ETHNONYM: Algonquin

"Algonkin" is the name used here for a number of related groups who lived in southwestern Quebec and southeastern Ontario, from the Ottawa River to Lake Nipissing to the north of Georgian Bay. These groups included those known today as Abitibi, Kitcisagi (Grand Lake Victoria), Maniwaki, Nipissing, Temiscaming, and Weskarini, as well as other probably extinct bands. The cover name is derived from a Maliseet term meaning "they are our relatives (or allies)." Each band or group spoke closely related dialects of Algonkian, the language still used today, in addition to English and French. At present there may be as many as six thousand Algonkin of whom twenty-five hundred to three thousand live on about a dozen reserves in Canada.

First contact with French traders apparently predated 1570. Relations with the French were generally peaceful from that time onward. There was, however, almost continual strife with the Iroquois until the peace of 1701 between the Iroquois and the French and their Indian allies. Missionization by Roman Catholic missionaries, particularly the Jesuits and Sulpicians, began in the early seventeenth century, with mission stations being established at that time. A government reserve was established at Golden Lake, Ontario, in 1807 with a number of others added throughout the nineteenth century.

Not a great deal is known about traditional Algonkin culture. Subsistence was based upon hunting and fishing, although a simple form of swidden horticulture featuring maize, beans, and squash and, later, European peas was practiced wherever possible. They constructed longhouses and other smaller structures. Twentieth-century Algonkin bands share many characteristics of Boreal Forest Peoples, including a belief in a supreme being; the Windigo; a trickster Culture hero; the vision quest; scapulimancy; and the construction of canoes and other items in birchbark, toboggans, showshoes, and moose- and deerhide clothing. Specific Family hunting territories have continued to exist in the twentieth century.


Day, Gordon M. (1978). "Nipissing." In Handbook of North American Indians. Vol. 15, Northeasty edited by Bruce G. Trigger, 787-791. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution.

Day, Gordon M., and Bruce G. Trigger (1978). "Algonquin." In Handbook of North American Indians. Vol. 15, Northeast, edited by Bruce G. Trigger, 792-797. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution.

Speck, Frank (1929). "Boundaries and Hunting Groups of the River Desert Algonquin." Indian Notes (Museum of the American Indian, Heye Foundation) 6:97-120. New York.

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