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Definition: Algonquin from Philip's Encyclopedia

(Algonkin) Group of Canadian Native American tribes that gave their name to the Algonquian languages of North America. The Algonquin people occupied the Ottawa River area in c.AD 1600. Driven from their home by the Iroquois in the 17th century, they were eventually absorbed into other related tribes in Canada.

Summary Article: ALGONQUIANS
From Handy Answer: Native American Almanac: More Than 50,000 Years of the Cultures and Histories of Indigenous Peoples

Algonquian groups lived in settlements of dome-shaped houses and longhouses. They fished, farmed, and foraged as well as hunted. The Indians along the rivers and coastline did not “roam” the land. They moved between a summer place near shorelines to a winter place, a short walk inland, protected from winter storms and tides. As people moved throughout the large region and westward, their cultural traditions diversified.


The Wampanoag (“Eastern People”) were formerly known as Pokanoket, which originally was the name of Massasoit's village but came to the designation of all territory and people under the renowned sachem (leader). The Wampanoag have lived in their homeland for thousands of years.

This map shows (in dark grey) the regions where the Algonquin language was spoken before the arrival of Europeans.

The men hunted fowl and small and large game, especially the white-tailed deer. The people also ate seals and beached whales as well as shellfish and fresh-water fish. Women gathered roots, wild fruits, berries, and nuts as well as maple syrup for sugar. Women began growing corn, beans, and squash in precontact time. Wampanoag developed special hunting traps, snares, nets, witch hazel bows, and arrows as well as fishing nets, bone hooks, and weirs to catch fish.

The Wampanoag built wetus (wigwams), arched wooden poles lashed together into a dome covered by tightly woven, removable mats that were well adapted to the climate. During Massachusetts winters, a fire burned in the center of the wetu with the smoke venting through a hole in the center of the roof. The homes of the English of the early 1600s were also heated by fires under central roof holes so they did not find the wetu primitive. According to colonist William Wood, the wetu's multiple layers of mats, which trapped insulating layers of air, were “warmer than our English houses.” Wood admired the way the mats “deny entrance to any drop of rain though it come both fierce and long.”

The Wampanoag have a unique place in U.S. history. Their ancestors greeted the Pilgrims in 1620. The Grand Sachem Massasoit made a treaty of friendship with the English colonists. Massasoit, Tisquantum (Squanto), a Patuxet (a band of the Wampanoag tribal confederation), and other Wampanoag people helped the English survive by showing them how to rotate crops to maintain soil fertility in a land alien to them.

In early autumn of 1621, the fifty-three surviving English Pilgrims celebrated their successful harvest, as was the custom. That 1621 celebration is remembered as the “first Thanksgiving in Plymouth.” There are two (and only two) primary source descriptions of the events of the fall of 1621. In Mourt's Relation (about 1620), Edward Winslow wrote:

… our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might after a special manner rejoice together, after we had gathered the fruits of our labors; the four in one day killed as much fowl, as with a little help beside, served the Company almost a week, at which time among other Recreations, we exercised our Arms, many of the Indians coming among us, and among the rest their greatest king Massasoit, with some ninety men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed five Deer, which they brought to the Plantation and bestowed on our Governor, and upon the Captain and others, and although it be not always so plentiful, as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so far from want, that we often wish you partakers of our plenty.

In Of Plymouth Plantation (written between 1630 and 1646), William Bradford, founder and longtime governor of the Plymouth Colony, wrote:

They began now to gather in the small harvest they had, and to fit up their houses and dwellings against winter, being all well recovered in health and strength and had all things in good plenty, for as some were thus employed in affairs abroad, others were exercised in fishing, about cod and bass and other fish, of which they took good store, of which every family had their portion. All the summer there was no want; and now began to come in store of fowl, as winter approached, of which this place did abound when they came first (but afterward decreased by degrees), and besides waterfowl, there was great store of wild turkeys, of which they took many, besides venison, etc. Besides, they had about a peck of meal a week to a person, or now since harvest, Indian corn to that proportion. Which made many afterward write so largely of their plenty here to their friends in England, which were not feigned but true reports.

