Thousands of years ago, they were the first ones there.

Used ceremonially before the arrival of the Europeans, Victoria Island is “an incredibly historical piece of land for First Nations and Algonquin People,” said Ottawa Centre MP Paul Dewar.

Dewar, along with Algonquin Elder William Commanda and Ottawa-based architect Douglas Cardinal, is looking to bring that land back to the people with a new National Aboriginal Centre.

“Victoria Island is a sacred land,” said Dewar, who is leading the community campaign to gather support. “Many people have been anxious to see something done with Victoria Island.

We need public support to put pressure on the government to do that,” he said.

The campaign will gather support through petitions, websites and public education.

The centre would promote three things, said Commanda — respect for Mother Earth, keeping the culture and language of the Algonquin Peoples alive, and sharing the values of peace building and harmony, regardless of race.

“It’s very, very important,” he said. “It’s a place for us to share with non-native people.”

The centre, a place for First Nations peoples to gather formally, is also “a huge opportunity to educate the public about First Nations and Aboriginal culture,” said Dewar.

The centre’s design, which is still in the concept stages, is rich in symbolism, featuring a circular centre plaza oriented to the four compass points, Cardinal said.

Dewar said he’s hoping to enter into dialogue with the federal government and the National Capital Commission and get a commitment by fall.