Richard Van Loon

“Hard Travel: 6000 years up the Ottawa River and in to the West” with Richard Van Loon of Carleton University

Date: May 16, 2019

Time: 7 PM

Place: Ottawa Public Library Main Branch (Metcalfe and Laurier)

For over 6000 years the St Lawrence and Ottawa valleys were the main highways leading to the interior of North America. This talk will focus on the travellers and traders who used the Ottawa River from the end of the last ice age to the “modern” era which started in the mid-19th century. Of course we will meet Samuel Champlain and his contemporaries including the Algonquin Chief Tessouat, but also the predecessor First Nations which used the river for at least 6000 years. We will also meet Pierre Esprit Radisson, La Verendrye, the voyageurs who powered so much of this travel, and, if time permits, the lesser known Peter Pond and Daniel Harmon.

Richard Van Loon is past president of Carleton University and past chair of the Council of Ontario Universities. He holds a BSc in chemistry and an MA in political science from Carleton and a PhD in political studies from Queen’s University. 

He joined Carleton in 1970 as assistant professor of political science and has held faculty positions in the School of Public Policy and Administration at Carleton where he is now professor emeritus and in the Faculty of Administration at the University of Ottawa. He was associate deputy minister of Health Canada and of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and held several assistant deputy minister positions in the Canadian federal government. He was the first Carleton alumnus to become president of the university.

Dr. Van Loon’s current research interests include federal-provincial relations, particularly related to post-secondary education, quality assurance and instructional methodology in post-secondary education and the history of the Ottawa River.

On May 16, Dr. Rick Van Loon gave an OSFAS lecture to a large, appreciative audience: Hard Travel: 6000 years up the Ottawa River and into the West. Lorraine Rekmans, an Algonquin, was in the audience and was inspired to compose the poem below. OSFAS is hoping that Rick Van Loon will give a follow-up lecture in 2020.

In the Middle of the Canoe – May 2019

The sacred Askikou was revered by all our ancestors
But now my people are relegated to the middle of the canoe
When we would leave Montreal in May
And travel 18 hours a day,
Paddling together up the River of Tessouat,
Fighting off the mosquitoes together,
My people would paddle and steer
Taking us both to the great land of beaver
But now, you have moved us to the middle of the canoe
And we see the treacherous rapids ahead,
And we call out to you,
Who have the paddles and the bow
But you do not hear us above the thunderous noises that Kichissipi makes
We who know this land
Its rivers and its lakes,
Its mountains and its ranges
At the front of the canoe,
You have estranged us.
7,000 years ago
Wearing the Obsidian
In a dugout canoe
The sun
Filtered through
The silver birches along the shore
Lorraine Rekmans ©2019