ABENAKI

(Abnaki)

 

Geographical region : northeast, New England

This tribe lives in sinple tipees

Language group : algonquin - wakashan

 

The name Abnaki was given to them by the French, but properly it should be Wabanaki, a word that refers to morning and the east and may be interpreted as those living at the sunrise.

The Abnaki lived mostly in what is now Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont.

Abnaki legend has it that they came from the Southwest, but the exact time is unsure.

After a series of bloody conflicts with British colonists, the Abnaki and related tribes (the Malecite, the Passamaquoddy, the Pennacook, the Penobscot, and others) withdrew into Canada, where they received protection from the French.

The Abnaki were in settled villages, often surrounded by palisades, and lived by growing corn, fishing, and hunting.

Their own name for their conical huts covered with bark or mats, wigwam, came to be generally used in English.

The history of the Abnaki may be said to begin with Verrazano visit in 1524.

The mythical accounts of Norumbega of the early writers and navigators finally dwindled , a village of a few bark covered huts under the name Agguncia, situated near the mouth of Penobscot River, in the country of the Abnaki.

In 1604 Champlain ascend the Penobscot to the vicinity of the present Bangor, and met the "lord" of Norumbega, doubtless an Abnaki chief.

From that time the Abnaki formed an important factor in the history of the region now embraced in the state of Maine.

From the time of their discovery until their partial withdrawal to Canada they occupied the general region from the St.Johns to the Saco; but the earliest English accounts indicate that about 1605-20 the southwest part of the coast of Maine was occupied by other Indians whose chief seat was near Pemaquid, and who were at war with the Abnaki, or Tarrateen, as the English termed them, who were more to the north; but these other tribes were finally conquered by the Abnaki and probably absorbed by then. Who these Indians were is unknown.

The Abnaki formed an early attachment for the French, chiefly through the influence of their missionaries, and carried on an almost constant war with the English until the fall of the French power in America.

The accounts of these struggles during the settlement of Maine are familiar episodes in American history.

As the whites encroached on them the Abnaki gradually withdrew to Canada and settled chiefly at BÍcancour and Sillery, the latter being afterward abandoned by them for St.Francis, near Pierreville, Quebec.

The Penobscot, Passamaquoddy, and Malecite, however, rem ained in their ancient homes, and in 1749 the Penobscot, as the leading tribe, made peace with the English, accepting fixed bounds.

Since that period the different tribes have gradually dwindled into insignificance.

The descendants of those who emigrated from Maine, together with remnants of other New England tribes, are now at St.Francis and Quebec, BÍcancour in where, under the name of Abnaki, they numbered 395 in 1903.

At the same time the Malecite, or Amalicite, were numbered at 801 in several villages in New Brunswick and Quebec, with about 625 Penobscot and Passamaquoddy in Maine.

The present Penobscot say they number between 300 and 400, while the Passamaquoddy claim as many as 800 souls.