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OttawaRiverCulture

Cultural Clues at Leamy Lake
Almost 5,000 years ago, when First Nations traders met to exchange their goods at the confluence of the Gatineau, Rideau and Ottawa Rivers, only the pine trees loomed in the distance. Today, the towers, spires, domes and monuments of a nation's capital fill the skyline, and the former wilderness meeting place has been transformed into an international, ultra-urban centre. Kabeshinan, an archeological excavation and heritage tourism project of the Algonguin First Nation Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg, the National Capital Commission, and the Canadian Museum of Civilization, has provided a window on the past in the heart of a modern metropolis.

The urban dig site, located in the city of Hull's Leamy Lake Park, was once a traditional meeting place and temporary encampment of the Algonquin. In the 17th century, it served as a stopping place for European fur traders and explorers, and in the 19th century, anchored one of the first agricultural settlements on the Ottawa River.

Far and Wide: The research potential of the 6,000 square metre site was first discovered in 1991, when a Quebec-based archeologist found artifacts buried in the sand along the riverbank. Excavations have uncovered pottery, tools, copper and arrowheads, some as many as 4,500 years old. The findings suggest that visitors to Leamy Lake were part of a sophisticated network of trade that extended to eastern Quebec and the western tip of Lake Ontario.

Recent research at the Kabeshinan site has focused on the sizes and shapes of Algonquin dwellings, and the identification of ruins and artifacts related to the Euro-Canadian era.

The Kitigan Zibi Anishimabeg band, a partner in the Kabeshinan heritage project, is located 130 kilometres north of Ottawa, near the town of Maniwaki, Quebec. The 2,400-member band celebrates its Algonquin heritage each June with the Kitigan Zibi Annual Traditional Pow-Wow, and maintains the Kitigan Zibi Cultural Education and Display Centre, featuring Algonquin artifacts, arts and crafts, and a large selection of historical photographs.

The Valley Irish
Ryan, Murphy, Muldoon. O'Brien, O'Grady, O'Hara, Boyle, Fitzgerald, Callaghan. The names of many Ottawa Valley families continue to reflect an Irish heritage rooted in the immigration waves of the early 19th century. Attracted by the economic activities of canal-building, agriculture and timbering, farmers and landless tenants from the old-country counties of Cork, Tipperary, Wicklow, Tyrone, Cavan and Fermangh poured into the Upper Canadian wilderness. Today, Irish influence is evident in the unique "Ottawa Valley Style" that is attributed to the singing, storytelling, fiddling and step-dancing traditions of the area.

Of the 3 predominant cultural groups attracted to the Ottawa Valley in the early 1800's - the Scots, French-Canadians and Irish - the Irish formed the majority. Many came to perform the brutal and back-breaking task of constructing the Rideau Canal, and stayed on as farmers when the wage-paying work was finished. By the mid-19th century, more than half the population on the Ontario side of the Ottawa River was of Irish origin; in some localities, such as Carleton County, Ontario and Pontiac County, on the Quebec side, the figure climbed to an overwhelming 75%. The history of communities such as Ontario's Carp, Renfrew and Fizroy Habour, and Quebec's Shawville, Bristol and Quyon is closely related to patterns of Ottawa Valley Irish immigration.

Cultural observers have suggested that today's distinctive Valley style is a consequence of geographical and cultural isolation. Irish immigration to the area came to an end in the late 1880's, severing the area's connection with evolving traditions in the homeland. Like the English and Irish immigrants of Newfoundland's isolated outports - whose 18th century culture was effectively frozen in time - the Irish of the Ottawa Valley remained largely unaffected by 20th century home country influences. For many years, old-time traditions persisted, gradually blending with Scottish, French-Canadian and other cultural influences to produce a distinctive regional character.

Temiskaming Territory
The Ottawa River that sinks into the deep, narrow waters of Lake Temiskaming (Lac Temisamingue), about 400 kilometres northwest of the cities of Ottawa/Hull, is vastly different than the urbanized waterway that makes its way past Canada's capital city. Its upper reaches are characterized by the rugged shorelines, steep banks and rocky outcroppings of classic Canadian wilderness. Between Notre Dame-du-Nord and Témiscaming, northwest of Mattawa, Lake Temiskaming stretches 128 kilometres from north to south, forming a natural dividing line between the provinces of Ontario and Quebec.

