In the wake of the Quebec government shelving its new history class curriculum, we turn our focus to an historically underprivileged groups of Quebec history. They are among one group of many who have long been denied a voice and a role in the traditional Quebec narrative. At best, Quebec’s aboriginals (and then, only some) have been seen as aid to the more important French and English explorers; at worst, they are stereotypically the enemy of the colonisers. All too often, Quebec history only really begins with the arrival of the French explorers and completely ignores whatever role its aboriginals had to play before and during what was in fact a hostile takeover of a land and a continent. Today, we will look at three of the eleven aboriginal communities and what their population looks like today in contemporary Quebec.
The Abenaki aboriginal community is used to describe a people centred around the New England area. Estimations prior to European contact had the Abenaki population at about forty thousand people. These people were largely killed off because of diseases in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Today, the Abenakis of Quebec have two communities, the Odanak and the Wôlinak; population today: about 2121.
Not to be confused with the term for the collective linguistic family that includes these people, the Algonquians, the Algonquin people settled around the Ottawa Valley area. Often at odds with an Iroquois nation, the Haudenosaunee, the Algonquins nevertheless were known to make peace with their neighbours and intermarriage between the Algonquin and other communities were possible. Their rich culture survives through the recording of their oral history, which includes the fearful Wendigo. The Quebec Algonquin community has numerous communities: Hunter’s Point, Kebaowek, Kitcisakik, Kitigan Zibi, Lac-Rapide, Lac-Simon, Pikogan, Timiskaming, and the Winneway; population today: about 10 072.
The Atikamekw people are another group within the Algonquian family. Their language is a derivative of the Cree language, which itself is a language belonging to the Algonuian language family. These people settled north of Montreal, around the Saint-Maurice River valley and were allies with fellow groups such as the Innu and the Cree communities. This community was and is still known for their expert craftsmanship of birch bark. The Atikamekw people of Quebec have three communities: the Manawan, Obedjiwan, and the Wemotaci; population today: about 6729.