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JUNE 24

Ottawa Travel Guide

Ottawa History



The first inhabitants of the Ottawa area were the Algonquin Indians who called the Ottawa River the "Kichesippi" - the Great River - and called themselves the Kichesippirini (People of the Great River). French fur traders named the Ottawa River after the Outaouais tribe which in fact only inhabited the area for some ten years. They served as middlemen in the fur trade, carrying furs to Quebec after the Iroquois Indians had driven the Algonquins from the area.

The Ottawa's first meeting with the French was a brief encounter at the mouth of the French River in 1615 with Samuel de Champlain. At the time, Champlain was enroute to the Huron villages at the south end of Lake Huron and gave little attention to what he thought was just another group of Algonkin. His attitude quickly changed when he realized how much fur the Ottawa could provide. Although the Huron had beaver in their homeland, it was not enough to supply the French, but the Ottawa, through their trade with tribes to the north and west, had access to an enormous amount, and it was better fur since colder weather caused beaver to grow thicker coats. The Ottawa had fought with the Huron before the French arrived, but mutual self-interest ended their traditional hostility (probably the only time when the fur trade caused peace in the Great Lakes). The system of the Ottawa and Nipissing bringing fur to the Huron to trade to the French worked so well it was not necessary for the French to travel beyond the Huron villages. By the 1620s French trade goods were reaching the Ojibwe at Sault Ste. Marie and the Cree to the north on the rivers flowing into Hudson Bay.

With the end of New France in 1759, the Ottawa area came under British rule and settlers from the United States began to stake claims to the land. Amongst these was Philemon Wright and his settlers who, anticipating the enormous energy possibilities of the Ottawa River, settled across the River in Hull Township.

Ottawa was named the capital of the Province of Canada in 1857. At this time, Ottawa was a plain little industrial town in the middle of nowhere. The transformation started in 1859, when work began on a series of grand new Parliament Buildings in Ottawa. The legislature of the Province of Canada sat for the first and last time in these new buildings in 1866. The very next year, Canada was created as a new independent nation, and the first government of the Dominion of Canada assembled in Ottawa. However, its history goes back much further than that.

The National Capital Region (NCR), comprised of the Regional Municipality of Ottawa-Carleton on the Ontario side, and the Communauté urbaine de l'Outaouais (Aylmer, Gatineau and Hull) on its Québec side, has the fourth largest population in Canada with over 920,000, and one of Canada's fastest growth rates. The NCR is alive with vitality and rich in historic tradition; a unique blend of English and French Canada.




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