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The story of the Algonquin Wayfinding Wheel, a symbol thousands of years in the making

June 21, 2021
Feature Stories

A unique symbol of traditional Algonquin territory, history and culture

Designed by Algonquin artist Simon Brascoupé, Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg, and inspired by the traditional four sacred directions, the Wayfinding Wheel is a unique symbol of traditional Algonquin territory, history and culture.

The Algonquin Wayfinding Wheel installed at Pimisi Station.
Algonquin Wayfinding Wheel installed at Pimisi Station.

The wheels honour Algonquin history and are attached to boulders called Grandfathers that have been found in Algonquin territory from the beginning of time. They include representations for all four compass directions and an orienting arrow pointing north that help travellers in their journey.

Installed at O-Train stations and City Hall

These distinctive symbols will be installed at all O-Train stations and at Ottawa City Hall along with plaques that describe the significance of the depicted animals and symbols to the Algonquin peoples. The symbols include the canoe for transportation and animals that are significant to the Algonquin peoples, including the moose in the centre of the design symbolizing food and strength.

The Wayfinding Wheel was designed through a participatory process involving Algonquin Elders and community members from Algonquins of Pikwàkanagàn First Nation and Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg, as well as representatives from the Algonquins of Ontario (AOO) organization.

The first Wayfinding Wheel was installed at Pimisi Station near Chaudière Falls, also known as the Kana:tso or Akikodjiwan Falls. The surrounding area has been a significant meeting place between peoples in the region for millennia and the station design reflects the historical and current significance of the Algonquin peoples. “Pimisi” is the Algonquin (Omàmiwininìmowin) word for eel, which is sacred and has been considered a source of spirituality, medicine and nutrition for thousands of years.

Claire Brascoupé, daughter of Simon, performs an Honour Song following installation of Algonquin Wayfinding Wheel at Pimisi Station.
Claire Brascoupé, daughter of Simon, performs an Honour Song following installation of Algonquin Wayfinding Wheel at Pimisi Station.

Video resources

Artist Simon Brascoupé narrates a video tour of the Algonquin Wayfinding Wheel and provides insight into the significance of the animals and symbols depicted in the design.

The artist’s Community Conversation with Indigenous community members speaks to the importance of having the symbol throughout Ottawa.

Please note, video resources were developed prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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