Every painting tells a story and that’s certainly true of a particular one done by Algonquin artist Janet Kaponicin.
It tells the story of a curse placed nearly 200 years ago on the land of what later became Canada’s seat of government.
Parliament Hill may be the most popular tourist attraction in Ottawa but long ago it was a barracks for British soldiers.
Kaponicin tells a story that has been handed down through seven generations of women about a group of Algonquin camped near where the Rideau canal now empties into the Ottawa River.
“And one evening a few of the soldiers came down to where the camp was, close to it. Down the hill,” Kaponicin said on Nation to Nation.
At the same time a teenage girl had gone missing and after a while her mother went looking for her.
“She saw her in the distance, sitting straight up with her hair blowing. The custom at that time was that the Native woman never cut her hair. But she wasn’t allowed to let it loose. She had to put in braids and put it in a bun. And so when she saw her daughter’s hair blowing in the wind, she knew something was wrong,” said Kaponicin.
Kaponicin said soldiers were seen retreating back up the hill. They had abused and killed the girl leaving her propped up, which is why her hair was blowing in the wind.
Kaponicin heard this story growing up as a child but it wasn’t widely known.
“It was unbelievable and nobody knew it. Ottawa didn’t know it, the government didn’t know it. Canada never knew what happened,” she said.
In 1985, she put the story into a painting and sold it to the Museum of History across the river in Gatineau. Que.
“Thinking they would put it up by the window and tell the story with the photographs and look out the window and see the back of Parliament,” she said.
But it was put in storage where she believes it remains.
So she painted another one and that can be found at the Kitigan Zibi Cultural Centre.
The kicker of this story is that the chief of the Algonquin group held his men back from attacking the British soldiers.
And the girl’s spirit has haunted Parliament Hill ever since.
“Because of the way she died, she herself would take care of those men and that no good will ever come of this land,” said Kaponicin.
Nation to Nation also spoke to NDP MP Charlie Angus on what to expect when Parliament resumes now that the federal election is over leaving Justin Trudeau with a minority Parliament.
Angus said fighting for First Nations children at the human rights tribunal is a top priority for him as Trudeau is trying to quash a tribunal ruling in Federal Court that would pay First Nations children put in care $40,000.
“On the issue of the human rights tribunal we will be fighting full out for the right of compensation,” said Angus.
Russ Diabo also continues to believe Trudeau wants to extinguish the inherent rights of First Nations.
One way to do that is getting rid of the Indian but more so how the Trudeau government has spoke about doing just that.
“First Nations need to develop self-determination plans that are independent of where Ottawa wants to lead everybody, because Ottawa is basically saying to First Nations you have three options for getting out of the Indian Act and they control all the options,” said Diabo.