Algonquin & Snimikobi History
The Algonquin people have lived on and occupied the area known as Eastern Ontario for over 10,000 years. They occupied what is described as the watersheds of the Ottawa and Mattawa Rivers encompassing an area from modern day North Bay to the Ontario/Quebec border east of Hawkesbury and includes approximately 9 million acres known to Algonquins as the Algonquin traditional territory.
Pre-historic Algonquin peoples were organized into small, family-based groups and were called tribes or bands. They would use the resources of the land co-operatively. They moved from place to place within defined geographic areas hunting, fishing, trapping and gathering according to their needs. In these early times survival would have been the main goal.
As the Algonquins evolved so did their structure. Each of these bands would have a chief and several groups of families. Each of the families would have a family head and would have their own individual harvesting area. These harvesting areas could be quite large. This structure is still evident today.
The Algonquins had their main areas for living and were also known to move throughout all of the Algonquin Territory for the purpose of hunting, fishing, trapping and gathering. If game started to decrease in an area they would gather in a different area. This is similar to modern day farming where farmers will rotate their crops and for the Algonquins these were their crops.
Many of the early Algonquin Villages were made up of birch bark structures known as wigwams and would have been found near the waterways. The waterways were the roadways of the time for the Algonquins. The Algonquins are known for the building of quality birch bark canoes. The summer travel was on foot or by canoe. In the winter they would travel by snowshoes and used toboggans for carrying their harvest.
The first recorded European contact with the Algonquins within the Algonquin traditional territory was in 1603 by Samuel du Champlain in what is known today as the Ottawa Valley. He wrote about his encounters with the Algonquins on the Ottawa River collecting tolls from the people who passed along the river. They would charge people such as the Hurons for going up or down the Ottawa River. No one was allowed to pass without paying tolls. The tolls would be such things as furs, corn etc. Samuel du Champlain talked a lot about the lucrative trade that the Algonquin’s had with the other tribes of this era. This area is believed to be near Allumette Island on the Ottawa River not far from Pembroke Ontario.
By the mid 1750’s there is historical evidence that individual members of the different Algonquin Villages were traveling to Lake of Two Mountains (Lac des deax Montagnes, or Oka, near Montreal Quebec) a French mission. This was a gathering area of the different bands such as the Nippissing, Mohawk, Ojibway, and Hurons etc. for cultural and trading purposes. These activities would take place in the summer months and the Algonquins would then return to their villages and hunting grounds within the Algonquin Territory by early fall.
By the early 1800’s increased pressure from non-Native settlements and economic activities, such as the timber trade were putting pressures on the Algonquin way of life. The traditional lands were being taken up by settlers, the fur stocks were being eliminated, and pressure was being put on the supply of fish and game. This was evident in the 1830 petition sent to the Administrator of Lower Canada, by Chief Constant Pinency who lived at Lake of Two Mountains and later lived on the Madawaska River near Burnstown Ontario. The petition stated, Chief Pinency requested assistance because all the game had been destroyed on his hunting grounds at the top of the Rideau River system. At the same time there were petitions coming from other Algonquin Chiefs throughout the Algonquin Territory. These early petitions until the more modern day petitions were the reasons that a land claim process to develop a modern day treaty was started between the Algonquins of Ontario, the Government of Canada and the Government of Ontario.
In present times the Algonquins can trace their membership to most parts of North America and some even as far away as the European Countries, but a very large percentage of the membership still lives within the Algonquin traditional territory , like our ancestors. The Algonquins in Ontario are in the process of developing a Nation. Today this Nation is known as the Algonquins of Ontario and is made up of 10 Communities. One reserve known as Algonquins of Pikwakanangan First Nation and 9 off-reserve Communities residing throughout the territory and they are: Antoine Algonquin First Nation, Bonnechere Algonquin First Nation, Algonquins of Greater Golden Lake First Nation, Kijicho Manito Madaouskarini Algonquins, Mattawa/Northbay Algonquin First Nation, Ottawa Algonquins, Shabot Obaadjiwan First Nation, Snimikobi Algonquin First Nation, and Whitney and Area Algonquins. This is the group that is presently working on a modern day treaty.
The Snimikobi Algonquin First Nation is one of the 10 Algonquin Communities. We represent the area centered by the Mississippi River. Many of the members of the Snimikobi Algonquin First Nation can trace their ancestry to Beckwith Township an area around Carleton Place and to Joes Lake named after Joeseph Whiteduck. Joes Lake is near Crotch Lake which is between Ardoch and Lavant Ontario. Both of these areas are part of the Mississippi River watershed. Our community was for a number of years known as the Ardoch Algonquin First Nation. The elders of the community felt that the name was a problem. Another group was using a similar name, as well this name did not truly represent our community. Our ancestors lived throughout the watershed of the Mississippi River. For this reason through a referendum our communities name was change to Snimikobi Algonquin First Nation, which translates to Beaver Creek. Beaver Creek was the name our ancestors called the part of the Mississippi River where our ancestors resided. We are now known as the Snimikobi Algonquin First Nation. The majority of the Snimikobi Algonquins still live within this area, an area that today includes the watersheds of Madawaska River to the north, and the watersheds of Rideau River to the south, with the watersheds of Mississippi being in the center.