ANG 160 Fall 2005
Not that long ago, way
before French and British even knew our continent existed, there were natives
living right where you stand today! A native is a person that has been
inhabiting a region from the very beginning.
Everyone has already heard of Christopher Columbus, who arrived on a ship
from England. But we often forget
that before him there were already humans living in Quebec, who were called
“First Nations people have been referred to as Indians, Native Americans,
Native Canadians, Aboriginal Americans, Amerindians, and Aboriginals” (Wikipedia).
During the years 1600’s, there were 14 000 Abenaki in the Eastern part of
New England and 12, 000 in the Western part.
A few years later, at contact with French and British colonists, many
natives died from desease such as smallpox
and neasles reducing the preceding numbers by 78% to 98% in only a few
is the name given to the tribe belonging to the Algonquian people of the
Northeast portion of North America. Living in small groups, they were able to
survive together; sharing the same language and rituals. Unfortunately, they
were forced to retreat North into Quebec and into the Maritime provinces because
of the New-England settlers and the war. “The
Abenakis settled in Quebec between 1676 and 1680 in the Sillery region and lived
on the banks of the Chaudière River near the falls for some twenty years before
finally settling in Odanak and Wôlinak in the early 18th century”
had been forced to leave their Ndakinna which in English means land. They
did not remain exiled permanently, but travelled back to their New-England
homeland in order to exact revenge on the English settlers. They allied
themselves with the French during the century of conflict that the Americans
call “the French and Indian Wars" (Seac).
to oral tradition, the aboriginal nations had a number of villages in the region.
Abenaki lived in scattered bands of approximately 100 people.
They chose to stay in regions of Quebec which allowed them to survive
from hunting and fishing. The
Eastern Townships was convenient because of the many navigable canoe routes
through the rivers and the lakes (Bishop).
The following stories are from the Abenaki Indian Legends,
Grammar and Place Names, by H. L. Masta, 1932.
** Wawan8git and M8ladakw **
Wana: My friend M8ladakw as you are habitually traveling
here and you are well acquainted with Koatekwok?
Mol: Koatekwok is the river which is called Coaticook
by the Whites. I indeed know it well.
It has its source in Vermont and falls into our river
Alsigontekwok (St. Francis River). There are
many rapids and falls in its course beginning at
about one mile from the City of the same name.
Wana: But why is it called Koatekwok?
Mol: Because there must have been a large quantity of
pine trees there and there are some even now..
River is an exemple of a navigeable route.
It rises from Vermont in the U.S., enters into the county of Compton and
runs into the St-Francis River. Traces
from the Abenaki’s passage in the Eastern Townships are omnipresent. From words to rocks, and from maps to stories, you can find a
little Abenaki wherever you really want to.
Coaticook is the name of a city and of a river which means to the pine
river, Koa= pine, Tekw= River. At
the Parc de la Gorge de Coaticook, a reproduction of an Abenaki village can be
visited every day of the year. It is built at a bendin of the river which is
thought by historians to have been a meeting place for Amerindian people. There
are Wigwans made out of birch bark in the park.
They are built the exact same way Natives did: a dome structure,
“hut-like, made of arched
poles, most often wooden, which are covered with some sort of roofing material.
Some of the roofing materials used include grass, brush, bark, rushes, mats,
reeds, or cloth” (Wikipedia).
day, we visit places that carry a heritage from the Natives.
Names were given to places, cities, lakes, and rivers in reference to the
Abenaki’s language. Since the
first nations that the English encountered lived in North America and spoke
Algonkian, many words and expressions have entered the English language.
Algonkian, also referred as Algonquain, is the largest family of languages of
North America. “Some
of the most important languages in this family are Cree (85,000 speakers),
Ojibwa or Chippewa (50,000) Blackfoot (5,000) and Lenape or Delaware (around
of the words had been taken in order to name things and animals that had never
been seen by the English before. Namaskonkik
is the Algonkian name to talk about Megantic Lake which refers to a fish field. Mamhiawbagok is for Lake Memphremagog (Wide water).
The lake in Ayer’s Cliff is called Massawippi and means deep water.
Presently, there are 10
nations in Quebec which are the Inuit, Abenakis, Algonquins, Attikameks,
Micmacs, Mohawks, and Innu. Together, they stand for approximately 1% of our
population but still represent much more than this in their history, values,
rights, and past. As
individuals, we should all make efforts to get to know the Native people and
understand what they had to go through in order to transmit it to our kids. From
arrows to names, traces from the past can be found just next door.
Bishop University, Historical Geography of the Eastern Townships, www.ubishops.ca
Independence of Quebec, Resource
Centre for the English-Speaking World
The Language Museum, The Algonkian Languages, http://www.concentric.net/~chanska/home/algon.html,
Odanak Village Québec, Canada, 23-02-01, Kateri
Archeological Terms http://www.cr.nps.gov/seac/terms.htm
The Free Encyclopedia, http://wikipedia.ca
L, Abenaki Whispers, http://www.tolatsga.ca.org