The Algonquin tribe is often confused with the Algonquian peoples. The Algonquin tribe was a small tribe in northern Michigan and Canada that was forced further north after the formation of the Iroquois Confederation.
The confusion between the Algonquin tribe and the Algonquian peoples is that the Algonquian peoples refer to all the Algonquian-speaking natives in North America.
This language included a large number of tribes, including the Algonquin, Wampanoag, Abenaki, Mohegan, Shawnee, and many other tribes. The tribes that used this language primarily lived in the New England Colonies, Canada, and some of the Northwest Territory.
Algonquin Tribe Facts: Lifestyle
Unlike many of the other Native American tribes, the Algonquin lived too far north to sustain an acceptable amount of crops. The climate was too cold for agriculture, and they relied more on hunting, trapping, and fishing. They hunted a wide variety of animals for meat and their furs:
They also had domesticated dogs and used them for transportation via dogsleds during the winter months. For fishing, they used canoes that were constructed out of birchbark.
Since the Algonquin Indians depended on migrating animals, the dogsleds and canoes allowed quick movement across land or water that would aid them in tracking their animals.
Since the Algonquin tribe did not raise many crops, they depended on trade to bring in the necessary vegetation. Despite being pushed off their land by the imperialistic Iroquois, they still traded meat, furs, and other valuables for corn and tobacco.
Algonquin Tribe Facts: European Contact
The first Europeans to come into contact with the Algonquin tribe were the French under the command of Samuel de Champlain. They were celebrating a recent victory over the Iroquois with the allied Montagnais and Etechemins.
Champlain did not understand that the Algonquins were socially united by a strong totem/clan system rather than the European-styled political concept of nationhood. The several Algonquin bands each had their own chief.
Within each band, the chief depended on political approval from each of the band's clan leaders. Champlain needed to cultivate relationships with numerous chiefs and clan leaders. From 1603, some of the Algonquins allied with the French under Champlain.
This alliance proved useful to the Algonquin, who previously had little to no access to European firearms.
Champlain made his first exploration of the Ottawa River during May 1613 and reached the fortified Kitcisìpirini village at Morrison Island. Unlike the other Algonquin communities, the Kitcisìpiriniwak did not change location with the seasons.
They had chosen a strategic point astride the trade route between the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence River. They prospered through the collection of beaver pelts from native traders passing through their territory. They also were proud of their cornfields.
At first, the French used the term "Algonquin" only for a second group, the Wàwàckeciriniwak. However, by 1615, they applied the name to all of the Algonquin bands living along the Ottawa River.
Because of the keen interest by tribes to gain control of the lower Ottawa River, the Kitcisìpiriniwak and the Wàwàckeciriniwak came under fierce opposition. These two large groups allied together, under the leadership of Sachem Charles Parcharini, to maintain the Omàmiwinini identity and territory.
Algonquin Tribe Facts: Battle with the Iroquois
The Algonquin had many problems with the Iroquois tribes throughout their history, but the balance of power began to change when Europeans got involved. The French traded with the Algonquin peoples, and the French firepower certainly aided them in keeping the Iroquois dormant. However, the Iroquois began trading with the English, and the Dutch acquired muskets and learned how to use them effectively.
Soon, the Iroquois employed Native American tactics with European weaponry and defeated the Algonquins and the French.
The Algonquins continued their fur trade, but they never gained the land they lost back. Soon, the Iroquois became too powerful and would remain until the expansion of the United States. However, the Algonquin still managed to have a successful economy and remained mobile and willing to trade with the other tribes.
Starting in 1721, many Christian Algonquins began to settle for the summer at Kahnesatake, near Oka. The Mohawk Nation was then considered one of the Seven Nations of Canada.
Algonquin warriors continued to fight in alliance with France until the British conquest of Quebec in 1760 during the Seven Years' War. After the British took over the colonial rule of Canada, their officials sought to make allies of the First Nations. Fighting on behalf of the British Crown, the Algonquins took part in the Barry St Leger campaign during the American Revolutionary War.
Loyalist settlers began encroaching on Algonquin lands shortly after the American Revolution. Later in the 19th century, the lumber industry began to move up the Ottawa Valley, and a lot of Algonquins were relegated to a string of small reserves.
The Algonquin tribe still has remnants today in Canada and around Quebec.