[Note: This is a single part of what will be, by my classification, about 240 compact tribal histories (contact to 1900). It is limited to the lower 48 states of the U.S. but also includes those First Nations from Canada and Mexico that
This history's content and style are representative. The normal process at this point is to circulate an almost finished product among a peer group for comment and criticism. At the end of this History you will find links to those Nations referred to in the History of the Abenaki.
Using the Internet, this can be more inclusive. Feel free to comment or suggest corrections via e-mail. Working together we can end some of the historical misinformation about Native Americans. You will find the ego at this end to be of standard size. Thanks for stopping by. I look forward to your comments... Lee Sultzman.
Extending across most of northern New England into the southern part of the Canadian Maritimes, the Abenaki called their homeland Ndakinna meaning "our land." The eastern Abenaki were concentrated in Maine east of New Hampshire's White Mountains, while the western Abenaki lived west of the mountains across Vermont and New Hampshire to the eastern shores of Lake Champlain. The southern boundaries of the Abenaki homeland were near the present northern border of Massachusetts excluding the Pennacook country along the Merrimack River of southern New Hampshire. The maritime Abenaki occupied the St. Croix and the St. John's River Valleys near the border between Maine and New Brunswick. New England settlement and war forced many of the Abenaki to retreat north into Quebec where two large communities formed at St. Francois and Becancour near Trois-Rivieves. These have continued to the present-day. There are also three reservations in northern Maine (Penobscot, Passamaquoddy, and Maliseet) and seven Maliseet reserves located in New Brunswick and Quebec. Other groups of Abenaki, without reservations, are scattered across northern New Hampshire and Vermont.
Before contact the Abenaki (excluding the Pennacook and Micmac) may have numbered as many as 40,000 divided roughly between 20,000 eastern; 10,000 western; and 10,000 maritime. Due to early contacts with European fishermen, at least two major epidemics hit the Abenaki during the 1500s: an unknown sickness sometime between 1564 and 1570; and typhus in 1586. The major blow came in the decade just prior to English settlement of Massachusetts in 1620, when three separate epidemics swept across New England and the Canadian Maritimes. Maine was hit very hard during 1617 (75% mortality), and the population of the eastern Abenaki fell to about 5,000. The western Abenaki were more isolated and suffered relatively less, losing perhaps half of their original population. The new diseases continued to take their toll:
smallpox 1631, 1633, and 1639;The Abenaki population continued to decline, but after 1676 they absorbed thousands of refugees from southern New England displaced by settlement and the King Philip's War. As a result, descendents of almost every southern New England Algonquin (Pennacook, Narragansett, Pocumtuc, Nipmuc) can still be found among the Abenaki, especially the Sokoki (western Abenaki). After another century of war and disease, there were less than 1,000 Abenaki remaining after the American Revolution. The population has currently recovered to almost 12,000 on both sides of the border. Within the United States, the Abenaki are not, and never have been, federally recognized as a tribe. However, three component tribes in Maine: Penobscot, Passamaquoddy, and the Houlton Band of Maliseet, have this status.
The Penobscot have a reservation on Indian Island at Old Town, Maine and a tribal membership near 2,000. The Passamaquoddy number about 2,500 on three Maine reservations, Pleasant Point, Peter Dana Point, and Indian Township, while the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians have close to 600. There are also seven Maliseet bands in Canada (470 in Quebec and 2,000 in New Brunswick) for a total of 3,000. Canada also has 400 Abenakis de Wolinak (Becancour) on a reserve near Trois-Rivieres, Quebec and almost 1,500 at Odanak (St. Francois) 30 miles to the southwest. The other Abenaki are scattered among the general populations of Quebec, New Brunswick, and northern New England. Currently there about 2,500 "Vermont Abenaki" in both Vermont and New Hampshire but concentrated in northwest Vermont near Lake Champlain. Organized as the Sokoki-St. Francis Band of the Abenaki Nation, a tribal council was established in 1976 at Swanton, Vermont. State recognition was granted that year but later withdrawn. In 1982 they applied for federal recognition which is still pending.
The Abenaki called themselves Alnanbal meaning "men." The name "Abenaki" - spelled variously as: Abenaqui, Abnaki, Alnanbal, Benaki, Oubenaki, Wabanaki, Wippanap - originated from a Montagnais (Algonquin) word meaning "people of the dawn" or "easterners." Indiscriminately applying their name for the Mahican to all Algonquin south of the St. Lawrence, the French frequently referred to the eastern Abenaki as Loup (wolves) - or more formally as the Natio Luporem or Wolf Nation. The French, However, called the western Abenaki the Sokoki. Borrowing the name of the southern New England Algonquin for Abenaki, the English at first used Tarrateen for both Abenaki and Micmac. Later, Tarrateen came to mean only the Micmac, and Abenaki the tribes of northern Maine. The Sokoki, or western Abenaki, were known in New England as the St Francis Indians. Other names for the Abenaki were: Anagonges (Iroquois), Aquannaque (Huron), Bashaba, Gannongagehronnon (Mohawk), Moassones, Maweshenook, Narankamigdok, Natsagana (Caughnawaga), Obunego; Onagunga, Onnogonges, Opanango, Owenagunges, Owenunga, and Skacewanilom (Iroquois).
Algonquin, but distinct from the languages of the Micmac to the north and the New England Algonquin to the south. There was also a dialectic difference between the eastern and western Abenaki with language of the western Abenaki being closer to that of the Pennacook.
Abenaki Confederation tribes:
Amaseconti, Androscoggin, Kennebec, Maliseet, Ouarastegouiak, Passamaquoddy, Patsuiket, Penobscot, Pigwacket, Rocameca, Sokoni, and Wewenoc. Although they were also members of the confederation, the Micmac and Pennacook have been listed listed as separate tribes.Seven Nations of Canada:
Composed of seven mission communities located along the St. Lawrence River in 1750: Caughnawaga (Mohawk), Lake of the Two Mountains (Iroquois and Nipissing), St. Francois (Sokoki, Pennacook, and New England Algonquin), Becancour (Eastern Abenaki), Oswegatchie (Onondaga and Oneida), Lorette (Huron), and St. Regis (Mohawk).Eastern Abenaki:
Amaseconti Between the upper Kennebec and Androscoggin Rivers in western Maine.
