The Algonquin Indians
The Algonquin Indians are the most populous and widespread
North American Native groups, with tribes originally numbering in the hundreds and
speaking several related dialects. They inhabited most of the Canadian region south
of Hudson Bay between the Rockies and the Atlantic Ocean and, bypassing select territories
held by the Sioux and Iroquois, the latter of whom had driven them out of their territory
along the St. Lawrence and Ottawa rivers in the 17th and 18th centuries.
Click on graphic for enlarged view.
Algonkin is used in reference to the tribe, but Algonquian either refers to the
Algonquin language or to the group of tribes that speak related dialects.
Because the Northern climates made agriculture difficult, the Algonquin were a
semi-nomadic people, moving their encampments from one place to the next in search of
food, which came from hunting, trapping, fishing and the gathering of various plant roots,
seeds, wild rice and berries. They travelled on foot and by birchbark canoe in the summer
months, and used toboggans and snowshoes in the winter. Their clothes were made from
animal skins, as were their tents, also known as wigwams; sometimes also covered with
Click on grahic for enlarged view.
The Algonquin social structure was patriarchal; men were the leaders and the heads of the
family and territorial hunting rights were passed from father to son.
The shaman held a powerful place in Algonquin society. He was believed to be able to heal
the sick and communicate with the spirit world: A great spirit or supreme being, lesser
spirits in control of the elements, evil spirits at the root of illness and misfortune,
and benevolent spirits bringing fortune and good health. The shaman was also called upon
as an interpreter of dreams, in which the Algonquin found great significance.
The Algonquin included,
believed in an afterlife where the spirits of dead men were chasing the spirits of dead
animals. They were also firm believers in Witchcraft and were very reluctant reveal their
real names in the fear that enemies with spiritual powers would use them with evil
The Algonquin were among the first North American Natives to make alliances with the
French who adopted Algonquian methods of travel, and started using terms like
"canoe" and "toboggan".
There are presently about 8,000 Algonquin living in Canada, organized into ten separate First Nations, nine are in Quebec and one in Ontario.
Algonquin Mother & Child
Algonquin Legends and Customs
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