Opportunity to Honour Sacred Chaudière Falls and Nearby Lands

Do you love waterfalls? I know I do! I love being near falls and rapids. Recently, I feel I understand better why I love waterfalls. Of course they are beautiful and powerful and sound amazing. But Elders in Ottawa and in Guyana have taught me that waterfalls and rapids, the places where waters roar, are the places where Spirits gather. Here in Ottawa, we have a very special waterfall that has been mostly hidden from view by industrial development: Chaudière Falls. Now there is a proposal to redevelop the area, which offers an opportunity to make wise decisions about the future of this sacred area.


For thousands of years, the ancestors of the Algonquin people prayed and offered tobacco at “The Kettle of Boiling Waters”, the mighty Chaudière Falls. But over the past 200 years, the islands and shores nearby were developed for industry. The Ottawa River’s flow was dammed up to operate paper mills and power stations. This place of Spiritual Power was harnessed to yield Hydroelectric Power.

Though in a weakened state, you can still feel the Spiritual Power of the Falls. And late Algonquin Elder William Commanda had an inspiring Vision, a Plan for the area, that would restore it as a spiritual place. A place for peoples to converge and learn about Indigenous Peoples. A place where people can heal.

Turning this Vision into Reality has so far been a slow process. But now there is an opportunity – if we all get engaged and work together!

Current Situation

Windmill Development Group recently signed an “Agreement of Purchase and Sale” for Domtar’s property, which includes Chaudière Island and part of downtown Gatineau. Chaudière Island is right next to Chaudière Falls, and was part of Commanda’s overall Vision for the area. Windmill Development Group also has a Vision for the area, expressed by co-founder Jonathan Westeinde: “Our vision is to create Canada’s most sustainable mixed-use community right here in the nation’s capital.”

Are these two Visions for this area competing or compatible? Let us take a look by going through the four main aspects of Grandfather Commanda’s Vision:

Elder William Commanda's Vision for the Chaudière area1. Free the Chaudière Falls. I think that is a separate process, and could happen regardless of Windmill’s proposed development. What do you think?

2. Create a City Park and Historic Interpretive Centre. For me, this is the point of potential conflict, because the Park and Historic Interpretive Centre were envisioned to be on Chaudière Island. I feel this is a very different use of the land than Windmill’s proposal to build a sustainable mixed-used community (with residential and commercial areas) on Chaudière Island. The only remaining condition of the “Agreement of Purchase and Sale” is that the area be rezoned for “a mixed-use community-scale development”. Personally, I think the area should be rezoned as “Sacred”!

3) Build a Peace Building Meeting Site; and 4) Build an Indigenous Centre. Both the Peace Building Meeting Site and Indigenous Centre were envisioned to be on Asinabka (Victoria Island). Asinabka is not part of Windmill’s proposal for the area, and could still go ahead regardless of what happens with Chaudière Island.

Quick recap: Windmill’s redevelopment sounds great and green, but would be on sacred land next to the sacred Chaudière Falls. What impact would the redevelopment have on achieving the Grandfather Commanda’s Vision for the area? What are Algonquin leaders, elders an community members saying? In my humble opinion, this project requires genuine, fair, and thorough consultation with Algonquin communities. It means really listening to what Algonquins want for their Land and Water. And then supporting their decision. Below are a few Algonquin views that I know of, please add more in your comments on this blog!

Some Algonquin Views

Windmill Development held a Public Consultation on 11 December 2013. Claudette Commanda, Elder William Commanda’s granddaughter, opened the Consultation event and spoke powerfully about her Grandfather’s Vision for the area. I have not been able to find any quotes in the media about what she said. Here’s what I recall. She told Windmill Development: “Now you know who we are. You know how to reach us.” And invited Windmill to meaningfully consult with the Algonquin Community about the proposed redevelopment.

Kitigan Zibi Algonquin Chief Gilbert Whiteduck stated in the Citizen that “I don’t believe this project should go forward without the indigenous centre. It should be the jewel in the crown” of any redevelopment of the area. Chief Whiteduck also said he and his community members are concerned about the future of Chaudière Falls, and “we will ensure to the best of our ability that our voice is heard.”

Algonquin Elder Albert Dumont just released a blog post about the sacredness of Chaudière Falls. One of his key concerns is that no matter what happens with the Windmill proposal, people need to have better access to the Falls to perform Ceremony, to pray, and to offer tobacco.

What You Can Do

This is the time to seize the opportunity to reclaim the Chaudière lands and waters that have languished under the toxic weight of Industry. It is a time to honour the spiritual power and importance of the Chaudière Falls and adjacent lands. It is time for everyone to express our views, hopes, and Dreams for this sacred place, right in Canada’s Capital. Will Canada’s Capital also be Canada’s Heart? It is a time to listen deeply and then act in solidarity with what the Algonquin community wants for the area.

