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American Indian History of the Algonquins

The Algonquin was a northern tribe that settled in Canada sometime around the 1400s and now have settled in Quebec and nearby Ontario. The Algonquian’s history was not exactly a pleasant one they suffered many hardships and obstacles to overcome.

Samuel de Champlain established the first permanent French settlement on St. Lawrence at Tadoussac in 1603. Champlain was so impressed with the Algonquin’s furs that he explored St. Lawrence as far west as the Lachine Rapids. Champlain left for France shortly afterwards, but upon his return in 1608, he immediately moved his fur trade upstream to a new post at Quebec to shorten the distance that the Algonquin were required to travel for trade.

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He soon discovered that Algonquin victories over the Iroquois were not that common, and it was the Mohawk, not the Algonquin, who dominated the upper river. So Samuel usually did not help the Algonquian fight. The Algonquin usually avoided the river because of the threat of Mohawk war parties.

The Algonquin fought with the French and helped them when times were rough, but it wasn’t long until the French that they needed to get rid of them and move them away from their villages, so the French turned against the Algonquians. In 1649 French and Indian refugees streamed down the Ottawa Valley to the relative safety of Montreal.

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In 1650 the remaining Algonquin in the upper Ottawa Valley were attacked and overrun. The survivors retreated, either far to headwaters of the rivers feeding the Upper Ottawa River where the Cree afforded a certain amount of support and protection. During the next twenty years, the Algonquin pretty much dropped out of sight so far as the French were concerned.

Learning from their earlier mistakes, the French insisted that this agreement also include their allies and trading partners. This not only allowed French traders and missionaries to travel to the western Great Lakes but also permitted the Algonquin to begin a slow return to the northern part of the Ottawa Valley. Conquest and returning had been hard on them, and not many were left maybe only 2000.

The epidemics which struck Sillery in 1676 and 1679 had reduced the Christian Algonquin survivors to only a handful, most of whom were subsequently absorbed by the Abenaki at St. Francois after the closure of the Sillery mission in 1685. During the 20-year absence of the Algonquin from the Ottawa Valley, the Ottawa had come to dominate the French fur trade with the western Great Lakes. So much so that any native fur trader visiting Montreal during this period was routinely referred to as an Ottawa even though many were Algonquin and Ojibwe.

The Algonquians went through many hardships only to settle between Quebec and Ontario. When the French drove them away and other tribes it changed their lives forever, a once thought friend was then their enemy and they could not be beaten.

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American Indian History of the Algonquins. (2021, Feb 15). Retrieved January 28, 2023, from