Les Indiens Algonquins (French version)

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Algonquin Indian Fact Sheet

Native American Facts For Kids was written for young people learning about the Algonquins for school or home-schooling reports. We encourage students and teachers to visit our main Algonquin website for in-depth information about the tribe, but here are our answers to the questions we are most often asked by children, with Algonquin pictures and links we believe are suitable for all ages. Images are the property of the sources we have credited.

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How do you pronounce "Algonquin?" How do you spell it?
Algonquin is pronounced Al-GON-kin. "Algonquin" is the most common spelling, but you'll often see "Algonkin" too. Either way is fine--but avoid spelling the word "Algonquian" or "Algonkian," because that refers to a whole group of Native American languages (including Cree, Blackfoot, and Delaware)! The Algonquins are only one of the many Algonquian-speaking tribes, and they have a unique identity and independent political status from the others.

What does the word "Algonquin" mean?
"Algonquin" was the French name for the tribe. The French were probably trying to pronounce elehgumoqik, the Maliseet word for "our allies," or Algoomaking, a Mi'kmaq place name. The Algonquins call themselves Anishnabe, which means "original person." (The plural is Anishnabek.) However, Algonquins use Anishnabek to refer to other Indians also. So when they are specifically referring to their tribe, they usually use "Algonquins" or "Algonkins" to distinguish themselves.

Where do the Algonquins live?
The Algonquins are original natives of the southeastern region of Canada. Today they live in nine communities in Quebec and one in Ontario. Here is a map showing the location of the Algonquin and their relatives.

But weren't there Algonquin Indians in New York state?
No. Other Algonquian tribes lived in New York, but never the Algonquin tribe. This is a mistake that happened because of the similar spellings of these words. Algonquian tribes located in New York included the Mahican and Wappinger tribes, the Montauk and Shinnecock tribes, and the Munsee Delaware tribe. You can visit this map of New York Indian tribes to see where in New York each of those tribes lived.

How is the Algonquin Indian nation organized? Do they live on reservations?

Algonquin band flags
Each Algonquin community lives on its own reserve, also known as a reservation. Reserves are land that belongs to the tribe and is legally under their control. Each Algonquin tribe--known as a band or First Nation in Canada--is politically independent and has its own leadership. Algonquin First Nations have their own government, laws, police, and services, just like small countries. However, the Algonquins are also Canadian citizens and must obey Canadian law.

The leader of each Algonquin band is called ogima or ogema, which is translated as "chief" in English. The ogima used to be chosen by tribal councilmembers, often from the last chief's sons, nephews, or sons-in-law. Today chiefs are elected by the Algonquins, just like governors or mayors.

What language do the Algonquin people speak?
Some bands are English-speaking, and others are French-speaking. About half the Algonquin population also speak their native Algonquin language. Algonquin is a musical language that has complicated verbs with many parts. If you'd like to learn a few easy Algonquin words, "kwey" (rhymes with "day") is a friendly greeting and "mìgwech" (pronunciation meeg-waitch) means "thank you." You can listen to an Algonquin woman talk in her language here and see an Algonquin picture glossary here.

What was Algonquin culture like in ancient times? What is it like now?
Here's a link to the Algonquin Nation Tribal Council homepage. There you can find information about three Algonquin communities in the past and today.

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How do Algonquin Indian children live, and what did they do in the past?

 Algonquin doll
They do the same things all children do--play with each other, go to school and help around the house. Many Algonquin children like to go hunting and fishing with their fathers. In the past, Indian kids had more chores and less time to play, like early colonial children. But they did have toys, games and dolls, like this 18th-century doll in its miniature cradleboard. Algonquin mothers, like many Native Americans, carried their babies in cradleboards like these. Older Algonquin kids enjoyed playing lacrosse like the adults. In some communities only men and teenage boys played lacrosse, but in others, girls and women played as well.

What were Algonquin men and women's roles?
Algonquin women gathered plants to eat and did most of the child care and cooking. Men were hunters and sometimes fought wars to protect their families. Both genders took part in storytelling, artwork and music, and traditional medicine. In the past, the Algonquin Indian chief was always a man, but today a woman can be chief too.

What were Algonquin homes like in the past?

     Wigwam in Ontario
The Algonquins didn't live in tepees. For most of the year they lived in settled villages of birchbark houses, called waginogans or wigwams. Algonquin wigwams were usually dome-shaped and not very large-- only a single family unit lived in each one. In some Algonquin communities, multiple families from the same clan would live together in a much larger birchbark longhouse, like their Iroquois neighbors. During the winter, the village split up to go to hunting camps, and each Algonquin family would build a cone-shaped shelter like this for their camp. These shelters were temporary and were discarded whenever the family needed to move. At the end of winter, they would move back to the permanent summer lodges in their village. Here are some more pictures of American Indian houses like the ones the Algonquins used.

Today, Native Americans only build a birchbark lodge for fun or to connect with their heritage. Most Algonquin people live in modern houses and apartment buildings, just like you.

What was Algonquin clothing like? Did they wear feather headdresses and face paint?

 Chief Rocky Boy

Algonquin women wore long dresses with removable sleeves and the men wore breechcloths and leggings. Both genders wore moccasins on their feet and cloaks in bad weather. Later, the Algonquins adapted European costume such as cloth blouses and buckskin jackets, decorating the front with fancy beadwork. The Ojibway chief to the left is wearing the same style of clothing Algonquin men did. Here are more pictures of Ojibway and Algonquin clothing styles, and some photos and links about Native American clothing in general.

