History of Oiseau Rock

The historical record indicates that First Nations people have considered Oiseau Rock to be a sacred site. In the 17th century, an explorer commented that First Nations people made offerings there by throwing arrows with tobacco attached over the rock face to them. In 1913, a Temagami Anishnabe man told Frank G. Speck, an anthropologist, that there was a picture of Nanabojou (an Ojibwa Manitou) on a rock on the Ottawa River.

In the non-Aboriginal folklore several stories have been passed down about the Rock. One is that a baby was saved by an eagle from falling over the top of the cliff. Another story is how an eagle plucked a baby from the mother's papoose and flew to the top of the Rock. The mother bravely climbed the summit and snatched the babe from the eagle. A more tragic tale is that of an Anishnabe woman, grief-stricken over the death of her love, leapt from the Rock to her death.

Visions of the Shield - Pencil illustration by Sharon Girdwood

Visions of the Shield - Pencil illustration by Sharon Girdwood ©1998


Oiseau Rock and First Nations People

The sacred picture-writing of Oiseau Rock represents a world-view and a belief in the Manitous which is complex. Albeit, for non-First Nations persons, it is not our heritage but one that is closely linked to the land in which we inhabit. Since it is in our backyard, we are compelled to protect ancient testimonies which enlighten us about the culture and spirituality of the First Peoples. The Rock is a place of ancestral importance to First Nations people and should be treated with respect.

Oiseau Rock is located within the territory of the Algonkins. In June 2001, Algonkins from two reserves, the Pikwakanagan Reserve near Golden Lake, Ontario and the Kiti gan zibi Reserve, near Maniwaki, Quebec had a gathering and ceremonies at the Rock. In August 2001, Oiseau Rock was the powwow theme at the Pikwakanagan Reserve. Members of both communities are involved in the efforts to conserve and protect this sacred site.

Future collaborations with the Algonkin people, will seek their guidance about the future of the Rock. Involving the Elders is important in order to gain insights about the Anishnabe spirituality and about the images themselves.



Oiseau Rock as a Recreational Sight

Steamboat passing Oiseau Rock - 1882
Steamboat passing Oiseau Rock - 1882
People dancing at the foot of
People dancing at the foot of
Oiseau Rock circa 1920's

Canadian stamp of "Alligator" pulling a logboom in front of Oiseau Rock.
Canadian stamp of "Alligator"
pulling a logboom in front of Oiseau Rock.

The Rock has witnessed much. In ancient times, First Nations people made offerings to the rock and left their picture writing on the face of the rock; explorers and fur traders travelled and were later followed by the first settlers, loggers, and then the steamboats.

In the mid-1900's, steamboats were the primary mode of travel, taking people and cargo up the River. The steamboat would leave Pembroke and make several stops, including one at Oiseau Rock, en route to Des Joachims. Often when the boat reached the face of the Rock, the captain would blow the whistle and the sound would echo off the face of the Rock.

"Boating by Oiseau"- mid 1960's. Photo provided by Bruce Morton

"Boating by Oiseau"- mid 1960's. Photo provided by Bruce Morton

Since then, the Rock has been frequented by visitors in canoes, cruisers, sailboats, houseboats and now Sea-Doos. All come to look at this ancient rock and hike to the top. For some Many, no matter how young or old, will make it an annual event.

Across the river is Point au Bapteme, a sandy point of beach where voyageurs were immersed in the deep water as an initiation to their vocation. Ancient artifacts had been found there, too, indicating Aboriginal occupation of that site. Although one cannot now stop here since it is part of the Canadian Forces Base Petawawa, it is worth passing by closely to glimpse this fine point of white sand.



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