Algonquian (Algonkin) Tribe

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Native Americans were the first people to live in America. Learn more about the Algonquian (Algonkin) tribe.

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Algonquian Tribe

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Both Algonkin and Algonquin are correct spellings for the name of the tribe, but Algonquian either refers to their language or, collectively, to the group of tribes that speak related Algonquian languages. The source of Algonkin is unclear, other than the names of their bands; the Algonkin do not appear to have had a name for themselves as people. In 1768, the British estimated the total number of the Seminole Indians to be 1,500. Currently, there is almost 8,000 Algonkin in Canada organized into ten separate First Nations: nine in Quebec and one in Ontario.


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The Algonkin maintain that their ancestors originally migrated to the upper Saint Lawrence Valley from the east, a tradition they share with the closely related Ojibwe, Ottawa, and Pottawatomie. The timing of this seems to have been sometime around 1400, but when Jacques Cartier made his first visit to the St. Lawrence River in 1534, he found Iroquois-speaking people living along the river between Quebec (Stadacona) and the rapids at Montreal (Hochelaga).

"Algonquian" is not the name of a native tribe or nation; it is a language family, like "Roman" or "Indo-European". There are no "Algonquian Indians". There are dozens of North American Nations that speak Algonquian language all across the United States. The languages and their speakers are as different from each other as French and Spanish and Italian are. Most of the New England tribes spoke Algonquian languages, and many of the "Indian" words common in English today - such as raccoon, succotash, Massachusetts, moccasin, etc. - are from one or another of the Algonquian languages, such as Abenaki, Wampanoag, Nipmuc, Penboscot, Shawnee and Delaware.


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The Algonkin lived somewhat outside the wild rice region that provided an important part of the diet for other tribes in the northern Great Lakes. The Algonkin relied heavily on hunting for their food, which made them excellent hunters, and trappers, skills which quickly attracted the attention of French fur traders after 1603. A few southern bands were just beginning to grow corn in 1608. The Algonkin also made good use of their birch-bark canoes to travel great distances for trade, and their considered location on the Ottawa River became the preferred route between the French on the St. Lawrence River and the tribes of the western Great Lakes.

Algonquian, if for no other reason, the Algonkin would be famous because their name has been used for the largest native language group in North America. The downside is the confusion generated, and many do not realize that there actually was an Algonkin tribe, or that all Algonquian do not belong to the same tribe. They hail from the Ottawa River Valley, which forms the present border between Ontario and Quebec. At the time of their first meeting with the French in 1603, the various Algonkin bands probably had a combined population somewhere in the area of 6,000.


Books on the Algonquian

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Links to other sites on the Algonquian

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Algonkin History http://www.tolatsga.org/alg.html
Algonquin Tribe http://www.kipawa.com/algonqui.htm
Algonquian Family of Indians http://faculty.marianopolis.edu/c.belanger/
Algonquin http://www.mongabay.com/indigenous_
Algonquin Culture and History http://www.native-languages.org/algonquin_culture.htm
People, History and Culture http://www.archaeolink.com/
Native Arts http://www.aaanativearts.com/
Pottawattomi Indian Tribe http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.
Algonquin http://www.dmoz.org/Society/Ethnicity/

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