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Snow Owl September 2004


The flag of the Indian Nation of Odanak in Quebec was adopted at the end of 20th century. Source is Michel Lupant (Gaceta de Banderas #65)

Symbols in the corners are: a black turtle, a black bear, a maple leaf and a yellow bird over a black rectangle.
Jaume Oll


Peoples Distribution Before 1600 Map A









Wabanakia(k) - the Dawnland-extended from Gaspe Peninsula in Quebec to Cape Ann (Gloucester) in Massachusetts, and from Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia to Lake Champlain inVermont. In SPAP Report No.I-2 (Mapping Mawooshen), MAP A (shown above) showed Peoples Distribution Before 1600, with the Wabanaki then consisting of Micmac, Etchemin, and Abenaki-Pennacook.
Peoples Distribution Circa 1725 Map B







Abenaki-St Francis

MAP B (shown above) showed the Wabanaki peoples Circa 1725 as Micmac, Maliseet-Passamaquoddy, Penobscot (a.k.a. Eastern Abenaki), and Abenaki-St.Francis (meaning both the Abenaki remaining in New England and the Abenaki regrouped in & working out of New France - this latter category a.k.a. Western Abenaki).

This also implies that, by c.1725, the Etchemin had regrouped as Maliseet & Passamaquoddy, and the (per se) Pennacook (a.k.a. Central Abenaki) had dispersed in all directions to merge with neighboring peoples.

Based in the town of Swanton in northern Vermont is the Saint Francis - Sokoki Band of the Abenaki Nation, sometimes referred to as the Western Abenaki.

Sokoki is their native word for the Western Abenaki. Their original name, the Wabanaki meant "those who live at the sunrise", or "the easterners".

That may mean that the St. Francis - Sokoki Band is actually being called the "Western Easterners" by those unaware of the tribe's name's etymology.

The tribe, which numbers around 1200 individuals has been recognized by other Abenaki Bands in Quebec as true Abenaki.

The State of Vermont extended recognition to the tribe in 1976, only to rescind it in 1977 due to protests from hunters and fishermen. The state recognition had included special hunting and fishing rights for the band (The Abenaki Today, 99).


People of the Dawn Land
The Abenaki probably numbered more than 20,000 people before first contact with Europeans, in the current states of Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine, although this number was greatly reduced due to the diseases brought into North America by Europeans. During the wars of the 18th century, many Abenaki migrated to Quebec, Canada where the greatest number can be found today.

Today's Abenaki in the U.S. are identified as 2 groups - the Western Abenaki (Vermont and New Hampshire) and the Eastern Abenaki (Maine).

The Abenaki are most often confused with the Wabenaki Confederation of which they are a part of along with the Penobscots, Passamaquoddy, Micmac and Maliseet, however they are a separate tribe.

Today there are more than 2,500 Western Abenaki living in the Lake Champlain area of Vermont - the Sokoki-St. Francis Band of the Abenaki Nation.

Although the Abenaki received state recognition in 1976, it was later withdrawn, and at the time of this writing they are still seeking federal recognition.

The Abenaki absorbed thousands of southern New England Natives who were seeking refuge from the King Philip's War in the 1670's. Descendants of Pennacook, Narragansett, Wampanoag, Niantic, Pocumtuc, Pequot and Nipmuc can still be found among Abenaki today.


18,500 BP (before the present) The last glacier, known as the Wisconsin glaciation, begins to recede.

11,000 BP The glacier and arctic-like tundra are gone from all but northern Maine.

10,500 BP Maine's first human population arrives, Paleo-Indians with fluted points.

10,000 BP Paleo-Indians seem to disappear.

10,500-8500 BP Late Paleo-Indians briefly visit Maine. Most common in northern and western Maine.

8500-3500 BP A variety of Archaic people appear in succession in Maine.

5000-3800 BP Maritime adaptation, including swordfish hunting, emerges on the coast. Red Paint burial sites date from this time period.

3700 BP A new population arrives in Maine from the southeast. It is less marine-oriented and used more land resources.

3500-3000 BP Archaic people population appears to decline.

2800 BP Ceramic people arrive and pottery makes its first appearance in Maine. Also, the first wigwams and birchbark canoes appear here.

1100-1000 AD Norse explorations, settlements, and timber-harvesting parties visit Newfoundland, Labrador, and other arctic regions, as well as the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The Norse probably did not make it to the Gulf of Maine though.

