Ardoch Algonguin First Nation is an Anishnabek community that is located in the Madawaska, Mississippi and Rideau watersheds, about one and a half hours north of Kingston, Ontario.
Historically the communities’ roots are in the families who wintered where these rivers come close together, where use and habitation of the Ottawa River and its tributaries originates in time immemorial.
Official Name: Ardoch Algonquin First Nation
Traditional Name: Omaminwinini
Aboriginal Status: Non-Status
Tribal Affiliation: Anishinàbe (Ojibwe)
Political Organizations: Independant
Treaties: Upper Canada Treaties Area 1
Omàmìwininì communities in the past were largely organized around extended families who engaged with the natural world around them in annual cyclical patterns.
In the winter, extended families lived together in close proximity on the tributaries off of the Kiji Sìbì where they trapped and hunted. During this long, cold period, many sacred narratives would be shared, including those of Creation and also of Wisakedjak.
In the spring extended families would travel to the sugar bush to tap trees and process maple sugar, they would also travel to areas where pickerel come to spawn and would spear and dry fish as well.
In the summer they would travel back down to the headwaters on the Kiji Sìbì where they would come together with other extended families. It is at this time that Grand Councils were held.
At the time of Champlain’s arrival in the Ottawa Valley, he noted several communities living along the river that he recorded in his journals. He created the term “Algonquin,”as a marker of identity for the Omàmìwininì people.
At some point after Champlain’s arrival the people ceased being Omàmìwininì in recorded history and became Algonquin. Every community today in Quebec and Ontario uses this as a maker of identity despite the fact that it isn’t an Omàmìwininì term.
Wisakedjak is the Crane Manitou found in northern Algonquian and Dene storytelling, similar to the trickster god Nanabozho in Ojibwa and Inktonme in Assiniboine myth.
He is generally portrayed as being responsible for a great flood which destroyed the world originally made by the Creator, as well as being the one who created the current world with magic, either on his own or with powers given to him by the Creator for that specific purpose.
In that Creation parts of the Earth were taken and folded and shaped to make human beings. Breath, rhythm, and pulse, along with will were intertwined within human beings by the Creator.
The Creator took four parts of the Earth and blew into these human beings using a sacred shell. From the union of the four sacred elements and the Creator’s breath, humans were created.
Until 1959, First Nation people couldn’t even hire a lawyer according to Canadian law. Under the Indian Act, ceremonies and cultural practices and gatherings were also banned.
Many believe the Algonquin were created and originally lived on the eastern seaboard in the Gaspe Peninsula and that over a long period of time they migrated west following the giant Megis shell that appeared along the way.
This migration came as part of a prophesy called the Seven Fires. Elder William Commanda held the wampum belt which recounted this history and the seven stopping places where Anishinàbe people camped and rested and many stayed.
Today Anishinàbe homelands cover a vast amount of land in North America.
Manòmin (wild rice) is a plant with spiritual significance that stretches back to the Creation of Anishinbaabe people and the Great Migration. During that time the ancestors were told to continue until they saw this plant growing on the water.
As a result Anishinaabe people settled all over the Great Lakes and developed relationships over thousands of years.
Algonquin people followed the paths and tributaries of the Kiji Sibi (Ottawa River) and the ancestors of Ardoch Algonquin First Nation families settled within the Tay, Rideau, and Mississippi River watersheds.
Ardoch Algonquin First Nation’s relationship with Manòmin goes back to the mid nineteenth century when the surrounding forests were being burned and clear cut as part of the square logging trade.
At that time, Algonquin families were struggling to survive because of the thick black smoke that was all around. Animals had fled and traditional subsistence plants were not able to sustain growth because of the smoke.
Learning of the struggle, relatives at Alderville First Nation sent Manòmin seeds which were planted in the lake by the Whiteduck family. The seeds grew into three beds of Manòmin which Ardoch families have cared for ever since.
In 1979-1980, the beds of Manòmin at Ardoch came under attack by the MNR who tried to open harvesting to commercial interests. Ardoch Algonquin First Nation families along with allies from various Indigenous communities and settlers withstood a 60 day standoff with the MNR and the OPP and prevented any commercial harvesters from gaining access to these Manòmin beds.
Elder Harold Perrry was instrumental in leading the community to a successful conclusion of that conflict. It was Harold’s ancestors who received Manòmin seeds from Alderville and his family who have been the primary caretakers of Manòmin in Ardoch since that time.
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