Returning Kichisippi Pimisi, the American Eel, to the Ottawa River

“Today, the plight of the Eel must awaken us to the crucial need to transform our relationship with Mother Earth and All Our Relations, and to awaken us to the pivotal role of Indigenous Peoples in this process.” – Elder Dr. W. Commanda, undated

Kichisippi Pimisi, the American Eel, is sacred to the Algonquin people and has been an essential part of Algonquin culture for thousands of years. Algonquins have always had a deep connection to Kichisippi Pimisi as a provider of nourishment, medicine and spiritual inspiration. Although it was once abundant throughout Algonquin Traditional Territory, Kichisippi Pimisi has suffered dramatic population declines in recent history and is disappearing from our waters. Today, we are left with only a remnant population in Ontario.

In December 2012, the Algonquins of Ontario (AOO) released its landmark report entitled, Returning Kichisippi Pimisi, the American Eel, to the Ottawa River Basin. The report calls for increased protection of the American Eel and highlights a number of key considerations to be included in Eel Recovery Plans. It is vital to the Algonquin people that viable populations of the American Eel be restored to its historical range in Ontario and specifically to traditional waters throughout the Ottawa River Basin.

To view the report, click here.



Deeply concerned about Pimisi’s sharp decline, the AOO are working with governments, private proponents and conservation organizations to build upon existing knowledge and to enhance protection and recovery efforts for the American eel.  These initiatives demonstrate the value of adopting a collaborative, partner-based approach to tackle complex issues, such as the restoration of Pimisi to its traditional habitat throughout Algonquin Traditional Territory.

Traditional Knowledge Report: Volume 1

The first Traditional Knowledge report is entitled Returning Kichisippi Pimisi, the American Eel, to the Ottawa River Basin: Bridging the Gap between Scientific and Aboriginal Traditional Knowledge.  In 2012, the AOO entered into a partnership with the Canadian Wildlife Federation (CWF) to participate in the Ottawa River American Eel Project.

In the first year of this partnership, the AOO and the CWF engaged a research assistant to participate in the ongoing study of Pimisi in the vicinity of Lac des Chats on the Ottawa River.  In addition to the scientific research conducted in the field, the research assistant also worked to bridge the gap between scientific knowledge and cultural heritage through the collection of Aboriginal Traditional Knowledge of Pimisi.  This collection of ATK speaks to the significant decline of the American eel while also serving to strengthen the connection between the Algonquin people, our traditions and our ancestors.

To view the Traditional Knowledge Report: Volume 1, click here.

In the second year of our partnership with the Canadian Wildlife Federation on the Ottawa River American Eel Project, the AOO participated in the collection of scientific data. This fieldwork consisted of trapping additional eels and surgically implanting radio transmitters and pit tags. These eels, along with the eels tagged in previous years, are being tracked by airplane and by boat. Eel ladders were also created and will be tested for use in monitoring upstream migration at several barriers on the Ottawa River.

Traditional Knowledge Report: Volume 2

The second Traditional Knowledge report is entitled Bridging the Gap between Scientific and Aboriginal Traditional Knowledge: Exploring Algonquin and Aboriginal relationships with the American eel.

Under Canada’s 2013-2014 Aboriginal Funds for Species at Risk, the AOO partnered with South Nation Conservation Area (SNC) on the SNC’s American Eel Project.  As a component of the American Eel Project, the AOO collected ATK of Pimisi and also compiled existing information from various sources in order to report on the Algonquin and other Aboriginal peoples’ cultural connections with the American eel within and beyond the political boundaries of Ontario.  The collection of ATK is vital to eel recovery science.  This report will support, assist and complement science-based eel recovery strategies.

To view the Traditional Knowledge Report: Volume 2, click here.



The AOO have a continued interest in gathering Aboriginal Traditional Knowledge about Kichisippi Pimisi. If you or anyone you know has any family stories, anecdotes, legends or personal experience about Kichisippi Pimisi, we invite you to share this knowledge by contacting:

Algonquins of Ontario Consultation Office
31 Riverside Drive, Suite 101
Pembroke, ON K8A 8R6
Tel: 613-735-3759
Fax: 613-735-6307


Did Eels Change the Course of History? 

The Unama’ki Institute of Natural Resources represents the five Mi’kmaq communities of Unama’ki and was formed to address concerns regarding natural resources and their sustainability. In this video, UINR explores an ancient Mi’kmaq legend on how eels may have changed the course of history. Through storytelling and original drawings, this video brings to life an important legend about the close relationship between the French and Mi’kmaq people. To view the video, click here.