Windmill developments is inviting feedback about their proposed redevelopment, called (for now) “The Isles/Les Îles”, until 31 December. Rodney Wilts from Windmill Developments (rodney@windmilldevelopments.com) responded to my question about whether there would be future opportunities for input after 31 December: “Regarding additional opportunities for input, we see community consultation as an ongoing process. Much of our ongoing consultation is happening now with direct meetings with groups such as Ecology Ottawa, the Ottawa Riverkeeper, Heritage Canada, Just Food, the Algonquins etc. Our next full public meeting will be sometime in the spring.” Do send in your views now (see below). And please stay tuned!

Keep Shining,

Please send your feedback to Windmill Development Group about the proposed “The Isles” redevelopment of areas near Chaudière Falls to Rodney Wilts at: rodney@windmilldevelopments.com
Or snail mail comments (postmarked Dec 31):
Attn: Sheena Whitten
PACE Public Affairs & Community Engagement
Suite 201, 145 Spruce Street
Ottawa ON K1R 6P1 

PS – I would like to share a lovely note Judith Matheson posted on FB about sending in feedback to Windmill:

“Please emphasize the importance of honouring the history, the sacred and the spiritual significance of Chaudière Falls not just to the Algonquin people but to the deep spiritual needs of these times to remember the wisdom of our own ancient ancestors. Who lived in harmony and connection with nature and the Earth. If you wish contact Rodney Wilts of the Windmill Development Group as they welcome constructive feed back. Suggest he check out http://albertdumont.com/the-kettle-of-boiling-waters-chaudiere-falls-algonquin-territory/ and express how what you read made you personally feel around the significance of how this project is done and its affect on our world.

View of Parliament Hill from AsinabkaPlease share this info on Facebook and via e-mail as the old year ends and the new era begins. This project is not just about us. It is about our future generations and how we can play a role in helping Windmill and our own society relate to and in some way also experience by reading and being reminded of the true history, spirituality and sacredness of this area, as shared by Elder Albert Dumont. To relate to and ourselves connect with a deeper understanding of what he is talking about is what we have all lost. In nature the great healer we must strive to create deep spiritual understanding that all original peoples keep hoping we will remember.

That what we do to the Earth is reflective of what we are doing to ourselves. It is time we work together towards bringing back the harmony and flow of nature and this project has extraordinary potential and possibilities for Canadians to do just that.”

8 thoughts on “Opportunity to Honour Sacred Chaudière Falls and Nearby Lands

  1. In order to claim a territory as traditional you must have a ancestral connection to the land being claimed. Mr Dumont states his ancestors occupied the territory, the Chaudierre falls, who is his ancestors and what where there names ? My Kaniengehaga ancestors occupied the Chaudierre falls since time immemorial, my family had a historical rights bearing community located at the Chaudierre falls, we also buried our dead there. Our ancestors have names like Joseph Cole, Louisa Tay-Hawkakta, Louie Tiahakate, Pierre Tsi-Tisirron and many, many others. We were evicted from our traditional territory on April 15th, 1903 by Louisa(Wright)Scott and her Judge husband John Scott, Ottawa’s first mayor, we original people are still here hidden in plain site. Before our eviction in 1871/72 our band was given Smallpox by this Canadian government. The very first church in this region committed genocide and stole identities while faking deaths. I respect the Algonquins from Kitigan-Zibi and there traditional territory north of Ottawa/Hull, can they show the same respect for our Kaniengehaga heritage and territory and stop this propaganda? Have a look at this web page, here you will find Canadian Census Records, Church Records, Indian Affairs Records, Doctor Records, Police Records, Court Records and a Land Surveyors Map of the falls that show our Indian Reserve. This is the truth, one of the seven teachings, I understand when words leave my mouth, I can not get them back, therefore I speak truth !!!! http://tsit-kanajakaniengehaga.webs.com/
    Tsit-Kanaja Kaniengehaga
    Ottawa-Hull’s Indigenous Peoples Pre-History and History.

    1. Good Morning Mr. Arbour,
      Thank you for your comment. I leave it to Elder Dumont to address comments about his ancestors.

      My goal with this blog post is to encourage anyone and everyone who cares about the fate of Chaudière Falls and the nearby lands to get engaged and provide feedback to Windmill Development Group about the proposed “The Isles” redevelopment. I hope collectively we make wise decisions about the Chaudière area and about Elder Commanda’s Vision, for all our relations and for our future generations. I speak and have written my Heart’s Truth on this.


