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The Heritage Of The Algonquians


Suzanne Dexter


The Algonquians, how did they get here, where did theycome from? These travelers ancestors can be traced from Atlantic to Atlanticagain. Most historians believe that they came from Asia in little bandsthat crossed the glacial ice over to the New World over 4,500 years ago.

Algonquians started out as one tribe. But they broke upand made other tribes. Algonquian is just a language now. The tribes thathad lived here where the Sioux (the Santee Dakota side), the Assiniboinesand the Mandams. There are forty-eight other tribes that derived from theAlgonquian language. Most of the northern hunters spoke Algonquian dialectsand most of the hunters were of that racial strain.

Some historians believe that the heritage of the Algonquiansoriginated from the dark branch of the white race which originated in Spain.

Some of the Algonquian's crafts were very unique. Theirpottery was identified by the pattern made by a cord wrapped paddle pressedto the damp clay. They also made polished stone axes which were very usefulin the woods.

The Algonquians made their houses like the Iroquious longhouses.Even though the Algonquians were of one blood they fought each other. "Encroachments"on hunting preserves, occasional woman stealing, murder, or just pure "devilment~were excuses enough to start a neighborly war. So, a couple of big fortsor huts were built so people could go there during these disputes.

The Red River Plains Indians they were called. They dependedon the horses and gun for their livelihood. There were no horses that originatedin the New World. The wild horses came from the South from the immigratingSpaniards. By the time the horses got up North there were guns. Both ofthese advantages were useful.

But the moving in of the white people increased pressures.The Algonquians were great warriors and shot buffalo for their livelihood.But when the whites started moving in the buffalo started to disappear.When buffalo disappeared, the Plains culture vanished. Their cultures hadbeen engulfed by the white man.

"Then things started to happen so by 1862 there wasan uprising of the eastern Minnesota Sioux. After this fierce war, accompaniedby burning, murdering, and pillaging of whites, the Indians were defeatedand some of their leaders were hanged.

Little Crow, the chief architect of the uprising, escapedbut was later shot by a settler. The shattered bands escaped into Canadaor went back on the plains to join their relatives the Tetons. The Minnesotaturmoil excited the entire western country, and settlers and miners whonow feared trouble from the plains tribes, appeared for military protection.Volunteer troops were hurried to the Missouri, Platte, and Arkansas rivers,and the renewed tension soon lead to clashes. (2) and

This is a story about an Algonquian ancestor that showedthat even in the sixteen hundreds the whites were interfering. This happenedat the Jamestown colony, the girl, Pocahontas.

The English founded their first permanent settlement inthe United States at Jamestown, Virginia, in 1607. The land about them wasoccupied by the Algonquians. The chief, Powhatan, had organized the tribesof the region into the Powhatan Confederacy.

Powhatan had a lovely daughter, Pocahontas. When the Powhatanscaptured Captain John Smith, one of the leaders of the Jamestown colony,and were going to kill him, Pocahontas pleaded with her father and savedthe white man's life. In 1612, the princess was "decoyed aboard anEnglish ship" (3) and brought to Jamestown. There she met John Rolfe,an English planter, who fell in love with and married her. In 1616, Pocahontaswent to England with her husband and was presented to the King and Queenof England. There was a portrait painted of her in England. The pictureshows the homesick Indian girl dressed in the finery of a London lady. TheEnglish climate proved too harsh, and in 1617 Pocahontas died.

It was mainly due to Pocahontas that Powhatan kept peacewith the settlers. After the chief died in 1618, the Indians and the Englishdid not get along very well. Four years later they were "warring.~

There were many other stories and legends of the Algonquiansbut most of them forgotten. Some of the things that are around us, wheredid they come from, who discovered it or named it? The great fish that sportsmengo fishing for in the Great Lakes,. the muskie. The Algonquians named itthe muskellunge. What else is remembered about these people. Is there anybodywho really remembers there are legendary people that have more right tobe here than we do. Was it any good for them to have moved here 4,500 yearsago? Just to lose what they thought they had gained? Some of these peopleare maybe better off. To have the government move to where it is more convenientfor them instead of the real people. But maybe it's better they have a placeto live and somebody to work for on somebody else's land. But what meansmore than to have your land and life to have your own freedom.

(1) American Indians", Colliers Encyclopedia, Volume12, c. 1964 p. 687B

(2) American Indians", Colliers Encyclopedia Volume12 c. 1964 p. 687B

(3) The story is from the Book of Knowledge by Grolier.



Groliers, "Algonquians." The Book of Knowledgec 1966 p. 1,342

Shores, Louis. "American Indians." Collier'sEncyclopedia c 1964 p. 642

Tunis, Edwin. "Frontier Living" Indians. UnitedStates Social Life and Customs c 1961 p. 25

Tunis, Edwin. "Frontier Living" Indians. UnitedStates Social Life and Customs c 1961 p. 25