Some Algonquin warriors wore their hair in the Mohawk style, shaving the sides and using grease to stiffen the strip of hair in the middle so that it stood up high. Otherwise, Algonquin men and women both wore their hair in long braids. Some men wore a porcupine roach with a feather in it. (These roaches are made of porcupine hair, not the sharp quills!) In the 1800's, some Algonquin chiefs began wearing a feathered headdress like their neighbors the Sioux. The Algonquins painted their faces and arms with bright colors. They used different patterns for war paint and festive decoration. Some Algonquin men also wore elaborate tribal tattoos.

Today, some Algonquin people still wear moccasins or a buckskin jacket, but they wear modern clothes like jeans instead of breechcloths... and they only wear feathers in their hair on special occasions like a dance.

What was Algonquin transportation like in the days before cars? Did they paddle canoes?

 Algonquin canoe
Yes--the Algonquin Indian tribe was famous for their birchbark canoes. Here is a website with pictures of Native American canoes. Canoeing is still popular in the Algonquin nation today. Over land, the Algonquins used dogs as pack animals. (There were no horses in North America until colonists brought them over from Europe.) The Algonquins used sleds and snowshoes to help them travel in the winter.

Today, of course, Algonquin people also use cars... and non-native people also use canoes.

  Algonquin deer hunt
What was Algonquin food like in the days before supermarkets?
The Algonquins were hunting people. They hunted for deer, moose, and small game, and went fishing in the rivers and lakes. Some Algonquin communities grew corn and squash in small gardens, but most Algonquins only got foods like those in trade with neighboring tribes. Besides fish and meat, the Algonquins gathered berries and wild plants to eat. They also made maple syrup from tree sap, and cooked soups, stews and breads. Here is a recipe for Algonquin nut soup, and a website with more information about Native American food.

What were Algonquin weapons and tools like in the past?
Algonquin Indians used bows and arrows or spears for hunting. Algonquin hunters also built traps like the ones in this picture to catch deer and other game animals. Algonquin fishermen used pronged spears to stab fish from their canoes or through holes in the ice, instead of fishing with hooks. Algonquin warriors fought each other with war clubs, spears, or tomahawks. Here is a picture of an Anishinabe war club, and a website with pictures and more information about Native American weapons in general.

What are Algonquin arts and crafts like?

 Algonquin basket
Algonquin artists are known for their beadwork and basketry arts. Like other eastern American Indians, Algonquins also crafted wampum out of white and purple shell beads. Wampum beads were traded as a kind of currency, but they were more culturally important as an art material. The symbols and designs on wampum belts often told a story or represented a person's family. Today, Algonquin people also create contemporary art like oil paintings. You can visit this site to see photographs of Algonquin paintings.

Do you have ideas for an Algonquin art project I can do for school?
We recommend making a dreamcatcher. Dreamcatchers are a traditional Anishinaabe children's craft made as mobiles for babies. They are not religious and are appropriate for school projects. Traditionally dreamcatchers were made out of bent twigs and some sinew thread, but you could make one out of any round frame and string. Here are some good online instructions about how to make a dreamcatcher.

What other Native Americans did the Algonquin tribe interact with?
The Algonquins are related to the Ojibway and Ottawa tribes, who have usually been their allies. They were also friends with the Hurons. The Algonquins often fought with the Iroquois tribes, but when they weren't at war with them, they were trading partners. The Algonquins traded beaver pelts and other furs for Iroquois corn and tobacco from the south.

What is Algonquin music like?
The two most important Algonquin instruments are the drum and the flute. Algonquin drums were usually large and several men would play them together at tribal festivals and ceremonies. Flutes were carved from wood are were most often used to play love songs. Here is a video of drummers performing a song at the Kitigan Zibi Algonquin powwow.

What kinds of stories do the Algonquins tell?
There are lots of traditional Algonquin legends and fairy tales. Storytelling is very important to the Algonquin Indian culture. Here is one Algonquin legend about the origin of the sunset. Here's a website where you can read more about Algonquin mythology.

Who are some famous Algonquin Indians?
Hockey star Gino Odjick is Algonquin from Kitigan Zibi. Here's a biography of him. Odjick is also active in trying to combat alcohol abuse among First Nations youth. Here is an article about that.

What about Algonquin religion?
Spirituality and religion were important parts of Algonquin life, and some people continue to practice traditional beliefs today. It is respectful to avoid imitating religious rituals for school projects since some Algonquin people care about them deeply. You can read and learn about them, however. You can visit this site to learn more about Algonquin beliefs or this site about Native American religions in general.

Can you recommend a good book for me to read?
It's hard to find a good book on the Algonquins because people get so confused about their name. The Last Algonquin is a good book, but it is actually about a Wecquaesgeek (Wappinger) man, not an Algonquin. Kipawa: Portrait of a People gives you a good look at an actual Algonquin nation, but it is out of print and hard to find. The Algonquins is a good collection of essays with interesting information about the Algonquin people past and present, but it could be hard for younger kids to read. Two simple books with information about the Algonquin tribe are The Algonquin and Algonquin Native Americans. You can also browse through our reading list of good Native American books in general. Disclaimer: we are an Amazon affiliate and our website earns a commission if you buy a book for sale at one of these links. Most of them can also be found in a public library, though!

How do I cite your website in my bibliography?
You will need to ask your teacher for the format he or she wants you to use. The authors' names are Laura Redish and Orrin Lewis and the title of our site is Native Languages of the Americas. We are a nonprofit educational organization working to preserve and protect Native American languages and culture. You can learn more about our organization here. Our website was first created in 1998 and last updated in 2020.

Thanks for your interest in the Algonquin Indian people and their language!

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Learning More About The Algonquins

Algonquin Indian Tribe
An overview of the Algonquin people, their language and history.

Algonquin Language Resources
Algonquin language samples, articles, and indexed links.

Algonquin Culture and History Directory
Related links about the Algonquin people past and present.

Algonquin Words
Algonquin Indian vocabulary lists.

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