When considering our past as people its hard to know where to turn for information. Particularly when you turn to the far past
Mainstream historians have said for centuries that our ancestors crossed into what is now North America via a land bridge that was visible after the last ice age. This assumption has been challenged by many Indigenous scholars, including Algonquin people. Particularly when there are remains in places like Chile that date back for 30,000 years. So what is the Algonquin past and how can we reclaim that for ourselves?
First of all we should start with the term Algonquin, where did this come from and why do we call ourselves by this term. When I was working on my dissertation, many Elders that I had developed relationships with, said that our ancestors and spiritual beings know us by terms in our own language. William Commanda, for instance told me that we are Omamìwìnini, which refers to the gathering together of people and that it referred to how we related together in our homeland. Steven McGregor also noted that we could refer to ourselves as Kiji Sibi Anishinaabe because we are part of the larger Anishinaabe Family and share many cultural traditions and practices. We also share the same creation and migration story as human beings.
So if our ancestors were Omamìwìnini and Kiji Sibi Anishinaabe, was their autonomy connected to those specific names? Secondly, do we have the right to claim the relationships and history they established over thousands of years in the Kiji Sibi as Algonquin people or are our ties to that history contingent on us also being Omamiwinini and Kiji Sibi Anishinaabe?
Some food for thought there........to get this blog going!
What do you think? I have wondered about this for a while now........what does it mean to be Algonquin? is this different than being Omamiwinini? or Kiji Sibi Anishinaabe?
As I understand it, the French created the term Algonquin, by misunderstanding what other Indigenous peoples called our ancestors......so what this means is that Champlain created this marker of identity for us, so it became the dominant lens through which other explorers and settlers saw us.....a misunderstanding of what another Indigenous people called us. Given that Champlain was not an expert on the culture of these other Indigenous peoples, he didn't really understand their term for us or what it actually meant in the context of relationships we had with these other Indigenous peoples......
Hmm, it seems to me that it would have been much easier if he had just asked us what we were called and what it actually meant!
So now, here we are four hundred years later, trying to untangle ourselves from this mess Champlain created and the history that has been created out of this misnomer......