1400 As many as 20,000 Indians are living in Maine in three major ethnic groups Armouchiquois (southern Maine to Cape Elizabeth), Etchemin, today's Maliseet and Paasamaquoddy (Kennebec to St. John rivers), and Abenaki (interior and western sections). The Souriquois (today's Micmac) were living mostly east of the St. John River in New Brunswick. (By 1700, Wabanaki, the People of the Dawn, would be generic term for all Maine Indians).
New England Indians are part of the Algonquin language family. This group includes all Indians of New England and the Canadian Maritimes, including Maliseet and Micmac. It also includes the Pequots in Connecticut, Narrangansetts in Rhode Island, Wampanoags in Rhode Island and Massachusetts, the Nipmucks along the Connecticut River Valley, and the Abenaki of Maine, New Hampshire and northern Vermont.

1400-1500 The first agriculture in Maine is in a region from the southwestern part of state up to the Kennebec River. Samuel de Champlain sees Indians growing corn, beans and squash at Saco and up to the Kennebec. East of this area, it appears natives remained mostly hunters and gatherers at the time of contact with Europeans.

1570-1610 Native pottery goes out of use as metal kettles become available through indirect trade with Nova Scotia Indians, who get them from Europeans in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Europeans cannot seem to get enough furs, mostly beaver, from Indians. In time, this disrupts relations between tribes as they vie for the European trade. The intense trapping also severely depletes the number of fur-bearing animals. As trappers and middlemen in the trans-Atlantic fur trade, Indians become dependent on European steel tools, cloth, alcohol, tobacco, and other commodities. The Indians' birch bark canoes, snowshoes and woven wood pack baskets are considered curiosities in Europe.

1600 The first English and Acadian settlements in Maine. By 1620, both fishing and trading are well established.

1607-1630 Maine coastal Indians and Micmac of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia fight each other for control of fur trade. Micmac are better equipped because of closer ties to Europeans in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

1616-1619 "Great Dying," a three-year pandemic begins to decimate the native population, actually wiping out some coastal groups altogether. This was just the first of several epidemics that killed as many as 90-95% of Maine Indians in an area from Penobscot Bay to Cape Cod. It's believed that the plague, smallpox, cholera, measles, hepatitis, and whooping cough transmitted by Europeans were responsible for the Indian deaths. Some survivors move to older villages to the east and in Canada. It's unclear whether the epidemics had as great of an impact in eastern Maine.

1675-1678 First Anglo-Wabanaki War (King Philip's War) begins after an Indians' uprising against English settlements. Six thousand English settlers are killed or driven out of a huge area from Wells to Pemaquid.

1688-1759 A series of five "French and Indian" wars are fought by Indians, French and English. In some, Indians are allied with the French for their conflict with England. Others are simply motivated by self-preservation to stem the steady encroachment by English on Indian lands and food sources. English settlers offer bounties for Indian scalps. French offer bounties for English scalps. Many Wabanaki move out of Maine to Canada's St. Francis and St. Lawrence river valleys. Not quite halfway through the wars, Indians are broken as a fighting force and English have permanent fortifications in place.

1688-1699 Second Anglo-Wabanaki War (King William's War) is directly connected to on ongoing power struggle in Europe.

1701 Facing the aggressive expansion of British colonists, Penobscot, Passamaquoddy, Maliseet and Micmac begin to formalize a council known as the Wabanaki Confederacy. As "brothers" in the Wabanaki family, the allied Indians call upon each other to help fight outside enemies. As told in a Passamaquoddy narrative:
Long ago, the Indians were always fighting against each other. They struck one another bloodily. There were many men, women and children who alike were tormented by these constant battlesIt seemed as if all were tired of how they had lived wrongly. The great chiefs said to the others, "Looking back from here the way we have come, we see that we have left bloody tracks. We see many wrongs. And as for these bloody hatchets, and bows, arrows, they must be buried forever." Then they all set about deciding to join with one another in a confederacy.

The Confederacy had its own symbol on a wampum belt, which had four white triangles on a blue background, signifying the union of four allied tribes. In times of need, envoys took this belt to invite allies "to take up the hatchet against the enemies of the nation."

1703 - 1713 Third Anglo-Wabanaki War (Queen Anne's War) also has European roots. Following orders from the French Crown, Canada's governor declares war on neighboring English colonists.

1721-1726 Fourth Anglo-Wabanaki War (Dummer's or Lovewell's War) is a local war of Indians reacting to British encroachment. English attack and burn many Indian villages, including Norridgewock and Old Town. Indians retaliate by destroying English settlements on lower Kennebec.

1744-1748 Fifth Anglo-Wabanaki War (King George's War) begins after France declares war on Britain, and the conflict spills over into northeast America. English declare war on Micmacs and Maliseets.

1755-1760 Sixth Anglo-Wabanaki War (French & Indian or Seven Years War) breaks out after France and Britain wage war again and the conflict intensifies hostilities in colonial North America.

