The Algonquians were one of the two main groups of woodland tribes. (the other is the Iroquois) What divided them was the fact that they spoke different languages. The Algonquians were a small tribe of Native Americans who settled along the east coast from Maine to Virginia but many of them settled in New England in what later became New York. The Algonquians were the Native Americans who lived in Massachusetts when the pilgrims came to Plymouth and they were the Native Americans who helped the pilgrims learn about the new land they had chosen to come to. If the Algonquians, who were friendly, had not lived in New England the pilgrims would not have survived. Unfortunately they were not treated as well by the Europeans who came to settle in America and were eventually destroyed by them.
The tribes that were Algonquian were the Mahicans, the Mohegans, the Pesquots, the Narragansetts, the Wampanoags, the Penobscots, the Abnakis, the Mantanuks, the Delawares, and the Powhatans.
Wigwams were the homes the Algonquians built and lived in. They were dome shaped and were built to be many different sizes. Some were relatively small and others were built big enough for 40 people to live in. They were built by using small trees. The trees were stuck firmly into the ground across from each other and then bent so that the tops would meet each other. The tops were tied together. This work the men would do. Then the women would tie bark and woven mats to the trees to enclose the frame the trees were used to create. A hole was left in the center so that the smoke from the fire that burned in the middle of the wigwam could escape. The fire was used to keep people warm and for cooking.
The Algonquians planted and tended to crops. They made their own tools with branches and shells to hoe the soil. The crops that they planted were corn, beans, squash and pumpkins. Women and children spent their time during the spring planting and summer and fall taking care of the crops. Corn was extremely important to the Algonquians. The woman dried the corn and ground it into cornmeal. The Algonquians dried the vegetables and stored them so that they could be used during the wintertime when no new food could be grown.
The Algonquians used the skins from animals they caught to make their clothing. What they wore depended on the time of year. During the hot months the men wore only a deerskin loincloth and the women a deer skin apron. They made moccasins out of animal skins and the moccasins as well as their other clothing was made more beautiful by attaching beads, quills and shells to them. When the weather became colder they added more and more animals skins wearing cloaks and robes to keep themselves warm.
The Algonquians believed in one spirit named Kautantowwit. They believed that they would join the spirit when they died. They also believed that all poisonous reptiles and poisonous plants were created by an evil spirit named Hanegoategeh. The Algonquians made sacrifices to both spirits. They believed the spirit Kautantowwit showed itself in the animals and through nature. Because of this when they killed an animal they first asked for forgiveness. They treated the animal with respect and care. After the animal was killed they said prayers over it and they never wasted any part of the animal. If they had extra they shared with another family.
All the children had chores they had to such as helping with the crops and helping to make arrowheads. But they also had plenty of time to play. They played games, had races, and played dart games to help them learn how to shoot a bow and arrow.
Every tribe had a leader. The leader was called a sachem. The sachem
wasnít elected but rather became sachem because he was born into a
family of leaders. Once a sachem became too old to lead to tribe or died
his son or another relative ready to do the job would take over. It was
the sachemís job to make the rules for the tribe and to take care of
the tribe. All of the people in the tribe thought the sachem was wise
and acting in the best interest of the tribe and its members. The sachem
did have a council of tribe members who helped him to make decisions.
They were called his sagamores. The people in the tribe gave the sachem
gifts and they also gave him part of what they grew or hunted.
The sachem was in charge of the land the tribe lived on and decided
about selling any of the land.
Created for the Nanuet Public School District by Iris Heller, Meg DeMont, and Nancy Bonner.
Art work created by students in the 2007 - 2008 4th grade.