Algonquian refers to a large linguistic and cultural group. They are one of the most populous and widespread primary North American tribes. Their ancestors are the Athabaskan. But Algonquian broke off from their ancestors, then they moved to the east of the Atlantic coast of North America.
Algonquian inhabited a very large territory stretched from the Atlantic Ocean to the Rocky Mountains. But most of them lived in the coastal regions (the Atlantic Ocean and Hudson Bay) and some regions surrounding Iroquoia. Their regions are known as the Canadian Shield.
Besides Algonquin, the Algonquian cultural group includes Ojibwe, Micmac, Malecite, Blackfoot and Cree, Abenaki, Montagnais…. Algonquian established a civilization that relied heavily on hunting and fishing to gather food. And this is one of the first hunting and fishing societies in America.
Algonquian’s Society And Culture
Until now, we haven’t known the source of the word Algonquian. Some said it means “they are our relatives” which came from the Malecite word. Others suggested that its meaning is “those that are dancing”. But the most popular meaning is “a place for spearing eels and fishes”.
In Algonquian society, the leader is called a chief or ogima. In the past, the chief was man only. Today, a woman can become a chief. The chief or ogima was chosen because of his personal qualities. The personal qualities include strength, skill, wisdom, courage, generosity, and hunting prowess, of course.
If a man wants to become a chief, he has to justify and convince all of the members in council by actions that choosing him is the right decision. But he is accepted to be the leader only when everyone must be in a consensus. Sometimes it took them so much time to agree.
Relationships in Algonquian society are established through the father, not the mother. After a woman is married to a man, she joins and lives with her husband’s family. In other words, the man in Algonquian society is the head of the family.
The main task of the head of the family was to guarantee that their family has food enough to live. They were also in charge of trading and communicating with other families/bands and nations. The man did the fighting when the Algonquians were at war. They always kept their weapons on hand for hunting and fighting.
Members in Algonquian’s communities followed the male of descent that is related to Patrilineal clans. Animal totems such as bear, lion, wolf… represented for these clans. The heads of clans and respected elders lead Algonquian’s communities.
All members in Algonquian communities were equal. It means, women were members with an important role in their life. The main task of Algonquian women is to take care of everything related to their camp or wigwams. They built wigwams. Yes, women built these, the men didn’t this task.
They also collected firewood and stored food for daily life. Of course, they made clothes for members of their family and gathered wild fruits. They helped men by carrying the bags while the men kept their weapons on hand and went hunting.
Algonquian Culture And Daily Life
Algonquian usually faced with the lack of food production had the least interest in producing their food. The reason is they had the least interest in producing their food. Their territory is not good for crop growing. Most of their territory was forested or more mountainous. They were covered with rock and forest. Farming was not easy.
The Algonquian - the nomads in the wigwams
The Algonquian were nomads. They hunted animals and ate them. They could find some animals such as hare or partridge in the forest or spearfish in the lakes and rivers. They lived in wigwams or roundhouse and these wigwams could be moved. The Algonquian moved from place to place and hunted for their food. This is how they established a civilization that relied heavily on hunting and fishing to gather food.
They used large wooden poles to make wigwams. These poles were covered with skins of animals and bark. Wigwams were easy to assemble, disassemble. They took skins and bark when they moved because they were light, so easy to carry. Wooden poles could be found in the location where they chose to set up new wigwams. Women built wigwams and it took them just about an hour to finish.
Hanging, fishing, and gathering for daily life
They used canoes which were made of wood and bark, to travel. When the winter comes, they would use snowshoes to move. Hunting, fishing, and gathering provided Algonquian with food and materials. They used them to live and make clothes, houses.
Weapons for the Algonquian men to hunt animals are bow, arrows, spears, and knives…. Most of them were made of wood and bark. To hunt small animals, they used traps, deadfalls. If they wanted to hunt for larger animals, they used bows, arrows, and lances.
Spears were used to catching fish. They are long sticks with a knife at the end of them. For fishing, they also used hooks, leisters, and nets which were made of materials from the forest. They went fishing in the summer because at that time they usually set up their wigwams close to the water’s edge.
Here is a video about Native American culture who created a civilization relied heavily on hunting and fishing:
They hunted different animals that depended on the region where they were living. If they lived in the coastal regions, seals, whales were the main animals they hunted. And they hunted for caribou or moose, white-tailed deer if they lived near the forest or in mountainous regions. They ate the meat of deers and dried the skins for their house and clothing.
The Algonquian women gathered for seeds, fruits, wild plants, various berries. They also made syrup in the spring when they could collect maple sap. They made clothes from what they found and hunted around them. Most of their clothes were made from the skins or fur of animals such as deer, fox, otter, beaver…These kinds of clothes kept them warm and lasted a long time.
Algonquian ended their nomadic and started farming. After the arrival of Europeans, there were dramatic changes in Algonquian communities. They lost most of their territory. Nowadays, three Algonquian communities included Wolf Lake, Kitcisakik, and Long Point still don’t have their reserve land. And we have about 40.880 people who are identified as having Algonquian ancestry. The Algonquian civilization relied heavily on hunting and fishing to gather food didn’t exist anymore.