Temiskaming's communities - Témiscaming, Fabre, and Ville-Marie on the Quebec shore, and Cobalt, Haileybury and New Liskeard in Ontario - have been shaped by the frontier flavour of the Canadian hinterland's resource economy:

The Peter Robinson Settlers Thousands of Ottawa Valley families can trace their heritage to a group of 19th century Irish immigrants who came to the area as part of a British government plan to alleviate widespread Irish poverty. In 1823, Peter Robinson, a Canadian-born veteran of the War of 1812 and well-connected Member of the Upper Canada Assembly, was charged with the task of bringing almost 200 Irish families to the Bathurst District of the Ottawa Valley. Most of the emigrants were chosen from the area north of the Blackwater River in Cork County, with a few hailing from Limerick, Tipperary, Clare and Waterford. Only the strongest were selected to receive the government's grant of transatlantic fare, land, shelter, tools and food for the first several months. Almost 500 people - Phelans, Quinns, Sweenys, Barrys, Hennessys, Keefes, Noonans and many more - sailed to Upper Canada aboard the Hebe and the Stakesby, settling on farms in Lanark and Carleton Counties and laying the foundations for an era of Irish immigration that would last for several decades.

• At Mission Point, just south of Ville Marie, near the northern end of the Lake, visitors can tour the Fort Temiscamingue National Historic Site. Costumed guides play the parts of Algonquin and French fur traders, merchants and missionaries who passed through the site of the former Hudson's Bay Company outpost. On the Temiskaming Pioneer Route (Route des Pionniers du T╠miscamingue), heritage sites such as La Maison du Colon, Ville Marie's first homestead, trace the settlement and development of the eastern Temiskaming frontier.

• Far from the farmlands of southern Ontario, the communities of New Liskeard and Haileybury, at the northern tip of Lake Temiskaming, serve as service centres to a productive pocket of rich agricultural land, known as the "Little Claybelt." In an area dominated by mining and forestry, the beef and dairy farms of northern Temiskaming are both an economic and cultural anomaly. The Haileybury Heritage Museum in Haileybury commemorates the founding of the town by Charles Farr in 1889, and the Great Fire of 1922 that destroyed most of its housing and infrastructure. Visitors to the Museum may be surprised to find a restored Toronto streetcar, one of 87 such vehicles used as temporary shelter following the disaster.

• Just west of Lake Temiskaming, below Haileybury, the illustrious mining town of Cobalt celebrates its boomtown background at the Northern Ontario Mining Museum, where the artifacts and memorabilia of mining life are exhibited along with the world's largest display of native silver. Follow the Heritage Silver Trail through some of Cobalt's most famous silver mining sites, and find out how the lucky swing of a prospector's hammer brought 12,000 people, 100 mines, an opera house and a stock exchange to the Northern Ontario wilderness of the early 1900's.

Ottawa Valley Fiddling and Step-dancing
While Nova Scotia's Cape Breton culture is famous for its Celtic brand of fast-paced fiddling and fancy footwork, the Ottawa Valley has developed its own distinctive category of old-time music and dance. In contrast to Cape Breton step-dancers, who keep their feet close to the floor and their arms straight to their sides, Ottawa Valley dancers step high, and incorporate arm movements in their choreography. Valley step-dancing is fast, energetic and fluid, requiring great coordination of legs, feet and ankles.

 

Where there are step-dancers, there are also fiddlers, playing jigs and reels. Get a feel for the Ottawa Valley style at the Annual Old Time Fiddling and Step Dancing Championships, held each year on Labour Day Weekend in the Upper Ottawa Valley community of Pembroke, Ontario. Set your own feet tapping to talented fiddlers and dancers of every age, and be sure not to miss the Saturday evening "playdowns," when the championship tempo reaches a fever pitch.

Seigneury Settlements
At Manoir Papineau National Historic Site near the small community of Montebello, Quebec, an ornate Italianate teahouse, with glassed-in walls and balustraded rooftop terrace, sits improbably amid the pine trees on a height of land overlooking the Ottawa River. Behind the teahouse, the palatial manor house of 19th century Lower Canada politician and rebel Louis-Joseph Papineau rises, dream-like, from a small woodland clearing. Given the incongruity of the site, visitors may well imagine how fanciful the mansion must have appeared when it was first built in 1847.