Androscoggin (Amariscoggin, Ameriscoggin, Anasaguniticook, Arosaguntacook, Asschincantecook). Main village, on the river of the same name was called Arosaguntacook Town. Arosaguntacook is sometimes applied in error to the St. Francois Indians.
Kennebec (Caniba, Sagadahoc, Kanibesinnoak, Norridgewock, Nurhantsuak) lived along the Kennebec River in northern Maine. Villages: Amaseconti (Amesokanti, Anmissoukanti), Norridgewock (Naridgewalk, Neridgewok, Noronjawoke), Kennebec, and Sagadahoc.
Ossipee. Located on a lake of the same name in east-central New Hampshire.Maritime Abenaki:
Closer in language and culture to the Micmac, the Maliseet and Passamaquoddy have been listed as Abenaki for historical reasons. The French usually referred to both tribes as the Etchemin.
Passamaquoddy (Machias Tribe, Opanango, Pesmokant, Quoddy, Scotuks, Scootuck, St. Croix Indians, Unchechauge, Unquechauge). The name means "pollock spearing place" with their villages were located on Passamaquoddy Bay, the St. Croix River, and Schoodic Lake. Villages: Gunasquamekook, Imnarkuan, Machias, Sebaik, and Sipayik. Other towns at Lewis Island and Calais in Maine with a few locations on the Canadian side of the St. Croix River.Western Abenaki (Sokoki):
Originally composed of Abenaki tribes in Vermont and New Hampshire west of the White Mountains, Sokoki means "people who separated." Various forms of Sokoki are: Assokwekik, Ondeake, Onejagese, Sakukia, Sokokiois, Sokoquios, Sokoquis, Sokokquis, Sokoni, Sokwaki, Soquachjck, and Zooquagese. Some accounts include groups of the western Pennacook as Sokoki: Amoskeag, Naamkeek, Nashaway, Souheyan, and Winnipesaukee. Sokoki is often confused with the Saco, a name given to eastern Abenaki who lived near the Saco River (a combination of Pigwacket, Kennebec, and Androscoggin).Other Names of Abenaki Villages:
Aquadocta, Cobbosseecontee, Ebenecook, Ketangheanycke, Mascoma, Masherosqueck, Mecadacut, Moshoquen, Muscongus, Negusset, Ossaghrage, Ouwerage, Pasharanack, Pauhuntanuc, Pemaquid, Pocopassum, Sabino, Sagadahoc, Satquin, Segotago, Sowocatuck, Taconnet, Unyjaware, and Wacoogo.
Native Americans have occupied northern New England for at least 10,000 years. There is no proof these ancient residents were ancestors of the Abenaki, but there is no reason to think they were not. The Abenaki lived in a manner similar to Algonquin in southern New England. Since they relied on agriculture (corn, beans, and squash) for a large part of their diet, villages were usually located on the fertile floodplains of rivers. Depending on location and population, some of their cultivated fields were extensive. Missisquoi, on the eastern shore of Lake Champlain, reportedly had more than 250 acres of corn under cultivation. Agriculture was supplemented by hunting, fishing, and the gathering of wild foods. The relative importance of fish/seafood depended on location. In areas of poor soil, fish were often used as fertilizer to increase the yield of corn.
For most of the year, the Abenaki lived in scattered bands of extended families, each of which occupied separate hunting territories inherited through the father. Unlike the Iroquois, the Abenaki (and most New England Algonquin) were patrilineal. In spring and summer, bands would gather at fixed locations near rivers, or the seacoast, for planting and fishing. These summer villages were sometimes fortified depending on the warfare in the area. Compared with Iroquois settlements, most Abenaki villages were fairly small, averaging about 100 persons, but there were exceptions - particularily among the western Abenaki. Some Abenaki used an oval-shaped long house, but most favored the dome-shaped, bark-covered (sometimes woven mat) wigwam during the warmer months. During winter, the Abenaki moved farther inland and separated into small groups of conical, bark-covered wigwams shaped like the buffalo-hide tepee of the plains.
Abenaki is actually a geographical and linguistic (rather than political) grouping. Before contact individual tribes were the usual level of political organization. Occasionally several tribes would unite under a powerful sachem for purposes of war, but the Abenaki were noteworthy for their general lack of central authority. Even at the tribal level, the authority of their sachems was limited, and important decisions, such as war and peace, usually required a meeting of all adults. The Abenaki Confederacy did not come into existence until after 1670 and then only in response to continuous wars with the Iroquois and English colonists. Even this did not change things, and reports of French military officers are filled with complaints that Abenaki leaders usually had difficulty controlling their warriors.
In many ways the lack of central authority served the Abenaki well. In times of war, the Abenaki could abandon their villages, separate into small bands, and regroup in a distant refuge beyond the reach of their enemies. It was a strategy that confounded repeated efforts by both the Iroquois and English to conquer them. The Abenaki could just melt away, regroup, and then counterattack. It was an effective strategy in times of war, but it has left the impression that the Abenaki were nomads. Since the Abenaki usually retreated to Canada during war, New England came to think of them as Canadian Indians - which, of course, they were not - but it served as an excuse to take most of their land in Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont without compensation. Only the Penobscot and Passamaquoddy signed treaties and kept some of their land. The other Abenaki were dispossessed and remain unrecognized. However, there was no "ride into the sunset." Largely invisible over the years, the Abenaki have remained in their homeland by living in scattered, small bands. New England has numerous romantic monuments which celebrate the disappearance of its original residents. Misleading, since they never really left!
Within a few years after the voyage of Sebastian Cabot in 1497, European fishing fleets began regular visits to the Grand Banks and the coast of Maine. Giovanni da Verrazano also explored the area during 1524. These initial contacts between Abenaki and Europeans eventually gave rise to a rumor which circulated through 16th century Europe of Norumbega, a rich and powerful native kingdom in northern Maine. Like the fabled Seven Cities of Cibola which lured Spanish Conquistadors into the American Southwest, Europeans never found the mythical Norumbega. They did, however, discover something of great value ...fur. The profits from the fur trade with Native Americans prompted French merchants to sent the expeditions that established the first permanent European outposts in the region.