      1. Happy New year Julie,
        Nia:wen for your quick reply, my intention is not to confuse the issue at hand, and I will never oppose grand father William Commanda’s vision for a center of peace. My intention was to share my origin and personal connection to the sacred Chaudierre Falls. I have shared my freedom of speech on your wall to avoid being silenced. I respect and admire your involvement, this helps people provide feedback on the topic.

    2. Kwey Kwey Jason,

      You say to me “stop claiming Kanata, Ottawa and Gatineau as Algonquin territory”. I will not stop, NEVER!! And after my life comes to an end, it will disappoint you to know that my children, my grandchildren, my grandchildren’s grandchildren and so on and so on, all the next of my generations, will continue to say it is our land. They will continue to say it and honour it as such because it is Algonquin land now, it always was in the past and it always will be in the future. Nothing will ever change this fact!

      You have “ideas” for me Jason? I have one for you! Have you ever heard of the “Mohawk Valley” in what is now New York state? Have you ever wondered how the valley got such a name? My “idea” is that you do some research into this and learn the real “facts” about your Mohawk ancestry.

      The Jesuit missionaries recorded in their early journals (the commencement of the 1600’s) how the “Algonquin People” (before converting to Christianity) would perform tobacco ceremonies at the Chaudière Falls. The title to the land the People of the Great River have did not begin with the arrival of the lumber barons who came to rape and pillage our forests or with the missionaries who came to poison our spirituality. We were here long before that time and we will continue to live here as stewards of the land for as long as the waters flow into the future!

      Jason, if your Christian ancestors were displaced from their own lands because their religious beliefs brought persecution against them or because they bet on the wrong horse (the British) during the American War of Independence, it does not give you the right now to claim that lands on which your people were displaced, to say they (the land) has been yours “since time immemorial”.

      I know this land is that of my ancestors. And it is not because of settler/colonizer records that I know it. I know it because of the oral tradition of our Peoples. I know it with every sacred particle contained in the winds I take into my lungs when I breathe. I know it with every beat of my heart when swollen with pride as I look around me to see the greatness of the territory. I know it with each of the blessings I count every day because I am a human being. My soul sang and danced at the Kettle of Boiling Waters even before the breath of Kichi Manido gave human beings life those countless millennia of the past. My ancestors were the “People of the Great River” and were called as such because we lived and thrived upon her shores since her birth as a waterway. The Kettle of Boiling Waters was the centre of their woodland cathedral. You or no one else will ever take this place from us.

      Jason, your claims throw people who want peace and harmony for all off balance! You confuse the issue at hand! Why can you not lend support to a great cause (Chaudière Falls) instead of entering into it with your own personal agenda? Is this what your elders are teaching you?

      Albert Dumont

      1. She:kon, Kwey, Kwey, Mr. Dumont (Shawanodin)
        I would like to wish you a very happy new year while respectfully disagreeing with your out look on this portion of the Kitchi-zibi, I respect and share your passion for this sacred place. I am aware of the Mohawk Valley and the history of the Algonquin and Iroquoian people who lived on that portion of North America or Turtle Island. The Dutch claimed that portion of our traditional land in 1609, and somehow purchased Manhattan Island in 1626, New York received the name in 1664. The name Mohawk was given to the Kaniengehaga by the French and Algonquin’s, this means we eat things, possibly people. Our Kaniengehaga territory was north of the European made border of 1812, we were in eastern Ontario, western Quebec and northern New York. Look at the map without borders, you will notice Ottawa-Hull is directly north of New York State, to think our territory coincides with the USA/Canadian border is ridiculous. Are you aware of a ancient Iroquoian Village that was unearth in Brockville, Ontario, only eighty kilometers south of Tsit-Kanaja or the Chaudierre Falls, these remains were repatriated to Akwesasne. There are Archaeologist reports of our Kanata in Torbolton, Ontario being massacred by the French and their allies in the beginning of the 1600′s. Once again there was attempts of massacre on us Iroquois in 1660 by Adam des Oremeaux, (the French), this failed as several Kaniengehaga came eighty eight kilometers down the Ottawa river from Tsit-Kanaja and went to war in Hawkesbury, there are records of this as well. This is ten years before the French convinced some Kaniengehaga families to settle at the rapids (Kahnawa:ke), south east of Hochelaga, today’s Montreal. Philemon Wright arrived with his militia at our village on the island of Hull in 1800, he walked up the frozen river after swearing allegiance to the crown, with him he brought tools, rules and guns. My extended family or ancestors were just as concerned about the loss of our maple sugaries and resources as you are. As for Spirituality, I am animistic (not Catholic) and I am proud of my ancestral connection to the Chaudierre falls. Mr. Dumont, I am a Kaniengehaga from Tsit-Kanaja and I am also a proud Weskarinni, Anishnabek from Lac Simon in Cheneville, Quebec. This is the same place the Whiteduck’s got there name after migrating there to from Lake of Two mountains in 1845, that family as well as others migrated to Kitigan-zibi in 1850, my Algonquin ancestors stayed in Cheneville and were given the name St.Jean. In 1843 the Wright militia desecrated our Kaniengehaga ossuary located where the museum of civilization is located today. My Kaniengehaga familie’s remains were repatriated to Kitigan-zibi a short time ago at the request of your Chief Gilbert Whiteduck. There is so much more history and pre-history I could share with you and the public about my place of origin if people would not plug there ears and role there eyes. My family had quarried limestone flint from the falls since time immemorial, there is evidence of Kaniengehaga pottery, arrow heads, skinning tools and tomahawks located all over this region that predates European contact. This is why our first clan mother sky woman gave us the name Kaniengehaga (People of the Place of the Flint) not Mohawk. Please believe the church and state had committed horrible acts of genocide on my historical rights bearing community from Tsit-Kanaja (floating kettle). I will respectfully never stop sharing the truth of my ancestry even if it is not in the best interest of other communities. I would respectfully encourage you to do your own genealogy and research as I have, and if you have any questions or need assistance, I would be more than willing to assist you. Skennen’kó:wa

