The name Algonquin comes from the Maliseet word elakómkwik, meaning
they are our relatives or allies. The Algonquin people were a
patrilineal group & are closely related to Odawa & Ojibwe, both
culturally and linguistically. However it should be noted that there
is a difference between Algonquin and Algonquain. Algonquian is a type
of language spoken and the previous is the indigenous group. Prior to
contact with the Europeans, the Algonquin society was largely based on
hunting and fishing. They participated in some agriculture,
specifically the 3 sisters (Corn, Beans and squash). Due to the fact
that they did rely so heavily on hunting, it meant that they were
excellent hunters and trappers. Both qualities that were quite useful
in the eyes of the Europeans that they came in to contact with. After
encountering the Europeans, the Algonquins became very active
participants in the fur trade.
The Algonquin peoples first came into contact with the French along the Ottawa River, in the area of present day Quebec. The Algonquin also came into contact with Samuel de Champlain, the founder of Quebec City and the person responsible opening the St. Lawrence and spreading the French influence into the great lakes.
The Algonquin people lived along the Ottawa River valley. This is where they came into contact with explorers who were travelling further inland from the Montreal area. They wanted to explore, profit and convert the native populations along the bodies of water that facilitated easy travel and trade.
French settlers first entered the Algonquin tribe’s territory for the primary reason of trading. The Algonquin, who’s territory took up a large area of what is now known as the Canadian shield, had access to a very large amount of furs, and were adept hunters and trappers. The French were primarily interested in trading firearms, metal goods, luxury items, and blankets with the Algonquin, in exchange for animal pelts. The Algonquin – who’s territory sat between Cree villages and Hudson Bay company outposts – soon also became middlemen for the French traders interactions with the Cree. These good relations eventually led to an alliance between the Algonquin and the French, further aiding the French in their goal to trade for furs and other good with the native groups of Canada.
The Algonquin people were situated near what today is the Ottawa-Gatineau area. During the 1630’s and forward the Iroquois had dominated the neighbouring tribes, such as the Algonquin people. This was due to the help that the Iroquois received from the Dutch, help in the form of firearms. With such a technological advantage the Iroquois dominated its neighbouring tribes in search for tradable goods, such as furs. However, with the settlement of the New World becoming a more prominent goal for more European countries, other Native Tribes made alliances. The Iroquois had been a thorn in the side of the French due to the fighting of French colonies trading partners along the St. Lawrence. They made alliances with the Algonquin peoples. The Algonquin people had a positive reaction to the Europeans because of the power that they gave them. Without the firearm help from the French, they were going to continue to get over-powered by the technologically advantaged Iroquois people. The French-Algonquin allegiance helped them climb back to being a powerful tribe once again.
Richter, Daniel K.. Face East from Indian Country: A Native History of Early America. Massachusetts: Harvard University Press , 2001.
The European settlers who encountered the Algonquin peoples of North America were France during the exploration of Samuel de Champlain in 1608. In the following year of 1609, Champlain and the settlers of Quebec City would encounter the Algonquins. This occurred from a rough winter were the majority of Champlain’s settlers had died from disease. The French had made an alliance with the Algonquins allowing them to keep their early settlements in the new world. During this period the Algonquins and the Iroquois were at war, this gave Champlain and his settlers a way to help the Algonquin people. In this encounter Champlain is remember for facing off against a much larger group of Iroquois warriors with a small number of Algonquins. Introducing the North American peoples to the European invention of gun powder. The French had learned of the tensions between the two tribes along with the warrior mentality and finally the war between the Algonquins and Iroquois would teach the French settlers that war did not happen for the consumption of land.