Pimisi Transit Station on the City of Ottawa’ Confederation Line

Since the early inception of the Ottawa Light Rail Transit project (now known as the Confederation Line) the City of Ottawa embraced the opportunity to recognize and celebrate the art, culture and heritage of the Algonquins through the planning, design and building of the light rail transit line.

Through an innovative partnership between the City of Ottawa and the AOO, then-named ‘LeBreton Station’ was identified as an “Algonquin-centred” transit station designed to reflect the historical and contemporary cultural significance of the Algonquin community. The location of this station is of particular significance to the Algonquins as it is in close proximity to Chaudière Falls and Victoria Island, both of which are sacred gathering places for the Algonquins since time immemorial.

CONFEDERATION LINE PUBLIC ART PROGRAM 

The Algonquin-centred station’s design will incorporate an Algonquin cultural theme and as such the art will reflect the historical and contemporary cultural significance of the Algonquin people. In November 2012, the City of Ottawa’s Public Art Program initiated a project to integrate Algonquin art into the soon to be built ‘LeBreton Station’.

Through this initiative, two Calls were released to Algonquin artists. One Call was directed towards professional artists who have significant experience with creating art out of permanent materials. The second Call was targeting artists with little to no experience in public artwork but who wished to be consulted and/or collaborated with on this project.

The successful artists selected from these two Calls will be asked to work directly with Algonquin communities and the Confederation Line Design Team to develop and produce designs for artworks that are to be integrated with the architectural and/or landscape design of the Algonquin-centred station.

We anticipate that the successful artists will be announced soon. Additional opportunities for Algonquin artists to participate in the future stages of the OLRT project will be available over the course of the next several years.

SELECTION OF THE RIDEAU TRANSIT GROUP AS THE PREFERRED PROJECT PROPONENT 

In December 2012, the Rideau Transit Group (RTG) was endorsed by city council as the preferred Project Proponent to design, build, finance and maintain the OLRT system. Under the Project Agreement, RTG is committed to meeting with the Algonquins of Ontario to discuss the availability and use of Algonquin personnel, equipment and materials for this contract. The first meeting took place at the Algonquins of Ontario Business Forum on March 5, 2013.

A NEW NAME – FROM LEBRETON STATION TO PIMISI STATION

This spring, the City of Ottawa provided the Algonquins of Ontario (AOO) with the opportunity to rename the LeBreton Transit Station with an Algonquin name. Through a comprehensive outreach to the ten AOO communities, a list of potential names for the station was compiled for the consideration of the Algonquin Negotiation Representatives (ANRs). Following a fulsome discussion of the various submissions, the ANRs reached consensus on the name – Pimisi Transit Station.

Pimisi means “eel” in the language of the Algonquin people.  Algonquins have always had a deep connection to Pimisi as a provider of nourishment, medicine and spiritual inspiration. Kirby Whiteduck, ANR and Chief of the Algonquins of Pikwàkanagàn First Nation, explains that “Pimisi has been hunted and consumed by Algonquins in the Ottawa Valley in a sustainable way for over 4000 years. Its importance as a food source to the newcomers is also well documented and the eel was used for trade with settlers or given as a gift.”

Katherine Cannon, ANR of Kijicho Manito Madaouskarini (Bancroft) also states that “Pimisi is considered sacred to the Algonquin people as the prayer carrier of the waters, travelling far through salt water and fresh and, according to Aboriginal Traditional Knowledge, over wetlands.”

Pimisi is an ancient fish which was abundant in the Ottawa River basin for millennia, making up approximately 50% of the total freshwater biomass prior to the 1900s. For thousands of years Pimisi travelled up and down the Ottawa River unimpeded. In the past century this has changed: Pimisi is now rarely seen and since 2007 is listed as Endangered under the Ontario Species at Risk program.

But, there is hope. In August 2012, within the heart of the City of Ottawa, eels were observed at the Fleet Street pumping station. The AOO are now building partnerships with the Canadian Wildlife Federation, the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, waterpower operators, including Energy Ottawa, and other groups to build upon existing knowledge and to enhance protection and recovery efforts for the American Eel.

The renaming of LeBreton Transit Station to Pimisi Transit Station is much more than a symbolic gesture to honour its once plentiful presence within the Ottawa River or to serve as a footnote to its once extraordinary migration up and down Chaudière Falls. Rather the renaming to Pimisi Transit Station will draw public awareness and strengthen the call for action – to ensure the survival of the species. It is not lost on the Algonquin people that the survival of Pimisi is also an apt metaphor for the survival and rebuilding of the Algonquin Nation.

The recommendation from the AOO was approved by the City of Ottawa’s Transit Commission at their next meeting on Wednesday, August 21, 2013. 

To view a copy of the AOO’s media release entitled Algonquins of Ontario recommend LeBreton Transit Station be renamed Pimisi Transit Station, click here