Historic Indigenous canoe portage route near Timmins revitalized by conservationists and EACOM
Laurent Robichaud--a member of the ' Friends of the Grassy River'--is a protector of rivers and watersheds in Timmins and its surrounding region.
A goal has been to work with others to revitalize a historic Indigenous canoe route.
When they learned that EACOM Timber Corporation would be building a road and harvesting trees near 'Little Hawk Portage,' located between Mattagami First Nation and Matachewan, they worked with the company to preserve it.
“This was a route over a heights of land, basically connecting the Arctic and Atlantic watershed so before the rails came through it was a route well travelled at least one-hundred years in the fur trade period from Fort Mattagami to Fort Matachewan," said Laurent Robichaud, member of 'Friends of the Grassy River.'
EACOM officials said trees from the area (Timiskaming Forest Management Plan) will feed its sawmill in Elk Lake, and as a result of public input and Robichaud's efforts, the company's made some accommodations regarding 'Little Hawk Portage.'
“Including a one-hundred and twenty metre area of concern around the intersection between the road and the trail," said Christine Leduc, a woodlands supervisor with EACOM Timber Corporation. 'We also committed not to having any grubbing which is where you remove vegetation in that area. We did also narrow down the right of way for the road that would be crossing the portage to fifteen metres. It will also be slope-friendly for portages at the trail.”
It's Robichaud's and the hope of others that people will travel this route again. This summer, he and a teacher from Keewaytinook Internet High School brought some youths from Mattagami First Nation on a visit to the portage site.
“Mattagami in Ojibway literally means meeting of the waters so the name of their community ... refers to the fact that Mattagami is at the connection of these two major watersheds ... so it’s completely relevant to where they live and a lot of them had never been there," said Ian Vaithilingam, teacher with Keewaytinook Internet High School.
Robichaud said the comforts we enjoy today are a result of travel and battles in the past and it's places like 'Little Hawk Portage' that help us remember why we are here.