1763 French and Indian Wars end with the Treaty of Paris which forces France to give Canada (New France & Acadia) to England. Many Wabanaki homelands are included in the swap but without the Indians' consent.

1777 Eastern Maine Indians reluctantly take up arms during the Revolutionary War. Some Maliseets and Passamaquoddies (Etchemin) joined British troops during the Revolutionary War, but more were likely to support Colonists. At the Pleasant Point Passamaquoddy Reservation there's a monument (placed by the Daughters of the American Revolution) honoring the Indians who fought with the Colonists against the British.

1790 Historians incorrectly assume that since so many Wabanaki have relocated to Jesuit missions in Canada, they would become "extinct" in Maine.
Many of the Wabanaki from Maine end up in St. Francois-du-lac, Becancour, and Sillery in Quebec province with Canadian Abanaki. Since traditional Wabanaki are oral languages and not written ones, historical records are hard to come by. Many tribal stories about cultural heroes and wampum belts with glyphs that tell about past events begin to disappear.

1794 Although Passamaquoddy's traditional lands had been in Canada prior to the Revolution War, a treaty with Massachusetts gives the tribe some parcels in Maine. The land was in appreciation for the Indians' support during the war because they were no longer welcome back in Canada. The treaty is never ratified by Congress because both Massachusetts and the federal government viewed Maine natives are "domesticated Indians," and not the federal government's responsibility.

1796 Penobscots sign a treaty with Massachusetts giving up claims to any lands except for Old Town Island and others islands along a 30-mile stretch on the Penobscot River. In return, they receive salt, corn, cloth, and ammunition. Subsequent treaties further deplete their land holdings. Again, the treaties are never ratified by Congress because the federal government did not consider these Indians its responsibility.

1820 Maine becomes a state. Penobscots and Passamaquoddies now become wards of the new state with reservations at Indian Island, Pleasant Point and Peter Dana Point in eastern Maine. These reservations are called "enclaves of disenfranchised citizens bereft of any special status." Unlike the federal programs for Western Indian tribes, there is a system of state-based care for Eastern Indians (because they're considered "domesticated").

1850 Maine Indians, once predicted to become "extinct," are now thriving in various professions. Despite the loss of land, hunting and fur trading, many Indians are still in the woods working as lumbermen, river drivers and guides. Some become legendary, such as Penobscots Joseph Aitteon and Joe Polis who show Henry David Thoreau around Moosehead and Chesuncook lakes, the Allagash, and up Mount Katahdin. Other respected Indian guides were Louis Annance and Louis Bernard of the Moosehead Lake area. Other Indians turn to selling crafts to make a living. They set up summer camps in Bar Harbor or travel in circuits and stop at several grand hotels, such as Poland Spring House to peddle their baskets, beadwork, and war clubs to tourists.

1880 Traveling Indian medicine shows become the rage. These shows move from town to town featuring war dances, juggling, vaudeville acts and lectures on the virtues of Indian medicine. One of the most popular is the Kickapoo Indian Medicine Show with an eloquent and striking adopted Indian, Dr. John Johnson, getting top billing. Kickapoo Indian Oil, Kickapoo Indian Sagwa (a blood tonic), Kickapoo Cough Cure, and Kickapoo Worm Remedy were some of the bestsellers. These potions could be mixed and bottled backstage for about seven cents each, but sold for as much as a dollar. Oftentimes, Indians would borrow the more dramatic tribal wear of Western Indians and entertain the "sophisticates" in buckskin and war bonnets.

1897 Louis Sockalexis, a Penobscot born on Indian Island, becomes the first American Indian to play for a Major League baseball team when he is recruited by the Cleveland Spiders. After hitting .338 in his first season, Sockalexis dazzled sportswriters and fans alike. Legend has it that the team is nicknamed, the Cleveland "Indians," as a tribute to Sockalexis. The team officially changes its name in 1915.

1912 Andrew Sockalexis, a Penobscot Indian raised on Indian Island, is a long distance runner for the U.S. team in the Fifth Olympics. He is the cousin of Louis Sockalexis, the great baseball player.

1920 - Present Despite the many challenges facing tribes, including loss of land, they cling to ancient customs and beliefs. Interest in political sovereignty and cultural history strengthens.

1930 Molly Spotted Elk (Molly Dellis Nelson), a Penobscot from Indian Island, is a dancer, actress and writer known around the world. Her most famous work is the film, "The Silent Enemy," an award-winning documentary film about Native Canadian Ojibwas. She also performed vaudeville in New York and danced for royalty and mingled with the literary elite in Europe. In Paris, she found audiences more appreciative of authentic Native American dance than in the U.S. She married a French journalist, but during the German occupation in 1940, had to flee France with her young daughter and return to Maine.