        1. Kwey Kwey Jason,

          Migwech for your kind wishes, I extend the same to you and yours.

          A real “fact” you might want to research is this. When the war between the British and French escalated (into the late 1600’s) to the point where massacres of the indigenous peoples were occurring at an alarming rate throughout our territories, the propaganda machine, already perfected to a science by the invaders, went into high gear. The purpose being, to confuse, distort, complicate and promote false “facts” about land boundaries, atrocities and the spirituality of our Peoples, all done to keep us off balance, and for us to stay fixated on war against one another. Some of the “reports” you mention as authentic occurrences were part of that campaign, I’m afraid! Take the so-called “Lachine Massacre” I was taught in school in my 5th grade history class. The story went that Iroquoian warriors allied with the British had massacred the men, women and children of the town of Lachine. Guess what, Jason, it never happened. It was proven to be propaganda by the French to rile the people of France to join up and fight the British in the New World.

          It is a fact that the British supplied their Mohawk allies with guns. With them (guns) the Mohawks were able to make incursions into Algonquin lands. The French only supplied guns to their Algonquin allies who had become Christians, big mistake! We were not able to defend ourselves properly and lost land.

          The Mohawk held Algonquin land won through warfare for a period of time but were eventually driven from them.

          You say that pottery, tomahawks, skinning tools and such which pre-date European contact are “located all over this region”. Maybe they are, what of it! Are you not aware that trade, peace and respect existed among the Anishinabe and Iroquoian Peoples before Europeans arrived? Your people supplied items for trade, as we did. We took these things home. What is so strange about it?

          What you need to know, Jason, is that “teams” of historians of great merit and unquestionable ethics and researchers with expertise in the area of indigenous cultures and their pre-contact land masses have studied the facts about Algonquin title to the land here, to death. They confirmed what is real about our history and what was invented through the propaganda machine of the past. An astronomical amount of money was spent to get it right. And that is why, Jason, there is today, a tentative land claim (including Chaudière Falls) on the table. It is between the Algonquins and the Government of Canada. The Mohawk do not have a say in it because it is “NOT” their land.

          Jason, you seem to be a man with an enormous amount of energy for this sort of thing. I suggest that instead of working to steal Algonquin land for yourself, you go to New York state and fight to re-acquire lands lost to your people in Mohawk Valley. Your people were displaced from land given to you by Creator. I wish you luck in getting it back!!. First you can take New York and then Berlin if you wish, but Algonquin land, especially our sacred sites, it is just not going to happen. And about your kind offer to help me in researching my rights – no thanks! The day will never come when I seek advice and direction from anyone else but my Chiefs and my Elders.

          Jason, write what you will. Comment what you wish to, but I will no longer respond. I am much too busy to waste any more time on this.

          You might be interested to know that I am working on a play with Phil Jenkins, a respected writer, about an Algonquin Chief and veteran of the war of 1812. We are hoping that the play will be ready for the Fringe Festival taking place in Ottawa next June. Check it out, you just might learn something?

          Albert Dumont

  2. Deep thanks Tsit-Kanaja Kaniengehaga

    For expanding my and many others awareness around the deep history of our many original peoples in this area long before colonialism and industrialization.

