Published on January 20, 2013 by Carol
The Abenakis settled in Quebec between 1676 and 1680 in the Sillery region and lived on the banks of the Chaudière River near the falls for some twenty years before finally settling in Odanak and Wôlinak in the early 18th century. Their name comes form the words wabun (the light) and a’Ki (the earth), and means “People of the East” or “People of the Morning”.
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At this time , the Abenakis lived from hunting, trapping and fishing ; they grew corn, beans, squash, potatoes and tobacco. They wove ash and sweet-grass baskets togather wild berries and boiled maple sap to make syrup.
During the wars between the French and the English, the Abenakis proved faithful allies to the French. It is said that one warrior named Assacumbuit killed more than 140 of the enemies of King Louis XIV, who knighted him.
The Abenakis population has more than doubled over the past decade to reach 1843 members today. However, less than 400 people live in the two communities, wich have a total area of a little less than 7 km2. Odanak and Wolinak are residential communities near Trois-Rivières and Sorel.
The development of touristic projects enables the Abenakis to preserve their culture and traditions while supporting their economic development.
For example, since 1960, the Odanak Historical Society manages one of the most important Native museums in Quebec, a few kilometers form the Quebec-Montreal corridor. The Abenaki Museum welcomes over 15,000 visitors each year. In 1986, the Abenakis bought and outfitting concern in the upper Saint-Maurice Valley. Basketry is a traditional activity that continues to generate interesting economic fallouts for the members of the two communities. Many Abenakis businesses are successfull : In Wôlinak, Général Fibre de Verre Enr. employs over ten Native workers and generates an annual revenue of over 3 million dollars. A forestry and tree-pruning firm provides work for some forty people in Odanak.
Abenaki celebrities include filmaker Alanis O’Bomsawin (NFB), singer Sylvie Bernard and former CBC announcer Jean-Paul Nolet.