At the time of the first European settlements in North America, Algonquian Indians numbered in the hundreds of thousands. Historically, these peoples were prominent along the Atlantic Coast and into the interior along the St. Lawrence River and around the Great Lakes. This grouping consists of peoples who speak Algonquian languages.
They occupied New Brunswick, and much of Canada east of the Rocky Mountains; what is now New England, New Jersey, southeastern New York, Delaware and down the Atlantic Coast through the Upper South; and around the Great Lakes in present-day Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, Indiana and Iowa. They were most concentrated in the New England region. The homeland of the Algonquian peoples is not known.
For about two centuries, Algonquians provided the main obstacles to the spread of Euro-American settlers, who concluded hundreds of peace treaties with them, most of which were later broken.
There is often confusion between the terms Algonkin, Algonquin, and Algonquian. The first two terms refer to the people while the latter refers to their language group.
Many present day tribes were once part of the great Algonquin Nation and later splintered off to form separate tribes.
The French and later English encountered the Maliseet of present-day Maine, Quebec and New Brunswick; and the Mi'kmaq tribes of the Canadian Maritime provinces lived primarily on fishing. Further north are the Betsiamites, Atikamekw, Algonquin or Anishinabe people and Montagnais/Naskapi (Innu). The Beothuk people of Newfoundland are also believed to have been Algonquian, but their last known speaker died in the early 19th century. Few records of their language or culture remain.
New England area
Colonists in the Massachusetts Bay area first encountered the Wampanoag, Massachusett, Nipmuck, Pennacook, Passamaquoddy, and Quinnipiac. The Mohegan, Pequot, Pocumtuc, Tunxis, and Narragansett were based in southern New England. The Abenaki tribe is located in Maine and eastern Quebec. These tribes practiced some agriculture.
Mid- and south-Atlantic areas
The Lenape, also called Delaware, were (Munsee) and Unami speakers that were in what is now known as the eastern Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey, lower Hudson Valley and western Long Island areas in New York. They encountered the European explorer Giovanni da Verrazzano in what is now New York Harbor in 1524. Branches of the Pequot occupied eastern Long Island.
Further south were the traditional homes of the Powhatan, a loose group of tribes numbering into the tens of thousands, who were among the first to encounter English colonists in the Chesapeake Bay. Historic tribes also included the Nanticoke, Wicocomico, and Chickahominy peoples.
The French encountered Algonquian peoples in this area through their trade and limited colonization of New France along the Mississippi and Ohio rivers. The historic peoples were the Shawnee, Illiniwek, Kickapoo, Menominee, Miami, and Sauk and Fox, also known as the Sac and Fox Tribe and later known as the Meskwaki Indians, who lived throughout the present-day Midwest of the United States.
During the nineteenth century, many were displaced over great distances through the United States enforcement of Indian removal west of the Mississippi River, to what is now Oklahoma.
Ojibwe/Chippewa, Ottawa, Potawatomi, and a variety of Cree groups lived in Upper Michigan, Western Ontario, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and the Canadian Prairies. The Arapaho, Blackfoot and Cheyenne developed as indigenous to the Great Plains.
Algonquian people in the present states of Wyoming, Colorado, southwestern Nebraska and northwestern Kansas were ancestors to Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes.
This article contains a list of links to more information on each of the tribes included in the Algonquian language group.
Many people mistakenly believe that Algonquian is the name of a specific tribe. While there is a loose confederation of Algonquin Nations in Canada, algonquian is actually a language group which includes many tribes who speak a related language which contains several dialects and many variations that stemmed from one once common language.