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Algonquian / Roanoke

The Algonquian peoples are a group of Native American tribes spread

throughout North America which includes many important tribes such as the

Roanoke that have been part of important history. They have typical Native

American religious beliefs that are similar to what we learned about in class.

The Algonquian (or algonkian) is a linguistic group of many different

native American tribes that speak similar language. Algonquian language

speaking tribes originated in modern day Ontario and spread throughout the

east coast of both Canada and North America. Modern day tribes in this

group are spread across the United States due to relocation throughout

history (bigorrin). One of the tribes in this group, the Roanoke tribe, was the

tribe that made first contact with the first group of English settlers in the new

world on Roanoke Island. I chose to focus on this linguistic group and tribe

because I grew up on Roanoke Island which is part of the Outer Banks on the

coast of North Carolina. Roanoke Island is split into two towns. Manteo,

where I come from, and Wanchese. These towns are named after two chiefs

of the Roanoke Tribe that travelled to London to help the Englishmen

decipher and learn the Algonquian language to better communicate with

many of the tribes across the new world. Growing up in Manteo we learned a

lot about Native American culture through elementary school trips to festival

park and the lost colony. Both locations are rich in Native American culture

filled with artifacts, paintings, and stories of the Roanoke Tribe.

There are many other tribes other than the Roanoke that belong to the

Algonquian group. Some like the Beothuk and Wappinger tribes have gone

extinct but with over half a million Algonquian people alive today the

majority are still alive (bigorrin). Some examples of tribes that still exist are

the Lumbees, Abenakis, Potawatomis, Shawnees, Wiyot, and Yurok (bigorrin).

Algonquian the word itself translates to a place for spearing fishes

and eels. The weather conditions of Canada made it difficult for the

Algonquian people to grow food so they moved place to place to hunt, fish,

and gather berries and other wild plants (history). The Algonquian people

travelled both on foot and canoes during warm weather, and with snowshoes

and toboggans in the winter months (history). They used animal skins for

both their homes, called wigwams, and clothes (history).

The religion beliefs of tribes belonging to the Algonquian group were

typical for Native Americans. They believed in a spirit world that interacted

with the physical world, and their spiritual leaders were shamans. Shamans

were the only people that could interact with the spirit world and convert its

power and influence to the physical one. These shamans, also called

medicine men, preformed healing rituals to heal the sick by expelling evil

spirits (first). Shamans also had the power to put a curse on someone and

inflict them with sickness (classroom). Shamans had dreams or visions which

they used to guide their tribe. For instance, if a shaman had a vision of an

animal herd in a specific area the hunters would venture out and hunt in that

spot (classroom).
Instead of a monotheistic or polytheistic religion like most of us are

familiar with, the Algonquian religion was based on an all-powerful force

known as Kitchi Manitou. Kitchi Manitou is a spiritual force present not only in

living creatures, but also in inanimate objects such as rocks, and even the

sun and moon (classroom). This is the concept of animism that we learned in


There was also a demon spirit that the Algonquian believed in known

as the Wendigo. When people would get lost in the woods they would be

possessed by the evil spirit and return to the tribe as a violent and antisocial

cannibal. They would consume human flesh to give power to the evil spirit

and could only be stopped if the host was killed and burned to ashes. There

are other ways to be possessed by the Wendigo, such as a shaman cursing

you with the evil spirit or being bitten by one (classroom).

The different tribes of the Algonquian people preformed many different

ceremonies throughout the year. These ceremonies involved feasts and

usually celebrated some sort of change. For example, to celebrate the

changing of nature ceremonies were held when the seasons changed

(classroom). The Algonquian peoples also had rites of passage similar to

what we learned about in class, celebrating the change of the state of life of

a specific person. These different stages of life include birth, puberty,

marriage, and death (classroom). Algonquian people painted their face

different colors to celebrate these different ceremonies. Red signified life,

black signified death or grievance, and purple was used for other special
occasions. Algonquian people wore masks in these ceremonies to ward off

evil spirits. They also carried with them sacred beads called wampum which

are made of small shells (classroom).

One tribe of the Algonquian peoples located in Quebec has what is

known as one of the most dangerous rites of passage of all indigenous

cultures. In order to transition from boy to man boys are taken to a secluded

area and are force fed a plant known as the wysoccan. This plant contains a

deadly hallucinogen called the deadly Datura that is said to be 100 times

more dangerous than LSD. Some of the effects of this drug are amnesia,

racing heartbeat, and hypothermia (cracked). This is supposed to make the

boys forget their memories of childhood but in many cases these boys forget

their family members or even how to speak (cracked).

In summary, the Algonquian are a major part of Native American

culture in North America. Being spread out across the continent and being

the first ones to contact the English settlers. They have mostly normal rituals

and religious beliefs, but with being such a widespread culture there are

some distinct tribal variations.

Works Cited:

The Algonquians (History)

This source showed me the history of the Algonquian tribes and part of their culture

Algonquian Indian Tribes (bigorrin)

I used this source for information on the different tribes and where they are located.

The 5 Most Terrifying Rites of Manhood from Around the World

Michael Daye-Seanbaby -Evan Symon-Isaac Cabe-David Wong-Gladstone


I used this source for information one of the dangerous rites of passage

Algonquin American Indian Tribe Beliefs

Leaf Writer -

7457.html (classroom)

I used this source for information on the religion of the different Algonquian tribes.

The Eastern Woodland Hunters - Religion / Ceremonies / Art / Clothing (first)

I used this source as well for information on the religion of the different Algonquian tribes.