Who were the First Inhabitants of our Area, and to which Nation did they Belong?

We have been calling them Algonquins but they now prefer to be known as the Anishinaabe nation.

They occupied most of the Ottawa (Adawe in the Algonquin langage) River watershed which was, in effect, their heartland. Historically, their language – anishinabemowin – was widespread. The first signs of human occupation in our area seem to have appeared around 6 000 years ago where clear evidence of the presence of hunter/gatherers has been found. After all, the ice from the Ottawa Valley, which at a time was more than a kilometre thick, only began retreating about 15 000 years ago.

The first contact of the Algonquins of the Ottawa River with the Europeans happened on June 4 1613 when Samuel de Champlain, founder of Québec City, travelled to the area, all the way to Ottawa where he found what he called the “Sault de la Chaudière”, a name which still applies to the famous rapids between the cities of Ottawa and Gatineau. By that time, the Algonquins, as well as the Hurons, had become allies of the French.

Nonetheless, over the course of that century (17th), the Algonquin population was considerably affected by deseases brought by the Europeans, especially smallpox, and also by continuous wars with their main enemy, the Iroquois. The fighting ended after the signature of la Grande Paix de Montréal in 1701, a Treaty between the French and no less than 39 indigenous Nations which ended these wars between the different nations as well as with the French establishment of La Nouvelle France and proved to be an enduring agreement.

Algonquin Calendar

Up until the British conquest in 1759, the French exerted enormous influence and occupied more and more land with newcomers from the homeland. Seigneuries were established along the St-Laurence and Ottawa River. The Seigneury d’Argenteuil which covers approximately an area from the Ottawa River – Bay of Carillon – to the North River in Lachute was awarded by the then Governor of la Nouvelle France, Louis de Buade, Comte de Frontenac, to Charles-Joseph d’Ailleboust des Musseaux who owned a castle in Argenteuil sur Armançon in France (Burgundy) and named the seigneury after this place.

Gradually, over the following years, the Algonquins, as many other tribes, moved to reservations that were created by Canada’s government. Today, approximately 6,000 live in the nation’s 9 communities. Seven of the Algonquin communities are located in Abitibi-Témiscamingue, more precisely in Hunter’s Point, Kebaowek, Lac-Simon, Kitcisakik, Pikogan, Timiskaming and Winneway. The other two, Lac-Rapide and Kitigan Zibi, are located in the Outaouais region.

Following are the main sources I have consulted to write this article.

Algonquin History in the Ottawa River Watershed

Algonquins (Anishinabe)

The Seigniory of Argenteuil

The Great Peace of Montréal

10 thoughts on “Who were the First Inhabitants of our Area, and to which Nation did they Belong?

  1. Carol Hanna Wight

    Incredible research Jacques! Thanks so much for sharing this information!

  2. cynthia scott

    Longing to know these things. More please. And thank you so much.

    I suspect there is much horror underneath these facts.

  3. Chris Kasprzyk

    Thanks for this fascinating information, Jacques. We’ll done. It’s always interesting to learn more about our history.

  4. Lynn Palmer

    Fantastic that the French had a treaty with 39 Indigenous nations back in 1701! Very progressive! Thanks for the great research Jacques!

  5. Susan Barry

    Thank you so much Jacques! Amazing history! Grateful for your research and insight…

  6. Dianne

    Thank you for writing an excellent article and providing links to the websites – a wealth of interesting material. You have done a great job!