Historically, our Algonquin ancestors’ lifestyle constituted yearly migrations, hunting and gathering, and the fabrication of functional and artistic crafts, tools, and clothing. Each Aboriginal Nation has traditionally had its own style and design for common, everyday accessories. Here are a few traditionally recognizable items of Algonquin material culture.
Moccasins protect the foot while allowing the wearer to feel the ground. They are typically made of deer hide for its combination of softness and flexibility.
Due to our geographical location and lifestyle, the snowshoe was an essential and primary means of transportation in the winter seasons. A piece of hardwood (usually ash) for the frame and animal hide (traditionally moose, deer, or caribou) for the webbing, its design made traversing all types of snow conditions a lot easier.
To use the basket as a cooking pot, clay mixed with dried grass was pressed against the sides and bottom of the basket and dried to prevent the basket from burning.
Made from birch bark, this simple invention is used for calling moose. Birch bark is rolled into a cone and sewn tightly with spruce roots. Through the smaller hole, a hunter mimics a female moose mating call to attract male moose.
Bow and Arrow
An invaluable weapon in a traditional Algonquin hunter’s arsenal, the bow and arrow brought innovation to hunting all sizes of animals by striking prey from farther distances with great accuracy. The bow is made of hardwood (like oak), and the bowstring was traditionally made of animal hides. The arrow is made of dried sticks which can either be shaved to a piercing point at the end, or fastened with a sharply chiseled stone or bone.
Though fishing was also often performed with spears and nets, the fish hook was a quick and easily crafted method of fishing year round. A tiny piece of wood is carved into a hook and anchored to a small heavy object, like a stone or bone. The string was traditionally made of vines.
Also known as a baby carrier, or tikinagan, the cradleboard is used for carrying babies. The pouch in which the baby is carried is lined with animal skins and furs, moss and sometimes shredded bark; this keeps the baby warm, comfortable and secure. The cradleboard is then attached to the mother’s back, thereby allowing her the freedom to travel and work.
Birch bark pictures
Pictures and art carved from birch bark was common in Algonquin bands. We would adorn everything from teepees to baskets to canoes with artistic portraits. The pictures would often be markers of Clan or Band membership, but they would usually be crafted for decorative purposes.
Mainly used for scooping water and soups, this simple ladle design shows how birch bark and wood can be handily crafted into everyday kitchen utensils.
Designed for all manner of winter activities, the toboggan is made of long slats of wood that are sewn together with spruce root and bent back at the front end to form a J-shape. For hunters, the toboggan is particularly useful for hauling heavy loads of tools, equipment, and dead animals along trapline.
We fabricated all sorts of clothing to accommodate every season. Animal furs and skins were naturally soft and comfortable materials for warm clothing.