The Algonquian are one of the most populous and widespread North American native language groups. Today, thousands of individuals identify with various Algonquian peoples, historically, the 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 the peoples who speak Algonquian languages, before Europeans came into contact, most Algonquian settlements lived by hunting and fishing, although quite a few supplemented their diet by cultivating corn, beans and squash. The Algonquians of New England practiced a seasonal economy, the basic social unit was the village, a few hundred people related by a clan kinship structure. The people moved to locations of greatest natural food supply, often breaking into smaller units or recombining as the circumstances required and this custom resulted in a certain degree of cross-tribal mobility, especially in troubled times. In warm weather, they constructed light wigwams for portability, wigwams are a type of hut which usually had buckskin doors. In the winter, they erected the more substantial long houses and they cached food supplies in more permanent, semi-subterranean structures. In the spring, when the fish were spawning, they left the camps to build villages at coastal locations. In March, they caught smelt in nets and weirs, moving about in birchbark canoes, in April, they netted alewife, sturgeon and salmon. In May, they caught cod with hook and line in the ocean, putting out to sea, the men hunted whales, porpoises, walruses and seals. The women and children gathered scallops, mussels, clams and crabs, from April through October, natives hunted migratory birds and their eggs, Canada geese, brant, mourning doves and others. In July and August they gathered strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, in September, they split into small groups and moved up the streams to the forest. There, the men hunted beaver, caribou, moose and white-tailed deer, in December, when the snows began, the people created larger winter camps in sheltered locations, where they built or reconstructed long houses. February and March were lean times, the tribes in southern New England and other northern latitudes had to rely on cached food. Northerners developed a practice of going hungry for days at a time. Historians hypothesize that this kept the population down, according to Liebigs law. The northerners were food gatherers only, the southern Algonquians of New England relied predominantly on slash-and-burn agriculture. They cleared fields by burning for one or two years of cultivation, after which the moved to another location
Pre-contact distribution of Algonquian languages
Algonquian couple, 18th-century
A 16th-century sketch of the Algonquian village of Pomeiock.