Samuel de Champlain and Pierre De Monts built Fort St. John at the mouth of the St. Croix River in 1604 marking the beginning of a steady trade in furs with the Penobscot and Maliseet. Unfortunately, the French had chosen a bad location for their first outpost, and after a year of floods, cold, and starvation, they moved across the Bay of Fundy to Port Royal (Nova Scotia). Although this area belonged to the Micmac, the French fur trade with Abenaki continued. The Penobscot prospered from this and, with the advantage of European trade goods, began to dominate the other tribes of Abenaki to the south and west. Under the leadership of their sachem Bashaba, the Penobscot were able to form a powerful alliance which threatened the Micmac across the bay. There appears to have been an earlier hostility between these two peoples, which competition for trade with the French only aggravated. By 1607 the rivalry escalated into the Tarrateen War between the Penobscot confederacy under Bashaba and the Micmac and their Maliseet allies.
This war continued with few interruptions for eight years. Meanwhile, the French, who were not pleased with the fighting, continued to trade with both sides. Jesuit missionaries arrived at Port Royal in 1610 and immediately began work with the Micmac in the vicinity. Despite the war, the French priests also built a mission and trading post for the Penobscot at St Sauver Mont-Deserts de Pentagoet (Bar Harbor, Maine) in 1613. It had, however, a brief existence and was destroyed, not by natives, but English raiders from Jamestown, Virginia later that year. In 1615 the Micmac succeeded in capturing and killing Bashaba and won the war. During the following two years, victorious Micmac warriors swept down the Maine coast in a wave of destruction which reached south into Massachusetts. Here they encountered a different enemy ...epidemic! It followed them home, and between 1616 and 1619, three separate epidemics swept New England and the Canadian Maritimes which probably killed at least 75% of the population. Too few survived to bury the dead, much less wage war, and the fighting stopped.
The Abenaki had already paid a terrible price for European contact, but the French had discovered a much better source of fur in the St. Lawrence Valley. Since Maine and the Canadian Maritimes were exposed to English raids, they had little reason to stay and began to abandon most of their posts in 1610. By 1616 only Port Royal and a small trading post at the mouth of Penobscot River were all that remained to trade with the Abenaki and Micmac. Even this limited presence was disputed by Great Britain which claimed the region by virtue of Cabot's voyage (1497) and Sir Humphrey Gilbert "discoveries" (1578). The first Abenaki experience with English settlement occurred during an abortive attempt by the Plymouth Company to establish a colony on the Kennebec River in 1607. Seven years later Captain James Smith met Abenaki when he explored and mapped the coast of northern New England. By 1620 the Abenaki were familiar enough with the English that Samoset, a Pemaquid sachem from Maine hunting in Massachusetts, could walk into the Plymouth colony in February, 1621 and greet them in perfect English with "Hello Englishmen."
During the next 50 years, as the Abenaki probably watched in amazement, English and French fought several wars over who owned the Abenaki homeland. In 1628 an English fleet commanded by Thomas Kirke destroyed a French fleet unloading supplies at Port Royal, burned the French settlement, and then moved north to the St. Lawrence and captured Quebec. Britain held all of Canada for four years, until it was returned to France in 1632 by the Treaty of St. Germain-en-Laye. Meanwhile, Boston fur traders had established a post near Machias in northern Maine to trade with the Abenaki. Immediately after they had regained Canada in 1632, the French destroyed it and warned English traders henceforth to confine their activities to south of the Kennebec River. In response, the English ordered French traders from Acadia to remain north of the St. Croix. As a result, relatively few English and French fur traders were willing to visit the Abenaki who lived in between.
Despite Samoset's kindness to Plymouth in 1621, relations between the Abenaki and the English colonists were strained from the beginning. Living along the Merrimack River of southern New Hampshire and northeastern Massachusetts, the Pennacook were the southernmost Abenaki group and the first to have extensive contact with the English. Decimated by the recent epidemics, they were also threatened from the west by the Mohawk and distrusted the intentions of the Abenaki in Maine. The Pennacook extended well-inland along the Merrimack River to a point where their boundaries with the Sokoki (western Abenaki) blurred. The Sokoki and Pocumtuc (Connecticut River in western Massachusetts) had a long history of hostility with the Iroquois and helped the Mahican in their war against the Mohawk (1624-28) with the Pennacook being drawn in as allies of the Sokoki. The Mohawk eventually won, forced the Mahican east of the Hudson, and began to attack the Sokoki and Pennacook. For this reason, the Pennacook welcomed and made an alliance with the English settlements in Massachusetts. The alliance between the Pennacook and English made the Abenaki uneasy, but the colonists were also concerned about their own safety after the near destruction of Jamestown (Virginia) by the Powhatan in 1622.
Although they had been by-passed by the fur trade, the Abenaki were still subject to its destabilizing effects. After finishing with the Mahican in 1628, the Mohawk attacked the Sokoki a year later. The Sokoki and Pennacook turned to both the French and English for help but were ignored, since neither wished to offend the powerful Iroquois (Dutch ally). The Sokoki might well have been destroyed if the Mohawk had not been drawn into a war in the St. Lawrence Valley with the Algonkin and Montagnais (French allies) and made peace with the Sokoki and Mahican. Smallpox epidemic hit the New England tribes during 1633-34 and then spread north to the Abenaki, the St. Lawrence River, and then west to the Iroquois. By 1637 the Abenaki had their first firearms - probably from Boston traders - and the following year an English trading post was established on the Merrimack River among the Pennacook. Despite this, most Abenaki still had to travel great distances to trade with the Europeans.