1937 State of Maine recognizes tribes' aboriginal rights to hunt and fish and offers free hunting and fishing licenses to members of Penobscot and Passamaquoddy tribes.

1954 Members of Maine's two recognized tribes are allowed to vote in national elections; it is the last state to do so. Yet it's the only state to have tribal non-voting members in the state legislature; one Penobscot and one Passamaquoddy.

Mid-1950s John Peters, a Passamaquoddy, finds a copy of a 1794 treaty that shows his tribe lost 6,000 acres. His attempt to discover what happened to the lost land eventually leads to a lawsuit against the state in 1972.

1965 Department of Indian Affairs (DIA) is established to develop and administer social, health and economic programs for Maine's Indian tribes. At the time, Maine's DIA was the first in the nation. However, many Indians who did not live on the Penobscot or Passamaquoddy reservations were not able to receive benefits.

1967 Members of Maine's two recognized tribes are allowed to vote in state elections. (They received the right to vote in national elections in 1954.)

1972 The Passamaquoddy tribe and the Penobscot Nation file a lawsuit claiming 12.5 million acres of land had been taken from them in treaties that violated federal law (because they were not ratified by Congress). The land in question comprises more than two-thirds of the state of Maine.

1973 Micmac and Maliseet Indians are recognized as tribes by the state, bringing the number of tribes to four. The state of Maine also recognizes aboriginal rights to hunting and fishing and gives tribal members free hunting and fishing licenses and special educational scholarships. The state also opens a regional office of the state's Department of Indian Affairs in northern Maine.
In an apparent reference to how the needs of Maine Indians have been ignored, a DIA memorandum states "... to a striking extent, the history and problems of Indians in Maine parallel the history and problems of Negroes in the South."

1980 President Jimmy Carter signs the Maine Indian Land Claims Settlement Act which acknowledges that Congress never ratified treaties with Maine Indians. The Penobscots and Passamaquoddies give up claims to millions of acres of land in exchange for a $27 million trust fund and $51 million to buy 300,000 acres of land. The Act also established the Houlton Band of the Maliseets as a federally recognized tribe and it receives $900,000 to buy 5,000 acres. Micmacs are left out of the Settlement Act. The state terminates virtually all existing state services to Indians, meaning Micmacs lose all they had gained in previous decades.

1980 - Present The population of Indians in Maine doubles. There's a renewed cultural awareness and anyone with at least one-quarter Indian ancestry can legally join a tribe. Many hope that economic development resulting from the Indian Land Claims Settlement Act will improve opportunities for tribal members.

1991 Micmacs get federal recognition and $900,000 to buy land. (The tribe was excluded from the 1980 Indian Land Claims Settlement Act.)

2000 Maine Indian Tribal-State Commission, established by the Indian Land Claims Settlement Act, struggles with sovereignty and other contentious issues, such as fisheries, land-use regulations and gambling casinos.




For thousands of years before Europeans industrialized the area, the Winooski Valley was inhabited by the Abenaki Indian tribe. Back in the 1600s, there were two main Native American groups occupying Vermont. The Mahicans were located in the southwestern portion of the state. The Abenaki occupied the rest of the state. (See Map) Branches of the Abenaki spread throughout most of the Northeast. The Abenaki territory extended from Maine to Connecticut and as far west as New York. The Abenaki consisted of various groups such as the Missiquoi Band of 300, the Cowasucks of the upper Connecticut River, 500 Sokokis of the middle Connecticut River, the Penacooks and Winnipaukees of the upper Merrimack River, as well as other bands on major rivers in Vermont. Each had a sizeable village situated on bluffs close to water, yet close to the bottomlands so they could grow corn.

At the turn of the century the Abenaki tribe lived in poverty and prejudice. The majority of the white New England public viewed them as welfare recipients who were a burden on society rather than natives of the land who were struggling to preserve their culture. Even those who felt sympathetic toward the Abenaki, thought that they should try to assimilate into the American culture rather than try to preserve their own. Abenaki children were forced to go to schools that were designed to replace their native language and culture with American.

(I dare say, that all The Peoples can place this in their tribal historiesSnow Owl)

Today, the Abenaki population in Vermont is growing and there are at least 20 tribal groupings throughout the state. The largest Abenaki community is located near St. Albans. The group is organized in the traditional extended family groups with a designated leader, usually the oldest male. Also, there has been a major effort by the Abenaki people to relearn the lost arts and skills of their ancestors. Many have researched techniques for basket and rattle making, bead work and traditional dancing.


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