CPR Section House

CPR Section House

Monday, January 31, 2011

The Northern Line out of Mattawa - History Before Contact

The railway played a key role in the development of the northern territories along the Ottawa River . Mid-north and north Ontario/Quebec were still part of the Northwest territories at Confederation 1867 .

People often believe that the CPR was built in one great push westward , and that was the beginning . But , this is not entirely true . Talk of railways started earlier by twenty years before the push . After 1870 , many small railway lines had been built in what now would be considered small runs throughout Upper and Lower Canada and the Maritime Provinces .

One of these lines , The Canada Central Railway
, ran directly north out of Brockville through Upper Canada , across the Rideau River at Smith Falls , and on to Pembroke on the Ottawa River . There it followed the Ottawa northwest to the Forks at Mattawa where it turned directly west up the Mattawa River Valley and connecting water systems to an end at Callandar Station ( Bonfield ) - at the northern edges of the Grand Desert lands that fall into the flats surrounding Lake Nippissing's east side ...along the northern edges of Upper Canada .

Mattawa was already a bustling settlement at the fork where the Mattawa River flows into the Ottawa . The location was central to economic activity from long before European contact well into the 1950's .

 Often and unfairly dismissed in the economic growth of the area was the infrastructure created by the Aboriginal nations that live there .

 The Algonquin Tribes ( based on family and clan bloodlines) were further defined by location . The Tribes where the two rivers meet had the territory including the forks and north to the rapids south of Temiscaming ,PQ , as  well as west to Trout Lake . To the south , water that drained via creeks and lakes were their lands. The Rideau River defined Algonquin southern border further east...areas tied to the Ottawa River by the flow of water .

Ojibwe people lived west of the Algonquins to territories surrounding the Great Lakes , and north along rivers than empty eventually into the lakes and rivers that fed the big lakes .
 Cree people lived just beyond the north shores of the Lake Temiscaming where water began to flow north .  They lived along the  waters that flowed into James Bay and west  to the sources of those rivers .

Goods from central North America flowed north into Ojibwe Great Lakes Territory , combined with their own offerings and transferred up the French River into Lake Nippissing primarily by Odawa traders .

Goods from the far northern regions were transferred down from the James Bay lowlands by Cree traders and may have included special materials from exchanges with the Inuit of Hudson Bay .

Goods filtered up the St.Lawrence River from trade partners east to the Atlantic , as well as north from Iroquois territories into Algonquin territory north of the great river near Montreal . These goods fitered up the Ottawa for trade with Crees and Ojibwes around Mattawa region .

Trade agreements were made between the Nations whose borders met around  the area . Contracts were sealed through arranged marriage which created bloodline relationships . People with this bloodline connection could travel to designated locations within another Nation's Territory for the purposes of trade . All Nations respected bloodline contracts .

By the time the first French explorers ventured further into the Algonquin Territory around Mattawa in the 1600's , Cree were permanently established in camps on Algonquin Territory on the northwest shore of Lake Temiscaming . Ojibwes lived along the south western shores as well as in locations on the banks of the Ottawa River  north of the long Saults above Mattawa about 50 miles . This would mean that there were bloodline contracts in place for many years/decades prior that allowed them to do so for the purposes of trade and mutual benefit . An intricate system of river routes and well worn portages already existed giving access to larger areas by bloodline contract far into the western interior . The languages spoken had the same root base with variation in dialect evolved in location under the influence of bordering Nations . Communication was not complicated . So when the Algonquin guides took the early explorers far into their Territory , the French did not take long to recognize the usefulness of the infrastructure for their advantage .

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Amazing stories from the first nations , keepers of this great nation . George