Britain and France built few permanent posts in the disputed region of Maine, and to the west, English and French traders were reluctant to visit the Sokoki villages because of Mohawk war parties. The English generally distrusted the Abenaki because of their past association with the French, not realizing the French were not really interested in the Abenaki because they were getting all the fur they needed from the Great Lakes through the Huron. To trade with the French in Quebec, the Abenaki had to cross an area controlled by the Montagnais who were often hostile or charged tolls for passage. There was a mixed reaction by different Abenaki tribes to this trade barrier. Most of the eastern Abenaki eventually came to terms with the Montagnais, but by 1642 the Sokoki had joined an alliance with the Mohawk and Mahican against the Montagnais - an uneasy combination of former enemies against a common foe. The fighting continued for several years and included a raid by a joint Mohawk, Mahican, and Sokoki war party on a Montagnais village at Sillery (Quebec) in 1645.
Oddly enough, the Sokoki war with the Montagnais actually renewed French interest in the Abenaki. After French Jesuits obtained the release of a Sokoki prisoner held by the Montagnais, they decided to visit the Abenaki. Opposition by their Montagnais converts (not to mention the chance of meeting a Mohawk war party) kept the missionaries from the Sokoki villages, but they made several brief visits to the Kennebec and Penobscot between 1646 and 1648. The Jesuits were generally well-received by the eastern Abenaki and were able to arrange a peace between them and the Montagnais. However, the Sokoki and Montagnais remained hostile to each other until 1650. Unfortunately, the effect was to continue one war while creating another. After the eastern Abenaki began to help the Montagnais against the Iroquois, the Pigwacket and Ossipee on upper Saco River were attacked by the Mohawk in 1647.
Everything changed after the Iroquois overran the Huron during the winter of 1648-49. The destruction of their most important ally and trading partner put the survival of the French themselves in doubt, and they began gathering every possible ally against the Iroquois. The uneasy alliance of the Mohawk and Sokoki also collapsed, and the Mohawk began attacking the Sokoki and Pocumtuc in 1650. The French encouraged an alliance between the Sokoki, Pocumtuc, Pennacook, and Mahican and even sent a Montagnais chief and Jesuit to Massachusetts to ask for support in a war against the Mohawk. While the New England Puritans recognized the threat, the devil himself would have had a better chance of forming an alliance with them than a French Jesuit, and the offer was refused. This left only the French to support the alliance and by 1651, they were supplying the Sokoki, eastern Abenaki, and their allies with firearms and ammunition.
The alliance failed to stop the Iroquois and may even have provoked them. In 1653 the western Sokoki villages were attacked, but the Mohawk had another war with the Susquehannock in Pennsylvania and could not maintain two offensives. After a Dutch attempt to arrange peace failed in 1654, there was a lull in the fighting in western New England until after the Mohawk ended their war with the Susquehannock in 1655. They turned east with a fury forcing the Mahican to make a separate peace and withdraw from the alliance in 1658. This left only the Sokoki, Pennacook, and Pocumtuc to face the Mohawk - something that might have been possible except for the English. Britain captured Port Royal for a second time in 1654 and held it until 1667. This stopped aid for the Abenaki from the French in Acadia. At first Boston traders supplied the Abenaki and made good profits in the process. However, this ended after the English captured New York from the Dutch in 1664 and signed a treaty of trade and alliance with the Mohawk. Most of the Boston traders moved west to Albany and abandoned the Abenaki.
Meanwhile, the Mohawk by 1660 had resumed attacks on the eastern Abenaki in Maine because they were allies of the Montagnais. Two years later the Penobscot were hit for the same reason. Only the Quebec French continued to support the Abenaki. The French trader Baron de Castine settled among the Penobscot and married the daughter of their sachem, Madockawando. After Madockawando's death, Castine assumed the sachemship, until his son (Castine the Younger) became old enough to assume the responsibility. A permanent trading post and Jesuit mission (Castine, Maine) were added at this time. Castine and his son were implacable foes of the British, and under their leadership, the Penobscot grew increasingly hostile contributing to the English decision to abandon the Abenaki. Although the French supplied guns and ammunition, it was not enough. After a Pocumtuc attack on the eastern Mohawk villages failed in 1663, they asked the Dutch and Mahican to negotiate a peace. This came to nothing. Although a Mohawk-Seneca attack on their main village at Fort Hill (Deerfield, Massachusetts) in December, 1664 was repulsed, by the following spring, the Pocumtuc had abandoned the Connecticut Valley in Massachusetts leaving Missisquoi and Cowasuck as the only remaining large Sokoki villages in Vermont.
Throughout 1665 the Mohawk continued the war against the Pocumtuc's Sokoki and Pennacook allies. The fighting was interrupted when the French brought the 1,200 man Carigan-Salieres regiment to Canada, and French soldiers attacked the Mohawk villages during the winter of 1665-66. By the following spring the Mohawk were asking the English for help. The governor of New York (also concerned about French intentions) agreed but only on condition the Mohawk make peace with Mahican and Sokoki. The Mahican, who had been fighting the Iroquois since 1662, were willing, but the Sokoki refused to quit. During the summer of 1666, there was an exchange of raids with the Mohawk raiding the Pennacook while the Sokoki and Kennebec attacked Mohawk villages.
The Iroquois were able to arrange a general peace with the French in 1667 which allowed the western Iroquois to concentrate on the Susquehannock while the Mohawk went after western New England. During 1668 the Mohawk were able to drive the Pennacook across New Hampshire into southern Maine. The following year an alliance of New England Algonquin (including Sokoki and Mahican) retaliated with an attack on a Mohawk village but were ambushed on their return home. By 1670 most of the Sokoni were living under French protection as refugees along the St. Lawrence. Some eventually migrated west to the Great Lakes, and in 1681 a group of Sokoki accompanied LaSalle during his exploration of the south end of Lake Michigan. Afterwards, they chose to remain in northern Illinois and were later absorbed by the Potawatomi and Miami.
For the most part, the Abenaki had remained neutral in the struggles between Britain and France, but the alliance between the English and Iroquois pushed them to the French. On the eve of the King Philip's War (1675-76), the Abenaki not only resented English support of the Iroquois but were increasingly concerned about the appetite of the New England colonists for land. Massive Puritan immigration during the 1660s launched a rapid expansion of white settlement into native territory, and the first areas taken were the valuable farmlands in the river valleys. Trapped between the Mohawk in the west and growing English settlement from the east, the Algonquin of southern New England joined together under the leadership of Metacom (King Philip) in a general attack against the New England colonies in 1675. Although many sympathized with Philip, the Androscoggin (also some Sokoni and Pennacook) were the only Abenaki at first to participate directly in the uprising. The majority of the Abenaki were neutral, but it appears some provided French firearms and ammunition to Philip's warriors, while others gave food and refuge to the hostiles.
