Intercultural studies 

ANG 160 Fall 2005


Eastern townships



Quebec regions


Important people/Theories


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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 Abenaki.


 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 decades (Odanak).



Enlarge                    Abenaki Couple                Popularized image of Columbus


Abenaki 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” (Independence). They 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).


According to oral tradition, the aboriginal nations had a number of villages in the region. 

The 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..



Coaticook 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).


Abenaki wigwam with

birch bark covering


Every 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 1,000)(Concentric).

Some 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, Crees, Hurons-Wendat, Malecites, 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.


















Works Cited

Bishop University, Historical Geography of the Eastern Townships,

Independence of Quebec, Resource Centre for the English-Speaking World

The Language Museum, The Algonkian Languages,,

Odanak Village Québec, Canada, 23-02-01, Kateri Tekakwitha

Selected Archeological Terms

Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia,

Sultzman, L, Abenaki Whispers,