ALGONQUIAN PEOPLE


We have a semantics problem due to the fact that the two terms "Algonquin" and "Algonquian" are so similar to each other that they almost look the same to the untrained eye. There is only one letter's difference.

"Algonquian" refers to a grouping of 31 related languages and dialects. "Algonquin" is only one of those languages, sometimes referred to as "Algonquin proper". (I use the English spelling "Algonkin" because that makes it easier to distinguish the two words from each other.) Abenaki is an Algonquian language, but it is not Algonkin. Only the Weskarini, Kichesipirini, etc., bands of the Algonkin tribe spoke Algonkin proper.

In the 1630's, the Algonkin proper were located mostly along the Ottawa River. But by the time Pierre Couc arrived at Trois-Rivieres in the 1650's, the Iroquois had pushed the Algonkin back and were beginning to scatter them. In addition, internal religious divisions fomented by the Jesuits had caused a split between the Christian and non-Christian Algonkin. The Christians separated off and went to the area around Trois-Riviéres. These were mostly from the Weskarini and Kichesipirini bands.

The Algonquin People

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It was also during this same period that the Sokoki and Pennacook, etc., began to migrate to the nearby St. Francois-du-Lac area. By the 1650's, when Pierre Couc arrived, the middle St. Laurence area had become quite mixed. Originally a Montagnais region, by Couc's time the area contained bands from the Algonkin, Abenaki, Montagnais, Pennacook, and several other New England tribes.

I am going into all this because it pertains to Marie Couc's name. On your web page, it shows that she was born in "Nations des Outtataronons (Outiateronons), Michillimakinac, Québec (Mackinaw City, MI) in 1631.

My research shows that the word "Outiateronon", or similar spellings, is a Huron word that refers specifically to the Weskarini Band of the Algonkin tribe. (The fact that the word is Huron may have given rise to the notion that Marie was herself a Huron.) The location at Mackinaw would definitely be in Algonkin country in the 1630's. There were no Sokoki that far west in 1631.

Marie Couc was definitely a Christian, since she was baptised at Montreal in 1650. And if she were Weskarini, it could explain her presence in the Trois-Riviéres area in 1657, where she met Couc. After their marriage, they could have settled at St. Francois-du-Lac. That was where Louis Couc Montour met his wives. If so, then that would explain why Marie had an Abenaki as well as an Algonkin name.

But whether she was Algonkin, Abenaki, or perhaps even Montagnais doesn't matter if we refer to her as an "Algonquian". The peoples from these three language groups spoke more or less mutually intelligible languages, and so could be considered close cousins of each other. In the absence of more specific facts about her, I propose that we refer to her as Algonquian for now. (1)

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(1)Gary Collier, Email, 28 Nov 2000.