The colonists lost heavily in the struggle, and in their desperation, they retaliated with an indiscriminate fury against all Indians. Only two Pennacook villages joined Philip - the Pennacook sachem Wannalancet was able to keep most of his people out of the fighting. However, the English became convinced the Pennacook were giving aid and comfort, and a expedition commanded by Captain Samuel Mosely attacked them in 1676. After 200 Nashua were massacred and the survivors sold into slavery, most Pennacook either fought or left for Canada. By 1676 even the Penobscot and Kennebec had been drawn into the war. In the end the colonists won, but even by their own accounts, they were brutal. Thousands had been massacred or starved. After 1676 only 4,000 Native Americans remained in southern New England. In what has been called the "Great Dispersal," the survivors had been forced to leave their homeland, but they did not go far. Some accepted a sanctuary offered by the governor of New York (Edmund Andros) and settled among the Mahican at Schaghticook on the Hudson. Others found refuge with the Delaware in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, but large numbers of refugees - angry from their mistreatment by the New England colonists - joined the Abenaki.
The English had also suffered (at least 600 killed and 13 towns burned), but it is pretty obvious they had given much better than they had received, and their hatred is reflected in the harsh peace terms they imposed on the survivors. By most accounts, the King Philip's War ended with Philip's death in 1676. In reality it was just beginning and would continue for 50 years. During the war, several English expeditions sent against the Abenaki and Pennacook only succeeded in capturing empty villages. It was the first experience of the English with an enemy that would vanish only to attack later. Abenaki retreated to Canada and settled near Sillery (Quebec). They did not return to Maine for several years until after the fighting had subsided. The Sokoki continued to raid Massachusetts, but the governor of New York set the Mohawk on them forcing them to relocate to Trois-Rivieres, and St. Francois River for French protection.
New England was perfectly content to see the Abenaki leave, but New York's Governor Andros was concerned about the defection of so many possible new allies for the French. Although it made him a hated man in New England, his offer of asylum at Schaghticook to refugees was intended to prevent this. The offer met with some success, but over the years there was a steady exodus of New England Algonquin from Schaghticook to join their relatives and the Abenaki in the north. Meanwhile, the Abenaki continued to punish New England with long-distance raids from Canada. While the English could not retaliate, the situation was not ideal. Thousands of Abenaki along the St. Lawrence quickly strained the available resources and caused friction with the resident Montagnais. By 1679 the Abenaki were ready to go home. The Pigwacket were the first to make peace with the English and return to Maine. Other Abenaki and Sokoki gradually followed.
However, important changes had occurred during their stay in Canada. The Abenaki had organized into a loose confederation allied with the French. The role of the French in the subsequent warfare between the Abenaki and New England has often been exaggerated, because the New England colonists never understood the underlying reasons for Abenaki hostility. The Abenaki were never interested in helping the French control North America. Actually, the Abenaki did not always get along with the French - at the beginning of the King William's War in 1688, as the French demanded they remain near Montreal, the Sokoki decided instead to move south and burned several French settlements enroute. For the most part, the Abenaki had their own war with New England to avenge past injustices and to keep the English from taking their land. The New England colonists, however, saw themselves as victims of an unprovoked attack during the King Philip's War, generally refused to recognize any aboriginal title to the land, and viewed the continued raids by the Abenaki as French aggression.
Since the French needed the Abenaki as a buffer to protect Quebec against the English, they provided weapons and encouraged hostility towards New England. A final ugly element had been added when French Jesuits began making conversions among the Abenaki while they were refugees in Canada. After the Abenaki had returned to their homeland, the Jesuits had followed them, and by 1699 there were at least six Jesuits permanently living in the Abenaki villages. In the closing years of the 17th century, the Jesuits had been increasingly alarmed that the fur trade was corrupting and destroying Native Americans. Since this placed them at odds with more practical economic concerns, their complaints were generally ignored by the French government - that is until a glut of fur on the European market caused the price to drop. With the support of French court, the fur trade was restricted, and Jesuits afterwards were able to work first for conversion and then tried to isolate their converts from further contact with Europeans.
If the Jesuits were reluctant to allow French Catholics to visit their Abenaki converts, there should be little doubt as to their attitude about contact (or trade) with the English "heretics." The Jesuit policy was particularly effective among the Abenaki and should have served to isolate and protect them. Instead, it roused the darkest fears of the New England's Puritans who usually saw the manipulative hand of Catholic France being directed against their Protestant colonies. The main reason for continued hostilities between the Abenaki and New England was not a French or Catholic plot, but Massachusetts' inability (or unwillingness) to prevent encroachment and abuse by its citizens on the frontier. Fighting with the Abenaki dragged on until a truce in 1685, a brief three-year break that erupted into open warfare with the King William's War between Britain and France (1688-97). Afterwards, the struggle between the Abenaki and New England began to reflect the bitter religious divisions of 17th century Europe.
The reasons for this are rather complicated. The few and gentle Pilgrims who landed at Plymouth in 1620 were absorbed by the numerous Puritans of the Massachusetts Bay Colony during the 1630s. There was an enormous difference between these two groups. Beginning as a movement to purify the English church of its Catholic traditions, the Puritans overthrew and executed Charles I in 1649 and established a military dictatorship under Olive Cromwell. After Cromwell's death in 1658 and the restoration of the English monarchy two years later, the Puritans were, to put it mildly, in political disfavor, and many of them found it prudent to immigrate to New England. By appointing Sir Edmund Andros governor of New York in 1674, Charles II attempted to re-assert his authority over the people responsible for the death of his brother, Charles I. Colonial charters were revoked, and the Dominion of New England was established in 1686 with Andros as governor. This lasted only until the Glorious Revolution (1688) removed the Stuarts from the throne.
