The Algonquins (or Algonkins) are an aboriginal North American people speaking Algonquin, an Anishinaabe language. Culturally and linguistically, they are closely related to the Odawa and Ojibwe, with whom they form the larger Anicinàpe grouping. The Algonquin peoples call themselves either Omàmiwinini (plural: Omàmiwininiwak) or the more generalised name of Anicinàpe.
The term "Algonquin" derives from the Maliseet word elakómkwik (ɛlæˈɡomoɡwik), "they are our relatives/allies".The tribe has also given its name to the much larger heterogeneous group of Algonquian-speaking peoples who stretch from Virginia to the Rocky Mountains and north to Hudson Bay. Most Algonquins, however, live in Quebec; the nine Algonquin bands in that province and one in Ontario have a combined population of about 11,000. (Popular usage reflects some confusion on the point, in that the term "Algonquin" is sometimes used—for example in this entry in the Catholic Encyclopedia—to refer to all Algonquian-speaking societies).
David Peat, founder of the Pari Center in Italy and who holds a PhD in theoretical physics from the University of Liverpool, along with David Bohm, met with a number of Algonquin elders because of their process-based (verb-based) language. The scientists found that the thought processes of the Algonquin elders were in tune with what those particular scientists held to be a quantum reality rather than that of a classical reality. Peat explains:
However, this interpretation of 'quantum reality' is regarded within the scientific mainstream as being idiosyncratic and obsolete, if not discredited, and is commonly associated with pseudoscientific quantum mysticism.
After contact with the Europeans, the Algonkins became one of the key players in the fur trade. This led them to fight against the Iroquois because of their rivalry in the fur trade; and they formed an alliance with the Montagnais to the east in 1570.
The first group of Algonquian that the French encountered were the Kitcisìpiriniwak ("Ottawa River Men"; singular: Kitcisìpirini) whose village was located on an island in the Ottawa River; the French called this group "La Nation de l'Isle." The Algonquins first met Europeans when Samuel de Champlain came upon a party of Algonquins, led by the Kitcisìpirini Chief Tessouat at Tadoussac in the summer of 1603. They were celebrating with the Montagnais and Etechemins (Malecite) a recent victory over the Iroquois. Champlain did not understand the strong totem/clan system that socially united the Algonquins rather than the European-styled politically united concept of nationhood. Consequently, there were several Algonquin bands, each with its own chief, needing political approval from each of the band's clan leaders. So, from 1603 some of the Algonquins allied themselves with the French under Samuel de Champlain.
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, 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 and had prospered through the collection of beaver pelts from native traders passing through their territory. They pointed with great pride to their corn fields, a skill that they seemed to have acquired just before the arrival of the French. At first, the term "Algonquin" was used only for a second group, the Wàwàckeciriniwak. However, by 1615 the name was applied to all of the Algonquin bands living along the Ottawa River. Because of keen interest 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, maintaining the Omàmiwinini identity and territory.
In 1632, after Sir David Kirke's occupation of New France demonstrated French colonial vulnerability, the French began to trade muskets to the Algonquins and their allies. French Jesuits began to actively seek Algonquin conversions to Roman Catholicism, dividing traditionalists and converts.
Through all of these years, the Iroquois never attacked the Kitcisìpirinik fortress, but in 1642 a surprise winter raid hit the Algonkin while most of their warriors were absent and inflicted severe casualties. On March 6 1647 (Ash Wednesday), a large Mohawk war party hit the Kitcisìpiriniwak living near Trois-Rivières and almost exterminated them. The Kitcisìpiriniwak were still at Morrison Island in 1650 and inspired respect with their 400 warriors. When the French retreated from the Huron country that year, Tessouat is reported to have had the superior of the Jesuit mission suspended by his armpits because he refused to offer him the customary presents for being allowed to travel through Algonquin territory. Some joined the mission at Sillery and were mostly destroyed by an epidemic by 1676. Others, encouraged by the French, remained at Trois-Rivières, and their settlement at nearby Pointe-du-Lac remained until about 1830, when the last 14 families, numbering about 50 moved to Oka. The Sulpician Mission of the Mountain was founded at Montreal in 1677, and some Algonquins settled there together with Iroquois converts. However many did maintain attachment to the traditional territory and the trading traditions. While those that agreed to move to the established reserves or joined other historic bands and were then federally "recognized" many others did not re-locate and were later referred to as "stragglers" in the Ottawa and Pontiac Counties.
