In 2019, the first residents moved into a new riverside condo development in Ottawa. While celebrated in local news reports, Indigenous people have spent the past three years battling against the project. On January 8, 2015, Ontario Provincial Police, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), a pulp and paper company called Domtar, and a construction company called Windmill Developments held a meeting in Ottawa to discuss a new project called Zibi, “a world-class sustainable waterfront community.” The catch? It is to be developed in Akikodjiwan, on a sacred Algonquin Anishinabeg site located within downtown Ottawa. This property development is another in a long line of threats to Indigenous territorial sovereignty, leading to a rise in anti-colonial activism from the local community.
Dream Unlimited Corporation and Theia Partners, a subsidiary of Windmill, stand to make millions from the 10- to 15-year construction project. The aforementioned activists have been going to the municipal and federal governments, pressuring them to stop the construction of condominiums on sacred land. Internationally renowned architect and Elder Douglas Cardinal, an opponent of the project, was quoted in Briarpatch magazine on the importance of Akikodjiwan, saying, “These beautiful, sacred waterfalls and islands lie at a symbolic confluence of waters: The rivers flow into the centre from the South, West and North and in turn flow to the East. Similarly, our own ceremonial lodges embrace the four directions and are opened to the East. Furthermore, the Chaudière Falls creates a great kettle; a whirlpool that brings water deep into the earth. With the uprising mist and the surrounding rock forms, the falls appear as a sacred pipe, sculpted by the Creator.”
It should also be noted that the Algonquin Anishinabeg territory, where Zibi is being constructed, was never given up under the 1763 Royal Proclamation that resulted in huge swaths of territory coming under control of the British Crown through unfair treaties. While the establishment media has covered the condo development, examination of its colonial history and the impact on Indigenous rights has been lacking. CBC, for example, focused more on the Zibi financial aspect/Zibi perspective rather than its significance to Akikodjiwan people. The story was also picked up by the Ottawa Sun and the Globe and Mail, but the Indigenous aspect wasn’t touched on as extensively as it was with Briarpatch, an independent media source.
Source: Matt Cicero, “Saving Akikodjiwan,” Briarpatch, Feb. 27th, 2019, https://briarpatchmagazine.com/articles/view/saving-akikodjiwan.
Student Researcher: Ethan Butterfield (University of Regina).
Faculty Evaluator: Suliman Adam (University of Regina)