A major reason for the fall of the Stuarts was a growing belief that they were on the verge of restoring the Catholic church. To this end Jesuits had been secretly entering England on the behalf of the Vatican for years. Aware of this intrigue, New England Puritans could hardly fail to notice members of this same religious order were living among the Abenaki on their northern frontier. The militant attitude of the Abenaki after they returned from Canada only seemed to confirm their suspicion of a plot which could even involve elements in the English government, and Andros' offer of a New York sanctuary for Algonquin refugees from New England in 1676 had only added fuel to the fire. The Sokoki were already French allies against the Iroquois having joined them in attacks on the Seneca villages in 1684. With the outbreak of war between Britain and France in 1688, the Abenaki needed little encouragement to launch themselves against the New England frontier.
With the onset of fighting the Abenaki withdrew to sanctuaries in northern New England and Canada. Raids struck throughout New England with a ferocity unseen since the King Philip's War and by 1695 had forced the abandonment of most of the New England frontier. The Penobscot destroyed York, Maine in 1691 and massacred 77 of its inhabitants, but by 1693 they had tired of the fighting. Together with the Kennebec, Androscoggin, and Saco, they made peace with the English, but the Sokoki near St. Francois (Odanak) had been raided several times by the Mohawk (English allies). They remained active in the war and participated in the French attacks on the Mohawk villages in 1693 and the Onondaga three-years later. The Sokoki also continued their raids into New England, one of which even reached the vicinity of Boston during 1697. The Treaty of Ryswick (1697) ended the war between Britain and France, but the fighting between the Abenaki and New England persisted for two years. At a treaty signed in 1699, the eastern Abenaki promised to remain neutral in future wars between Britain and France.
The future was only two years away. War between Britain and France resumed with the Queen Anne's War (1701-13). True to their obligations, most eastern Abenaki remained neutral and withdrew to Wolinak (Becancour) near Trois-Rivieres, Quebec. Others established villages with the Sokoki near the new Jesuit mission at St. Francois du Lac. New England colonists were so reluctant to enter Abenaki territory in Maine, it took them almost two years to realize the Abenaki had left. Western New England was different. By 1700 the Sokoki had formed a lasting alliance with the Caughnawaga (Christian Mohawk who had relocated to Canada and become French allies) and did not remain neutral. The new alliance also served to protect the Sokoki from the British-allied Mohawk, who, in honoring the Iroquois "Great Law of Peace," avoided combat with their Caughnawaga relatives who were allies of the French. The arrangement even extended to the Albany traders of New York who continued to trade with the Sokoki throughout the war.
New England, however, had no peace with the Abenaki. Forming joint war parties with the Caughnawaga, the Sokoki raided the frontier from their village of Missisquoi on the eastern shore of Lake Champlain, Cowasuck in northern Vermont, and St. Francois in Quebec. The mixed populations of these villages made the affiliations of the raiders impossible, and they became known in New England as St. Francis, or simply Abenaki. The most famous raid occurred at Deerfield, Massachusetts on the unlikely date of February 29, 1704 and resulted in 56 dead, 109 captured, and half the houses burned. Massachusetts militia attacked Cowasuck in retaliation, but most of the Sokoki escaped and retreated north beyond reach. The English had little success in stopping the raids. Haverhill, Massachusetts was destroyed in 1708, and Deerfield repulsed another raid in 1709. Military expeditions against the Ossipee and into the upper Connecticut Valley achieved little. Meanwhile, Haverhill (only 30 miles north of Boston) was attacked in 1713.
However, in Maine, the departure of the Abenaki had opened the door for British attacks against the French in Acadia. The initial British attack in 1701 on a French fort on the Penobscot failed, but three years later the British succeeded and gained control of the entire coast of Maine. Military expeditions against the Pigwacket in 1704 and 1708 succeeded only in capturing empty villages but demonstrated that the Abenaki had withdrawn into Canada. Two British attempts to take Port Royal in 1707 failed, but the final effort in 1710 succeeded and forced the French to halt raids on New England to defend Quebec against a possible British naval attack. While the Sokoki remained near St. Francois and Missisquoi, the eastern Abenaki began returning to Maine in 1709. The British capture of Arcadia in 1710 more-or-less ended the war in North America. Three years later at Treaty of Utrecht (1713), France ceded Acadia (Nova Scotia) to Great Britain. For the first time, the entire Abenaki homeland in Maine was clearly under British rule. Although the eastern Abenaki were very upset with this situation, they agreed to peace with Massachusetts at Portsmouth that year. West of White Mountains, the Sokoki lands in northern Vermont and New Hampshire, however, remained a disputed area between the Britain and France.
The French in Acadia (renamed Nova Scotia by the British) did not accept the Treaty of Utrecht as permanent and expected the next conflict would return control to France. That is, if British settlement did not overrun the area in the meantime. By 1717 new English settlements were moving rapidly up the coast of Maine and into the Connecticut Valley of southern Vermont and New Hampshire. Feeling they were defending the rights of their Abenaki converts (and perhaps those of France as well), several Jesuits, most notably Father Sebastian Rasles, strongly encouraged the Abenaki to defend both their lands and themselves. Conferences in 1717 and 1719 between the English and Abenaki could not reach an agreement, and after several incidents of violence, Massachusetts governor Samuel Shuttle declared war on the Abenaki in 1722. Known as Dummer's War (Grey Lock's War, Lovewell's Wa, or Father Rasles' War), the fighting lasted five years until 1727. In 1724 a colonial army attacked and burned Norridgewock on the upper Kennebec River in Maine, killing Rasles and mutilating his corpse. Although the French were never involved directly in the war, their sympathies were definitely with the Abenaki, and their reaction to the circumstances of Rasles' death almost provoked an open rebellion among the French population in Acadia.
Only 150 Kennebec refugees from Norridgewock managed to reach safety in Canada. After the Pigwacket were defeated the following spring, resistance by the Abenaki in Maine ended. In December they signed a peace treaty with Massachusetts which was ratified at Falmouth the following August. The fighting continued in the west, however, for another two years in what could be considered a separate, but related, conflict - Grey Lock's War (1723-27). A member of the Pocumtuc who had found refuge in New York after the King Philip's War, Grey Lock (Wawanotewat "he who fools others") had left Schaghticook and joined the Sokoki at Missisquoi. After war with New England began in 1722, he became a war leader and his successful raids against settlements in the Connecticut valley of Massachusetts earned him a large following. Unable to capture Grey Lock or locate his secret "castle" near Missisquoi, the English asked the Iroquois to help, but they refused to become involved except as possible mediators.