The Manoir Papineau, with its chapel, granary and other outbuildings, was once part of a large estate, or "seigneury," extending about 8 kilometres along the northern shore of the lower Ottawa River (about halfway between present-day Ottawa and Montreal). The Seigneury de la Petite Nation, named for the Algonquin Nation of the area, was granted to the Bishop Laval of Quebec in 1674. Laval passed ownership to the Seminaire du Quebec, and in the early 1800's, the vast land tract was purchased by Joseph Papineau, a Montreal lawyer who obtained the property for a nominal price in reward for his services to he Seminary.

Few of the settlers that Joseph Papineau attracted to his wilderness world ever penetrated the Laurentian land of lakes and forests that stretched inland from the river. But they did establish prosperous farms and businesses along the riverbank of the seigneury, giving rise to the contemporary Quebec towns of

Tour the Pembroke Heritage Murals
Dressed in their Sunday best, a pioneer family poses in front of their newly-constructed log cabin. White-haired and distinguished, a timber baron surveys his wilderness empire, and on the river, cleverly-designed "pointer" boats maneuver their way through Ottawa River log jams. The explorers, steamboats, railways, culture, characters and catastrophes of the Upper Ottawa Valley are portrayed on a panoramic scale in the city of Pembroke (population 15,000), on the Ottawa River about 160 kilometres northwest of the Ottawa. Since 1990, more than 2 dozen large-scale paintings have been created on the walls of Pembroke's downtown buildings, portraying the regions' heritage and culture in a dramatic and colourful fashion.

Papineauville, Plaisance and Montebello. Stretched along the floor of the Ottawa Valley, where the waterway itself maintains an expansive, slow-moving and delta-like quality, these small rural towns hint at the Lower anadian flavour of rural St. Lawrence Valley communities further to the east.

Festival Fever
Take the cultural measure of the Ottawa Valley region with a glance at the area's festivals and special events:

National Capital Region:
• Annual Odawa Pow Wow
• Canadian Canoe & Kayak Festival
• Bytown Days (Byward Market, downtown Ottawa)
• Canadian Tulip Festival
• Carnival of Culture
• Cisco Systems Bluesfest
• CKCU Ottawa Folk Festival
• Nortel Networks Dragon Boat Race Festival
• Ottawa Fringe Festival, Franco-Ontarian Festival

A Tiny Temiskaming Art Gallery
Locally known as "T.A.G.," the small but sophisticated Temiskaming Art Gallery (Musée des Beaux Arts Témiscamingue), housed with the Public Library of the town of Haileybury, on the northwest side of Lake Temiskaming, has become a cultural jewel of the North, exhibiting the work of both local artists and well-known Canadian painters.

• Ottawa International Jazz Festival
• Canada Dance Festival
• Ottawa International Writer's Festival
• Lebanorama
• Italian Week
• Winterlude

Ottawa Valley East:
Alfred County Music Festival (Hawkesbury)
• Wendover County Music Festival (Rockland)

Ottawa Valley West:
• Valley Bluegrass Festival (Deep River) ­ Valleyfest (Renfrew)
• Voyageur Days (Mattawa)

Visit the Manoir Papineau National Historic Site
Louis-Joseph Papineau, Speaker of the Assembly of Lower Canada and leader of the Lower Canadian Rebellion of 1837, was a political radical who resisted the elitism of the British colonial government. But his architectural tastes were anything but plebian, and his considerable wealth, obtained from timber concessions on his vast Seigneury de la Petite Nation, was conspicuously displayed in the manor house that he built for his family near Montebello, on the banks of the Ottawa River. From May to September, the stately home, with its Greek Revival, Regency and Queen Anne Revival influences, is open to the public. Principal rooms include the elegant "Yellow Room" and "Blue Room" salons, the tastefully decorated master bedroom and the intriguing 3-storey Library Tower. The home is located near the village of Montebello, Quebec, on the grounds of the Chateau Montebello resort, a luxurious log chateau built in 1930 following the sale of the Papineau estate to a private club.