, financial support from the federal government and archeological mentoring from the National Capital Commission. It is hoped that some financial independence can be achieved through access to bid on government contracts.

Jenna and Kyle explained some of the differences between their approach and that of traditional archeology, which has largely ignored First Nation’s voices and their traditional knowledge. They explained that while recovering their own people’s artifacts, they adopt appropriate cultural practices, such as ceremonies to thank the land for its care of the items before and after their recovery and the renewed use of the recovered items as they had been originally intended. In recovering the artifacts, the students and their communities recognize that they are also recovering their own heritage, allowing them their own interpretation not one from a colonial perspective. These artifacts also provide an undeniable proof of the occupation of this land by indigenous peoples for thousands of years before the arrival of the first colonists.

Jenna and Kyle expressed the urgency of their undertaking. Climate change, high water levels and urbanization are damaging and destroying potential sites. They see this program as critical in providing the skills and trained individuals needed to perform the work ahead.

Following their presentation, the students displayed a number of the artifacts they had uncovered and responded to many questions posed by audience members who came down to the stage for a closer look and a chat.

This in-person session, the most popular this season with over 90 people attending, left all of us with a thirst to learn more about the earlier history of the land on which we live and the peoples to whom it belongs.

display crArtifacts presented by Anishinàbe Odjìbikan.

Dr. Jean-Luc Pilon has shared this excellent video, a guided tour as he explores the heart of our region: Paddling through the past - Ottawa-Gatineau's Ancient Cultural Landscape.

Tuesday, 25 April 2023 10:05

Our Acknowledgement

For thousands of years before colonial times, the members of Indigenous communities travelled from far and wide to gather at the meeting of the three rivers: the Ottawa, the Gatineau, and the Rideau; from the Chaudière Falls to the mouth of the Gatineau River.

This area is rich in natural resources — plants, animals, and fish, and also provided a convenient meeting place for trade and communication among communities.

Of special significance are the burial place at Hull Landing and the Chaudière Falls, a sacred place for meeting and sharing in ceremonies.

The burial grounds in the Ottawa-Gatineau corridor including Hull Landing were important for rituals of respect and bonding with the landscape. Victoria Island, located under the Portage Bridge, continues to provide this sacred space to local and visiting Indigenous people.

The National Capital Region, which includes the city of Ottawa, remains unceded Algonquin-Anishnaabeg territory.

We encourage our members and guests to reflect on this, our connected history, and ways we can contribute to reconciliation.

chats fall chaudiere 1Charles Ramus Forrest Chat Falls, Lake Chaudière on the Ottawa 1822 

Source: HSO Member Margaret Back’s summary of Canadian Museum of History Archeologist (retired) Jean-Luc Pilon’s April 2017 presentation to our Society.

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