After the war in Maine ended in 1726 with the defeat of the eastern Abenaki and a peace treaty, Massachusetts sent gifts and an offer of peace to Grey Lock in the fall. No answer came back except in the form of continued raids. New York, the Iroquois, and the Penobscot made other attempts to mediate an end to the conflict, but Grey Lock also ignored these efforts. The Penobscot, however, did succeed in getting the Canadian Abenaki at Wolinak and St. Francois to agree to peace with New England. Grey Lock was noticeably absent from the treaty signed at Montreal in July of 1727, but shortly afterwards - probably honoring the request of the Abenaki at St. Francois - he ended the war but never signed any agreement with the English. Seventeen years of peace followed what had been 50 of continuous war between the Abenaki and New England.
The Pigwacket, Androscoggin, Norridgewock returned to Maine during 1727, and in the years following, the Penobscot emerged as the spokesman for the eastern Abenaki with the French and English. For the most part, these peoples would never leave their homeland again. The Passamaquoddy and Maliseet continued to occupy the St. Croix and St. John Rivers respectively, while in Nova Scotia (Acadia) the French Acadians and Micmac patiently awaited their return to France rule and maintained an uneasy truce with the British garrisons in the area. Two permanent Abenaki communities had meanwhile emerged in Quebec: Becancour (near Trois-Rivieres composed mostly of eastern Abenaki displaced from southern Maine); and St. Francois (30 miles to the southwest with a mixed population of Sokoki, Pennacook, and New England Algonquin). The Sokoki also maintained a large, permanent village at Missisquoi on Lake Champlain and a smaller settlement at Cowasuck in northern Vermont.
After Dummer's War, New England came to think of the Abenaki as having permanently migrated to Canada - an error which has persisted to the present. For this reason, virtually all groups of Sokoki and Abenaki encountered in northern New England during this period were usually referred to as St. Francis Indians. The poorly defined boundary between Quebec and New England (a question not completely settled until the 1800s) contributed to the confusion, but it also was a convenient excuse for taking what was considered the unoccupied land in between. In truth the Sokoki and Abenaki never really left northern New England and bands of extended families have continued to live and hunt there ever since. After 1727 English settlements cautiously crept north along the Connecticut River into southern Vermont and New Hampshire, but the slow advance of these heavily fortified outposts in a time of peace is a clear indication that the Sokoki and Abenaki were still present in northern New England in large enough numbers to seriously dispute this encroachment.
A major smallpox epidemic forced the abandonment of Missisquoi in 1730, but it was re-occupied the following year. In one of those questionable agreements by natives of doubtful authority, some Sokoki and Schaghticook were induced to sell land along the Connecticut and Deerfield Rivers in 1735. Despite this agreement, the Sokoki continued to protest each new English settlement and made it very clear that they considered the upper Connecticut Valley as their own. Their numbers had been reduced by war, epidemic, and slow exodus west to the Great Lakes (only 150 warriors), but allied with the French and Caughnawaga, they were still formidable. The friction increased, but the Sokoki still traded with both the English and French. The real problem, however, was to the west at the disputed boundary between Canada and New York in the upper Hudson Valley. French settlement on Lake Champlain had begun near Missisquoi in 1734, and a Jesuit mission was added in 1743.
With the beginning of the King George's War (1744-48) between Britain and France, the long period of peace ended. Both the Abenaki and Sokoki stood with the French. The Cowasuck and Eastern Abenaki withdrew north towards Canada, but strangely enough, a few St. Francois and Pigwacket (one of the last mentions of the Pigwacket who disappear from record after 1750) sought refuge near Boston with the English. The Sokoki and their Caughnawaga allies promptly cleaned out most of the new settlements in southern Vermont and New Hampshire and harassed the few that remained for the next four years. Governor Shirley of Massachusetts in 1744 declared war on Cape Sable, Nova Scotia, and St. John Indians (actually the Maliseet and Micmac) so the Canadian Maritimes were aflame ...at least for the English since the French Acadians were officially neutral and openly sympathized with the Micmac. At least 35 Abenaki and Sokoki war parties attacked the frontier during the spring of 1746. In August Fort Massachusetts on Hoosac River was captured and almost all of the settlements on the east side of the Hudson River in New York had to be abandoned.
Only Mohawk sided with the British, but after their raid just south of Montreal, the Canadian Iroquois declared war on the British colonies in 1747. The French-British war ended with the signing of the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle in 1748, but the Penobscot, Kennebec, Maliseet and Passamaquoddy did not sign a separate peace until 1749. It took even longer for Penobscot to get the St. Francois to agree to call in their war parties. Although they had been battered on the frontiers by the native allies of the French, the British had succeeded in capturing the French fortress at Louisbourg in 1745. Much to the outrage of New England the peace treaty had returned Louisbourg to France, and much to the outrage of the French Acadians, Britain had retained control of the Canadian Maritimes. If there was one thing the King George's War accomplished, it was to leave all parties dissatisfied and ready for another war to settle things.
In 1749 the French reoccupied the upper St. John's River. By blaming the British for a smallpox epidemic that had broken out among the Micmac during the war and supplying arms and ammunition, they were able to prolong the fighting in Nova Scotia until 1752. By 1755 the British had decided to regain control of the Maritimes by deporting the entire French Acadian population which had steadfastly refused to sign an oath of loyalty to Great Britain. Things were also very tense in western New England, and the Sokoki at St. Francois threatened war in 1752 if there was any further English settlement up the Connecticut River. The murder of two of Abenaki hunters by New Englanders the following year brought retaliatory raids against the New England frontier during the summer of 1754. Preparing for war, the French had encouraged the mission villages along the St. Lawrence (Caughnawaga, Lake of the Two Mountains, St. Francois, Becancour, Oswegatchie, Lorette, and St. Regis) to organize themselves as the Seven Nations of Canada (Great Fire of Caughnawaga).