Though the Algonquins were defeated, they were never destroyed, and the Algonquin Indian culture lives on in pockets of their once-vast territory.
Loyalist settlers began encroaching on Algonquin lands shortly after the Revolution. Later in the 19th century, the lumber industry began to move up the Ottawa valley, and some Algonquins were relegated to a string of small reserves.
Although the historical Algonquin society was largely hunting- and fishing-based, some Algonquins practiced agriculture and cultivated corn, beans, and squash, the famous "Three Sisters" of indigenous horticulture. Being primarily a hunting nation, mobility was essential. Material used had to be light and easy to transport. Canoes were made of birch bark, sewed with spruce roots and rendered waterproof by the application of heated spruce resin and grease. During winter, toboggans were used to transport material, and people used snowshoes to get around. For babies, tikinàgan (cradleboard) were used to carry them. It was built with wood and covered with an envelope made of leather or material. The baby was standing up with his feet resting on a small board. The mother would then put the tikinàgan on her back. This allowed the infant to look around and observe his surroundings, therefore start learning how everyday tasks were done.
Algonquian-speaking people also practiced large amounts of agriculture, particularly south of the Great Lakes where the climate allows for a larger growing season. Other notable indigenous crops historically farmed by Algonquins are the sunflower and tobacco. Even among groups who mainly hunted, agricultural products were an important source of food and were obtained by trading with or raiding societies that practiced larger amounts of agriculture.
Archeological sites on Morrison Island near Pembroke, within the territory of the Kitcisìpiriniwak, reveal a 1,000-year-old culture that manufactured copper tools and weapons. Copper ore was extracted north of Lake Superior and distributed down to today's northern New York. Local pottery artifacts from this period show widespread similarities that indicate the continuing use of the river for cultural exchange throughout the Canadian Shield and beyond. Some centuries later the Algonquin tribe moved in and inhabited the islands and shores along the Ottawa, and by the 17th century the first Europeans found them well-established as a hunter-gatherer society in control of the river. The Kitcisìpiriniwak showed entrepreneurial spirit. On Morrison Island, at the location of where 5,000-year-old copper artifacts were discovered, the Kitcisìpirini band levied a toll on canoe flotillas descending the river.
In recent years, tensions with the lumber industry have flared up again among Algonkin communities, in response to the practice of clear-cutting. In Ontario, an ongoing Algonkin land claim has, since 1983, called into dispute much of the southeastern part of the province, stretching from near North Bay to near Hawkesbury and including Ottawa, Pembroke, and most of Algonquin Provincial Park.
Members of the Algonquin tribe began a peaceful blockade of a uranium mining operation on their sacred lands north of Kingston, Ontario on June 29, 2007. Oakville-based Frontenac Ventures, the prospecting company sought a court order to force the protesters from the area. A court injunction was obtained on August 27, 2007, and a series of arrests followed, including the Ardoch Algonquin First Nation co-Chiefs Robert Lovelace and Paula Sherman. Chief Lovelace is currently serving a six-month sentence for contempt of court for violating the injunction, which requires all protesters to remain at least 200 metres from the mining site. Chief Sherman also received a six month sentence, but it was suspended as she agreed to respect the injunction. Tens of thousands of dollars in fines have also been levied against them.
In addition to the charges of contempt, Frontenac Ventures is suing the Algonquins for $77 million.
On March 18, 2008, contempt charges were dropped "without costs" against three non-native activists: Frank Morrison and Christian Peacemakers David Milne and Reverend John Hudson. They had been charged with violating the same injunction as Lovelace and Sherman, but Frontenac Ventures declined to prosecute. During the same proceedings, however, warrants were obtained for the arrest of five other non-native activists who allegedly violated the injuncton.
These population figures are from Canada's Department of Indian and Northern Affairs