Collectively, we know ourselves as Omàmìwininì, which loosely translates to “down river people.” Calling ourselves Omàmìwininì is an exemplification of the depth of our connection to the rivers in our territory. However, we are more commonly known as Algonquin.
The source of the term Algonquin is unclear. It is said that ‘Algonquin’ may mean “the dancers” or “at the place of spearing fishes and eels from the bow of a canoe” (Algonquins of Pikwakanagan, 2018). The term ‘algoumequin’ was first recorded by Samuel de Champlain in 1603 and is said to have been based on a Wəlastəkwewiyik (Maliseet) word, elakómkwik, which means “they are our relatives/allies” (Day and Trigger, 1978). It is important to note the context in which this name is being recorded. In 1603, Henry IV, the King of France, was represented in the ‘New World’ by François Gravé Du Pont and Champlain and was interested in maintaining good relations with Indigenous nations to negotiate trade agreements, learn details regarding hunting and trapping areas, and then convert them to Christianity. On behalf of 1,000 Innu (Montagnais), Algonquin, and Wəlastəkwewiyik, Innu Chief Anadabijou was willing to enter into an alliance with the French, so long as the French would help combat the growing threat of Haudenosaunee people conducting raids in what is now known as the St. Lawrence Valley. This alliance brought together several nations including the Innu, Algonquin, Wəlastəkwewiyik, and Mi’kmaq (Day and Trigger, 1978). While we cannot know a definitive definition of the term Algonquin, it is probable that it is an adapted version of elakómkwik, based on the alliances formed during this time. Although the term is more well known to identify the Nation, contemporary use of the term ‘Algonquin’ by Omàmìwininì people is a powerful indication of the cognitive impacts of colonization (Sherman, 2007, p. 27).
To respectfully borrow from Understanding the Complexities of Algonquin Identity: Supporting Nation-Based Reconnection and Resurgence by Christine Luckasavitch, Owner/Executive Consultant of Waaseyaa Consulting
Photo Credit: Alyssa Bardy, Chicory Wild Creative
Words: Christine Luckasavitch