The Caughnawaga dominated this group and attended the Albany Conference with the British colonies (August, 1754). Speaking on behalf of the Abenaki and Sokoki, the Caughnawaga agreed to stay out of any future war between Britain and France. Unfortunately, it was a promise that could not be kept. The opening shots of the French and Indian War (1755-63) were actually fired in 1754 in western Pennsylvania. Raids from Missisquoi and St. Francois hit the frontier in New York that year, and the Penobscot attacked Maine settlements, prompting the Massachusetts governor to offer bounties of: £50 male Penobscot prisoner, £40 male scalp, £25 woman/child prisoner, and £20 woman/child scalp. In 1755 the British had assembled a large military expedition under General Edmund Braddock to capture Fort Duquesne (Pittsburgh). Strangely enough, the allies that helped the French inflict the horrendous defeat on Braddock's army near Pittsburgh were, for the most part, not from the Ohio valley, but warriors from the Seven Nations of Canada led by a Huron war chief from Lorette.
Abenaki and Sokoki warriors also participated in Montcalm's campaign in northern New York, where it is rumored that the Penobscot initiated the massacre that followed the capture of Fort William Henry in 1757. Meanwhile, an Abenaki war party from Becancour raiding near Albany gathered up the last 60 New England Algonquin at Schaghticook and took them back to St. Francois in Canada. Except on the frontier in Vermont, Maine, and New Hampshire, New England suffered relatively few Indian attacks during the war, especially after the colonial rangers commanded by Major Robert Rogers attacked and burned St. Francois during the fall of 1759. Rogers claimed to have killed 200 Abenaki (including the French priest), but the French records listed only 30 dead. Charlestown was raided in retaliation, but the St. Francois dispersed after the raid and were effectively taken out of the war. After the capture of Quebec in 1759, the war was over in North America, although the French did not officially leave until 1763.
Peace did not come uniformly, and Rogers Rangers were required to expel the French from the St. John's River in 1760. Even then a British survey crew was warned by the Maliseet to remain on the lower part of the river. Peace with the St. John's tribes and their eastern Abenaki allies did not really happen until after treaties were signed in 1770 and 1776, and peace with the Micmac took another three years. Elsewhere, with the French defeated and the Abenaki scattered into small groups, settlers flooded north between 1761 and 1774. With their lands being overrun, the Seven Nations considered joining the Pontiac Rebellion in 1763, but in the end urged peace. The British response to the uprising was to issue the Proclamation of 1763 halting further settlement west of the Appalachian crest. However, Sir William Johnson, the British Indian agent for North America, ruled that this did not cover lands claimed by the Caughnawaga, Sokoki, and Abenaki.
This left the Abenaki without a homeland. After years of passing back-and-forth across the border, Quebec considered them New England Indians, and New England felt they belonged in Canada. During the war, many Abenaki and Sokoki had been given refuge at the St. Regis, but with the end of the fighting, the Mohawk wanted them to leave, but they no longer had a place to go. Some stayed as unwelcome guests, others were absorbed by St. Francois, but many were forced to scatter in small bands across northern New England as squatters in their own homeland. It was not surprising that, on the eve of the American Revolution in 1775, the Abenaki and many former French allies longed for the return of French rule to North America. The American Revolution presented the Abenaki with two poor choices between the Americans who were taking their land and the British who were giving it away.
In the beginning, the Seven Nations and other Abenaki were asked to remain neutral but ended up fighting on both sides. Already involved in a struggle with the British over settlement in northern Maine and the Canadian Maritimes, and perhaps hoping the revolution would get rid of the British and restore the French in Canada, the Penobscot, Passamaquoddy, Maliseet and Micmac sided with the Americans. The St. Francois were divided but some helped the Americans besiege Boston and provided guides for Benedict Arnold's ill-fated expedition against Quebec during the winter of 1776-77. The Penobscot also served as scouts for Washington's army, and in 1779 participated in the unsuccessful American attack against the British forts on the Penobscot River. Colonel John Allen formed an Abenaki regiment at Machias which harassed British shipping along the Maine coast during the war. Meanwhile, other Abenaki served with the British and raided Maine's Androscoggin valley in 1781.
After the war the Penobscot and Passamaquoddy received some recognition for their services and by 1798 Massachusetts established three small reservations for them in northern Maine (Maine was not a state until 1820). The treaty was a clear violation of the Non-Intercourse Act passed by Congress in 1790, and led to a $81.5 million federal settlement in 1978 for lands taken from them without compensation. Federal recognition followed in 1980. The Passamaquoddy and Penobscot were granted representation in the Maine legislature in 1823, but their representatives had no status except in matters concerning Native Americans. Tribal members were not allowed to vote in state elections until 1924. The Canadian Abenaki at St. Francois and Bécancour were granted reserves. These were enlarged to accommodate an enlarged population in 1805, although the land was reclaimed in 1839 for "non-use." During the War of 1812, the "last time the Abenaki went to war," Bécancour provided two companies to the British army. The St. Francois and Bécancour have endured to the present, although groups have left over the years. Many went west and worked with the Hudson Bay Company during the 1800s.
Small groups of Abenaki have been moving west to the Great Lakes and Ohio Valley since they accompanied La Salle's expedition in 1680. The French encouraged one group to move to Ohio in 1721, but upon learning the Abenaki had proposed an alliance with the Fox (who were at war with the French at the time), the invitation was withdrawn. Several small groups still managed to settle along the Ohio River by the 1750. In 1787 some of the Abenaki with the Iroquois at St. Regis left. Crossing the Mississippi, they settled on the White River in Spanish Arkansas. After the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, they apparently merged with the Delaware and Shawnee who lived nearby and later moved with them, first to Kansas and then Oklahoma. Vermont became a state in 1791, but neither it nor the United States has ever recognized the land claims or tribal status of the Abenaki living there. The Sokoki presented claims for parts of their homeland in 1798, 1800, 1812, 1826, 1853, and 1874, but all were rejected by the State of Vermont.
First Nations referred to in this Abenaki History:
Please provide an opinion as to this article/site...