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Ottawa 2017’s Mìwàte roils Chaudière Falls controversy

Andrew Duffy, Ottawa Citizen
October 11, 2017

The city’s popular new sound and light show, Mìwàte, has breathed new life into an old controversy about the fate of Chaudière Falls and two nearby islands slated for development.

Mìwàte — it means “dazzle with light” in Anishinaabe — has drawn overflow crowds during its first week while revealing to a new generation of Canadians the dramatic vista that lies at the heart of their capital.

The area is considered sacred by the Algonquin people, who used the islands for centuries to convene tribal meetings and to perform tobacco ceremonies — a ritual first described in 1613 by French explorer Samuel de Champlain.

Free The Falls, a local group formed to see the Chaudière Falls and the nearby islands restored to their natural state, said Mìwàte has turned a much-needed spotlight on the issue.

Albert Dumont, an Algonquin elder, writer and healer, said he objected to the whole idea of Mìwàte, which he believed offended the spirituality of the site. While still opposed, he recognizes the month-long event as an opportunity to build support for the Free the Falls movement.

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