- Algonquian peoples
:"This article is about the large number of peoples speaking
Algonquian languages. For the Algonquin of Quebec and the Ottawa Valley, who are one of these peoples, see Algonquin."
The Algonquian are one of the most populous and widespread
North American Native groups, with tribes originally numbering in the hundreds, and hundreds of thousands who still identify with various Algonquian peoples. This grouping consists of peoples that speak Algonquian languages.
Before Europeans came into contact, most Algonquians lived by hunting and fishing, although quite a few supplemented their diet by cultivating corn,
beans, squash, and (particularly among the Ojibwe) wild rice.
The Algonquians of
New England(who spoke eastern Algonquian) practiced a seasonal economy. The basic social unitwas the village of a few hundred people related by a kinshipstructure. Villages were temporary and mobile. They moved to locations of greatest natural food supply, often breaking into smaller units or recombining as the circumstances required. This custom resulted in a certain degree of cross-tribal mobility, especially in troubled times.
In warm weather, villages were constructed of light
wigwams for portability. In the winter more solid long houses were used, in which more than one clancould reside. Food supplies were cached in more permanent, semi-subterranean buildings.
In the spring, when the fish were spawning, the natives left their winter camps to build light villages at coastal locations and waterfalls. In March they caught
smeltin nets and weirs, moving about in birchbark canoes. In April they netted alewife, sturgeonand salmon. In May they caught codwith hook and line in the ocean, and trout, smelt, striped bassand flounderin the estuaries and streams. They put out to sea and hunted whales, porpoises, walruses and seals. The women and children gathered scallops, mussels, clams and crabs, all dishes in New England today.
In April through October, they hunted migratory birds and their eggs:
Canada geese, brant, mourning doves and others. In July and August they gathered strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and nuts. In September they split into small groups and moved up the streams to the forest. There they hunted beaver, caribou, mooseand white-tailed deer.
In December when the snows began they recombined in winter camps in sheltered locations, where they built or reconstructed long houses. February and March were lean times. They relied on cached food, especially in southern New England. Northerners had a policy of going hungry for several days at a time. It is hypothesized that this policy kept the population down according to Liebig’s law. The northerners were food gatherers only.
The southern Algonquians of New England relied predominantly on slash-and-burn agriculture. Fields were cleared by burning for one or two years of cultivation, after which the village moved to another location. This habit is the reason why the English found the region cleared and ready for planting. The native corn (maize), of which they planted various kinds,
beansand squash improved the diet to such a degree that the southerners reached a density of 287 persons per square hundred miles, as opposed to 41 in the north.
Even with this mobile form of crop rotation, southern villages were necessarily less mobile than northern. The natives continued their seasonal occupation but tended to move into fixed villages near their lands. Society made the adjustment partially by developing a gender-oriented
division of labor. The women farmed and the men fished and hunted.
By the year 1600, a convenient terminus for the relatively unstressed native economy and society, the indigenous population of New England had reached, it is estimated, 70,000–100,000.
At the time of the first European settlements in North America, Algonquian tribes occupied what is now
New England, New Jersey, southeastern New York, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, all of Canadaeast of the Rocky Mountains, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, and were occasionally present in Kentucky. They were most concentrated in the New England region. The homeland of the Algonquian peoples is not known. At the time of the European arrival, the hegemonic Iroquoisfederation was regularly at war with their Algonquian neighbours, forcing them to settle in regions unoccupied by Iroquois.
For about two centuries, Algonquians provided the main obstacles to the spread of Euro-American settlers, who concluded hundreds of peace treaties with them.
Metacomet, Cornstalk, Tecumsehand Pontiac were all leaders who belonged to Algonquian nations.
Algonquian tribes of the New England area include
Mohegan, Pequot, Narragansett, Wampanoag, Massachusett, Nipmuck, Pennacook, and Passamaquoddy. The Abenakitribe is located in Maine and eastern Quebec. These tribes practiced some agriculture. The Maliseetof Maine, Quebecand New Brunswick, and the Micmactribes of the Canadian Maritime provinceslived primarily on fishing. Further north are the Betsiamites, Atikamekw, Algonkinand Montagnais/ Naskapi( Innu). The Beothukpeople of Newfoundland are also believed to have been Algonquians, but they disappeared in the early 19th century and few records of their language or culture remain. In the west, Ojibwe/ Chippewa, Ottawa, Potawatomi, and a variety of Creegroups lived in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Upper Michigan, Western Ontarioand the Canadian Prairies. The Arapaho, Blackfootand Cheyenneare also indigenous to the Great Plains. In the Midwest lived the Shawnee, Illiniwek, Kickapoo, Menominee, Miami, and Sac and Fox, many of whom have since been displaced over great distances through Indian removal. In the mid- and south-Atlantic are the traditional homes of the Powhatan, Lumbee, Nanticoke, Lenape(Munsee and Unami), and Mahicanpeoples.
The tribal names used to identify individual groups of Algonquian peoples and their languages are often misleading. Even today,
intermarriageand tight intercommunityalliances are common across the Algonquian peoples. Their languages are also quite similar. Across Canada, Cree speaking people may be able to understand each other with little difficulty, and the Ojibwe languageis close enough to the Western Cree languages to remain partially understandable. These divisions have often been imposed by European efforts to manage native peoples, and to give them a European-style political identity better suited to the colonisers' ends. Within these communities, such identities often overlapped.
*Cronon, William, "Changes in the Land: Indians, Colonists, and the Ecology of New England", Hill and Wang, copyright 1983, ISBN 0-8090-0158-6
*Cappel, Constance, "The Smallpox Genocide of the Odawa Tribe at L'Arbre Croche, 1763: The History of the Odawa People," Edwin Mellen press, 2007, ISBN-13: 978-0-7734-5220-6
*Moondancer and Strong Woman, "A Cultural History of the Native Peoples of Southern New England: Voices from Past and Present", Bauu Press, copyright 2007, ISBN 0-9721-3493-X
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