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Les Indiens Atikamekw (French version)

Atikamekw Indian Fact Sheet

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

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       Atikamekw Tribe

         Atikamekw family                  Atikamekw artist

How do you pronounce "Atikamekw"? What does it mean? What is the correct spelling?
Atikamekw is pronounced "ah-dik-ah-meck." The W is part of the final consonant, showing that the K is rounded (a subtle pronunciation difference that is difficult for English or French speakers to say correctly.) It isn't a fifth syllable, and you shouldn't pronounce the word "Ah-dik-ah-meck-wuh." In their language, Atikamekw means a kind of whitefish. The French sometimes used to call the Atikameks "Tête-de-Boule," which was the French name for whitefish.

You can see the tribe's name spelled Atikamekw, Attikamekw, Attikamek, or Atikamek. Since Atikamekw is not traditionally a written language, spellings have varied a lot over the years. But according to the modern standardized writing system, the proper spelling is "Atikamekw."

Are the Atikamekw Cree people?
No. They are closely related to the Cree and anthropologists often discuss the two tribes together, but the Atikamekw consider themselves a distinct people and have their own First Nation with a separate government from the Crees.

Where do the Atikamekws live?
There are three Atikamekw bands, all located on ancestral Atikamekw land in Quebec, Canada. The three Atikamekw reserves are named Manawan, Wemotaci and Opitciwan (also spelled Obedjiwan.)

How is the Atikamekw Indian nation organized?
Like most Native American tribes, each Atikamekw community lives on its own reserve. A reserve is land that belongs to the tribe and is legally under their control. Each Atikamekw band is politically independent and has its own leadership. Each Atikamekw band has its own leader (or chief), government, laws, police, and other services, just like a small country. However, the Atikameks are also Canadian citizens and must obey Canadian law.

What language do the Atikameks speak?
They speak their native Atikamekw language, which is closely related to Cree. If you'd like to learn an easy Atikamekw word, "kwe" (rhymes with "day") is a friendly greeting. You can read a Atikamekw picture glossary here. Today, most Atikameks also speak French. Not much English is spoken in the Atikamekw community.

What was Atikamekw culture like in the past? What is it like now?
Here's a link to the homepage of the Atikamekw Nation.
On their site you can find information about the Atikamekw people in the past and today.

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How do Atikamekw Indian children live, and what did they do in the past?
Atikamekw cradleboard
They do the same things any children do--play with each other, go to school and help around the house. Many Atikamekw children like to go hunting and fishing with their fathers. In the past, Indian kids had more chores and less time to play, just like colonial children. But they did have toys and games to play with, such as dolls or cone-spearing games like this. Atikamekw mothers, like many Native Americans, traditionally carried their babies in cradle-boards on their backs--a custom which many American parents have adopted now.

What were Atikamekw homes like in the past?

Atikamekw people lived in villages of small cone-shaped buildings called wigwams (the wigwam house on the left belonged to an Innu family.) Atikamekw wigwams were made of a wooden frame covered with caribou skins, birchbark, or sometimes packed earth. One Atikamek family lived in each wigwam. They were crowded homes, but warm. Here are some pictures of Indian houses like the ones the Attikameks used. Today, Native Americans only build a wigwam for fun or to connect with their heritage. Most Atikameks live in modern houses just like you.

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

Cree style outfit
Atikamekw women wore long dresses with removable sleeves and the men wore breechcloth and leggings. Both genders wore leather moccasins on their feet and cloaks or ponchos in bad weather. Later, Atikamekw people adapted European costume such as jackets and French-influenced dresses, making them from fringed buckskin and decorating them with moose-hair embroidery and beadwork. Here is a picture of a buckskin jacket, and some photographs and links about Native American dress in general.

The Atikamekw didn't wear Indian headdresses like the Sioux. They usually wore fur or leather caps decorated with feathers. Atikamekw men and women generally wore their hair in two long braids, and both genders painted their faces with bright colors for special occasions. They used different patterns for war paint, religious ceremonies, and festive decoration. In the past, Atikamekw men wore elaborate tattoos, but this custom has not been practiced in many years.

Today, many Atikamekw people still wear moccasins or a buckskin shirt, but they usually wear modern clothes like jeans instead of breechcloths... and they only wear feathers or roaches in their hair on special occasions like a dance.

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

         Atikamekw dogsled
Yes--the Atikamekw Indian tribe was well-known for their birchbark canoes. Here's an article with Indian canoe pictures. Canoeing is still popular within the Atikamekw nation. Over land, the Attikameks used dogs as pack animals. (There were no horses in North America until colonists brought them over from Europe.) Attikameks also used sleds and snowshoes to help them travel in the winter. Today, of course, Atikamekw people also use cars and snowmobiles... and non-native people also use canoes and snowshoes.

Attikamek snowshoe
What was Atikamekw food like in the days before supermarkets?
The Atikamekw were primarily hunting people. The men tracked caribou on their snowshoes, fished, and hunted marine mammals from their canoes. Women caught small game such as rabbits and gathered nuts and fruits. Many Atikamekw people continue to live off the land as their ancestors did, though today they use modern tools such as guns. Here is a website with more information about Native American food.

What were Atikamekw weapons and tools like in the past?
Atikamekw hunters and warriors used bows and arrows, spears, and clubs. Fishermen usually used bone fishhooks and nets. Here is a website with pictures and more information about Native American weapon styles.

What are Atikamekw arts and crafts like?
 Atikamekw mask
Atikamekw artists are known for their quilling art, birch bark baskets, and elaborate masks like the one in this picture.

What is Atikamekw music like?
The most important Atikamekw instrument is the drum. Atikamekw drums are usually large and several men play them together at tribal festivals and ceremonies. Here is a video of Atikamekw musicians drumming and singing at a pow wow.

What other Native Americans did the Atikamekw tribe interact with?
The Atikameks generally kept to themselves. They rarely fought with other tribes, and only did a small amount of trading. They were friends and allies with the Innu and the Cree, and they did support the Innu in their fight against the powerful Iroquois tribes. The Attikameks are still friendly with the Innu and East Cree people today.

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

Can you recommend a good book for me to read?
There are not many books specifically about the Atikamekw people, who are a very small and remote community. One good Atikamekw book is Eci Mikoian, a photo-essay about Atikamekw, Algonquin, and Cree life. Culturally, the Attikameks are very similar to the Eastern Cree, so you can also get a good idea of the Atikamekw lifestyle by reading books about the East Crees. You may enjoy I Dream of Yesterday and Tomorrow, which is a collection of legends from the James Bay Cree (neighbors and kinfolk of the Attikameks.) There's a nicely illustrated book, The Eeyou, which shows the culture and history of the East Cree for younger readers (the Atikamekw live similarly and have faced similar challenges.) Finally, there's also an interesting art book, To Please The Caribou, which shows a collection of traditional painted caribou coats from the northern tribes, including some made by the Attikameks. You can also browse through our recommendations of Native American stories in general. Disclaimer: we are an Amazon affiliate and our website earns a commission if you buy a book through 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 Atikamekw Indian people and their language!

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Learn More About The Atikameks

Atikamekw Indian Tribe
An overview of the Atikamek Nation, their language and history.

Attikamekw Language Resources
Atikamek language samples, articles, and indexed links.

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

Atikamekw Words
Atikamekw Indian vocabulary lists.

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