Tribes

Homes

Food

Clothing

Beliefs and Customs

Children

Tribal Organization

Task

The Algonquians

     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.

 Tribes

     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. 

 

Homes

     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.

 

Food

     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.

      Tobacco was also grown. It was grown by the men and it was used for religious ceremonies.

      During the spring, summer and early fall the Algonquians depended on there crops. They also ate the fish that was abundant in the rivers and streams of what would later become known as New York. As fall became winter the Algonquian men hunted to provide food for the tribe. Mostly they hunted deer but they also hunted turkeys, bear, moose, and ducks. Sometimes they would also eat pigeons and crows. They hunted with bows that were made from oak, hickory or maple branches. The bows had bow strings made from animal skins. The strings were pulled very tight  from one end of the branch to the other. The branch had to be curved. Sometimes the Algonquians heated the wood so that it could be bent into the right shape. The also made their own arrows from straight, strong, sharpened, branches. At the end of the arrow a feather was fastened to help the arrow travel through the air steadily. Tied on the end of the arrow was an arrowhead which was a very sharp triangular rock.

     They also set traps for animals. The traps were made by tying nooses to small sapling trees and bending them and weighing them toward the ground with acorns. An animal would eat the acorns and the tree would no longer be weighed down. The noose would tighten around the animalís leg and suspend it in the air. One of the jobs of the women and children was to check the traps to see if an animal had been caught. When one was it would be killed and eaten.

 

Clothing

     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.

 

Beliefs and Customs

     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.

      Each tribe had a medicine man called a shaman or sometimes called a powwow. The medicine manís job was to make the sick better by praying over them and giving them herbs. One of the major things the medicine man used was tobacco. Sometimes they had meetings called Powwows so the medicine man could give the people a chance to ask him questions about the future of problems they were having and he could tell them his visions for the future.

 

Children

     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.

      Many times the children listened to stories told by the older members of the tribe. It was by listening to the stories that the children learned about their people and the ways of their tribe.

 

Tribal Organization

     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.