    It was a year a year ago on Dec. 22, 2013 that I and many others in the world participated in the Global initiative by spiritual leader Barbra Marx Hubbard and the Shift network. To Celebrate the Mayan Calendar where humanity celebrated a new era for humanity, a collective rite of passage, a recognition that humanity is increasingly interconnected and at the same time conscious of our role in helping to manifest ( birth) our own healing evolution marked by creativity and Peace. Thanks to this blog created by Julie Comber we will be doing just that by all contributing our different awareness and perspectives and in so doing expand our collective consciousness on how best we can all support a similar cause. To see the magnificence of Grandfather William Commanda’s vision honored and respected and manifest by all of us supporting the tentative developers desire and commitment to listen to all the people in this area.

    And all Canadians as we support the deep need of all original people of this area to participate significantly in this project. We will see a movement grow from ordinary grassroots people from all cultures speaking up and asking that the natural flow of the Chaudiere Falls be restored! And that the development of this sacred land will be accomplished for the highest good of honoring its history and deep spiritual sacred significance to us all. And especially future generations!

    Then this new era will create a world where we can all experience the deep spirituality needed for these times. Our connection to nature and to the Earth, the Air, the Land and the Sea and the Water. The teachings of Grandfather William Commanda and elders of all cultures who remind us that the water is the blood stream of Mother Planet Earth. That what we do to each other we do to the Earth. And what we do to the Earth we do to each other.

    In this process of expanded conversations we are all learning about our own deep need to slow down and restore our own connection to nature and the Divine flow of Mother Earth.

    I believe this project is bigger than any of us as individuals or groups or organisations. It is about freeing our souls and spirits to soar like Eagles! Towards all humanity awakening to return to our own deep indigenous roots. That we may relate to this awareness: that any of us who have ancestors who are buried in the Earth are also indigenous. There is no separation that we are all One humanity yearning for the same thing Peace,

    In 2014 as we awaken to our common history of oppression in many forms may all of us be like Nelson Mandella and Grandfather William Commanda be graced to move beyond the post traumatic pain of our past and that of our ancestors. And rise up beyond our anger, hurt, and pain, and trauma of our shared human experience to say: Enough!

    We will not give up! We will live life from what is the best in ourselves the quality of our own souls and truth and character that such leaders as Mandella and Grandfather Commanda have helped us to see.

    We at this time will chart a common course and be in alignment with a new world we will create by working together. One with Source. As we take the torch from such leaders as above. We will become true Citizens of Mother Planet Earth. A new Universal humanity healed, changed and transformed. By awakening in each other what is the best that is inside ourselves.

    I see both Chaudiere Falls and the ” International Indigenous Peace Centre” envisioned by Grandfather both becoming a reality by 2017. As a Beacon of hope and light for the world as Canada celebrates its 150 birthday!

    On Dec. 22, 2012 before and after we signed and invited others to sign the world wide Declaration of Commitment to Indigenous Peoples at http://declarationofcommitment.com/

    We also invited others. I take this opportunity now in this coming New Year to invite one of you to participate in the creation of a similar commitment for Canadians to support such a declaration as our own. To have us see that the Chaudiere Falls be fully restored to its original magnificence! And the building of a Peace Centre on Victoria Island also take place.

    I believe a great movement will take place as we all rise up and participate in a vision in which we will be a culture of peace and a circle of all nations. By supporting this declaration we will be writing the new chapter of Canada’s History.

    By our joint testament to supporting the vision and the great legacy and of Grandfather William Commanda.

    I leave you with the words of the late Neslon Mandella who wrote:

    ” If you want peace with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner” said Mandella. ” We are too quick to give up and refuse to get up from our failures. If we don’t fight to get up, we are giving up on something bigger – life.”

    In 2012 in this National Capital Region Birth 2012 Planetary Celebration http://birth2012ottawagatineau.wordpress.com/ was created a program to honor Aboriginal Architect Douglas Cardinal, who as a life long friend of Grandfather has the plans ready for many years the Peace Centre.

    In Birth 2012 we sought to honor conscious relationships for all people and giving thanks to indigenous people of our region.

    In 2013 the world has experienced the world wide Idle No More Movement as humanity and ordinary grassroots people rise up to give voice to their values. To work together in common cause.

    On this Eve of this New Year 2014 may I bless you and yours and all of us to be filled with inspired hearts to see with the power of our imaginations. A new world and a new Era of Peace unfolding for ourselves and for our grandchildren’s future grandchildren. Together we are accomplishing great things for future generations for we are the ancestors.

    Judith Matheson
    Heart + Soul Light Centre

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