The Pilgrims did not call this harvest festival a “Thanksgiving” although they did give thanks to God. To them, a Day of Thanksgiving was purely religious. The first recorded religious Day of Thanksgiving was held in 1623 in response to a providential rainfall. The religious Day of Thanksgiving and the harvest festival evolved into a single event: a yearly Thanksgiving, proclaimed by individual governors for a Thursday in November. The custom of an annual Thanksgiving celebrating abundance and family spread across America. Some presidents proclaimed Thanksgivings; others did not. Abraham Lincoln began the tradition of an annual national Thanksgiving in 1863.

National Thanksgiving Day observances are largely filled with myths and misinformation. Popular American folklore suggests the “first Thanksgiving” was an idyllic feast. This myth, which ignores the fact that the feast was never repeated and that Thanksgiving is an invented holiday, runs contrary to many realities. The tale ignores the Pilgrims, who plundered a Native person's store of corn for the winter and opened some graves; ignores the Wampanoag, who brought most of the food; ignores the Pilgrims, who viewed Wampanoag as heathens and savages; and ignores the Pilgrims, who did not even call the three-day event “Thanksgiving.” Thanksgiving observances omit the fact that virtually all Native nations have ritual ceremonies of giving thanks to the Creator, ceremonies established long before the “Thanksgiving” in 1621 took place.

Massasoit died in 1662. At that time, his second son, Metacomet (also known as Metacom), also known as Philip, renewed the peace. However, relations were strained by British abuses such as the illegal occupation of land; trickery, often involving the use of alcohol; and the destruction of resources, including forests and game. Diseases also continued to take a toll on the population.

Lenape (Delaware)

Lenape people settled centuries ago in southeastern Pennsylvania, northern Delaware, northern New Jersey, southern New York, and southeastern Connecticut. The name comes from the Englishman Lord De La Warr, after whom a bay, river, and U.S. state all later came to be called Delaware. The tribe's own name for itself is Lenni–Lenape, or “true men” or “first people” in the Algonquian language.

The Lenape lived in small communities of twenty-five to thirty people. They usually lived near a stream at the edge of a forest. Elm and chestnut trees provided saplings needed to make their bark-covered wigwams (houses) shaped like a dome. Men tied saplings together to form the rounded shape, wrapped the structures with layers of bark, and covered the doorways with animal skins. Each home had an opening on the roof to allow smoke from the cooking fire to escape. Pieces of bark covered the opening during bad weather.

Some Lenape Indians preferred Iroquoian-style longhouses to wigwams because more family members could live in a longhouse sixty feet long and twenty feet across. They were made with rounded ends and curved roofs. Each Lenape family had its own “apartment” and its own fireplace.

The Lenape lived in environments filled with sea animals, birds, and larger mammals such as deer. They grew crops, including corn, beans, and squash. The women gathered fruits, berries, and nuts. The men hunted and fished. Oysters, clams, and shellfish were plentiful in the waters.

In 1683, Tamanend, the Lenape leader, and other tribal representatives signed a treaty of peace and friendship with English Quaker William Penn, the founder of Pennsylvania. Of all early colonial leaders, Penn is believed to have been the most fair in his dealing with Native peoples. Penn promised peace and religious freedom to the Lenape who lived in the colony. The Lenape were also the first Indian tribe to sign a treaty with the newly formed U.S. government at Fort Pitt (present-day Pittsburgh) in 1778.

Although the Lenape seemed to get along with the colonists at first, conflicts later emerged that forced many Lenape to Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma) and Canada. Today, surviving eastern Lenape groups include Nanticoke, Ramapough, Sand Hill, and other groups in Pennsylvania and Ohio.

A woman wears traditional Lenape ribbonwork in this c. 1920s photo.

Copyright © 2016 by Visible Ink Press

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