The Land & It’s People

Recognition of Territory

Watson’s Mill, Dickinson House, and the Carriage Shed are built on un-ceded Algonquin Anishinabe territory.

The peoples of the Algonquin Anishinabe Nation have lived on this territory for millennia. Their culture and presence have nurtured and continue to nurture this land.

Watson’s Mill Manotick Inc. honours the peoples and land of the Algonquin Anishinabe Nation.

Watson’s Mill Manotick Inc. honours all First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples and their valuable past and present contributions to this land.

Watson’s Mill Manotick Inc. acknowledges that the following section exploring the origins of the land Watson’s Mill, Dickinson House and the Carriage Shed are built on was written from a white European/Canadian point of view using secondary sources. It does not represent the true depth, breadth, diversity, and regional variation of experiences of Indigenous peoples in the Ottawa Valley, Ontario, and Canada as a whole.

For More Information:
National Center for Truth and Reconciliation
Algonquin-Anishinabeg Nation
Algonquins of Ontario
Kichi Sibi: Tracing Our Region’s Ancient History, Canadian Museum of History
The Algonquin Land Claim, Government of Ontario

Archaeology of Ontario: A Summary, The Ontario Archeological Society
Ottawa – Bonnechere Graben, Ontario Beneath Our Feet

Dickinson Square, comprised of Watson’s Mill, Dickinson House, and the Carriage Shed, is situated on the shores of the Rideau River in Manotick. The Village of Manotick sits within an immense geological feature know as the Ottawa – Bonnechere Graben, or more commonly The Ottawa Valley. The Ottawa Valley covers over 7,645 square kilometers and forms a natural boundary between Eastern Ontario and the Outaouais, Quebec.

Ottawa – Bonnechere Graben

The valley was created when the ancient supercontinent of Rodinia broke into pieces about 600 million years ago. This break stretched the surface of the Earth causing its crust to break and spread apart. This stretching created large faults that make up the valley’s walls. Large blocks of earth then dropped down creating the valley’s floor.

Geological forces continued to shape the Ottawa Valley for millions of years.

An Emerging Landscape

Fifteen thousand years ago the continental glacier which extended over all eastern Canada began to melt. This melt left behind vast bodies of water. An inland sea, known as the Champlain Sea, covered the entire Ottawa Valley and was approximately 150 meters higher than the current river levels. The Champlain Sea teemed with a rich variety of marine life, including whales, seals, and saltwater fish.

The land environment surrounding the sea was barren, cold, and inhospitable. Small herds of caribou and other Arctic animals most likely lived in the area, though there has been no evidence found of a human presence in the region at this time.

A Human Presence: Palaeo-Indian Period, 10,500 to 9,500 years ago

The earliest evidence of a human presence in the Ottawa Valley dates from approximately 8,500 years ago. This period is known as the Palaeo-Indian Period. Environmental conditions had improved as the Champlain Sea receded. The climate warmed, supporting new and larger numbers of plant and animal life. The recession of the Champlain Sea also revealed deep water filled impressions left by geological forces and glacial movement. These impressions began to form the major rivers and waterways that define the Ottawa Valley today.

Change, Growth, Settlement: Archaic Period, 9,500 to 2,900 years ago

The Ottawa Valley continued to undergo physical and environmental changes. It shaped the landscape and lives of the people living during the Archaic Period, approximately 8,500 to 2,500 years ago.

During this period the Ottawa River dropped to its current level, and forests that had once consisted mostly of white pine were replaced with the mixed species forests we know today. The forest landscape would have been crossed by many streams and rivers, as well as being surrounded by large freshwater lakes. This changing forest landscape took over 5,000 years to develop.

Over the Archaic Period, people adapted their way of life to the changing environment. Family groups of about 20-50 people came together in the warmer months to benefit from the land’s abundant resources. In the colder months, smaller family groups would break off and move inland.

Deepening Culture & Identity: Woodland Period, 2,500 to 500 years ago

By the Woodland Period the environment and climate were similar to what we know today. The lifestyle of the people living in the Ottawa Valley remained mostly consisted with that of the late Archaic Period. The archaeology of the Woodland Period shows the people of the Ottawa Valley deepened their culture and identity through the creation of pottery, the building of ceremonial structures and objects, trade, and the sharing of information through storytelling, pictographs, and petroglyphs.

The Arrival of Europeans

The Ottawa Valley and its people experienced a rapid period of change with the arrival of Europeans.

When Samuel de Champlain first travelled the Ottawa River in 1613, he met the Algonquin-Anishinabe people and recorded their band names: Quenongebin, Oüescariny, Kinouchepirini, Kichesipirini, Otaguottouemin, Matou-oüescariny and Charioquet. The name Algonquin was imposed upon the Anishinabe by Europeans and Canadians. They have called themselves Anishinabe since time immemorial.

The arrival of Europeans severely disrupted the life of the Anishinabe. By the mid 1600’s, several deadly diseases had been introduced claiming the lives of many Indigenous peoples. Struggles with the neighbouring Five Nations Iroquois Confederacy for control of inland resource and water routes resulted in political intrigue and armed conflict. Together, these factors changed the way of life for the Anishinabe forever.

Un-ceded Territory

When British authorities signed land acquisition treaties with Indigenous people in Eastern Ontario, they excluded the Algonquin. Beginning in 1772, numerous petitions were submitted to the Crown seeking recognition of their title and protection of their lands in the watershed of the Ottawa River.  The Algonquins of Ontario land claim was finally accepted for negotiation by the Government of Ontario in 1991, and the Government of Canada joined the negotiations in 1992.  Comprehensive land claim negotiations resulted in the signing of an Agreement-in-Principle in October 2016. Negotiations are continuing towards the achievement of a Final Agreement, which will constitute a modern treaty.

While there is no direct evidence of Indigenous settlement or ceremony on the specific land Dickinson Square sits on, surveyors who were designating land for European settlement in surrounding townships encountered and were aware of the Indigenous people who had lived in the Ottawa Valley for thousands of years.