The Abenaki[Waban-Aki] People.

    Written and researched by Margaret Sypniewski, herbu Odrowaz.

    Canadian Abenaki in Quebec Province:

    1. Odanak
    2. Wolinak

    In Quebec, in the Bic region of the Gaspe Peninsula, the remains of a Paleo-Indian camp, nearly 8,000 years ols was discovered in 1992.

    Abenaki Facts:

    Abenaki means "the people of the rising sun," or "People of the east Wabum-light A'ki-land."

    Before the arrival of the missionaries, the Abenaki had spiritual guides known as Medewiwin. They taught the Abenaki people to use the water drums and told them about the importance of dreams.

    There were 4 compass points. The first house to the east was given the name Abenaki.

    The ash is there tree symbol: "As long as the ash tree grows and the rivers flow ... the Abenaki will live."

    The Abenaki were in constant contact with the Malecite and Micmac people and they were united in marriage. THey began to spin wool and weave linen and to knit in the European way. They made ash baskets. They worked with birch bark.

    Surnames found in Onanak reserve in Quebec, Canada, were O'Bomsawin, Gill, and Sadoques.
    Surnames found in Wolinak reserve in Quebec Province, Canada were Bernard, Saint-Aubin, and Medzelabanleth.

    The Caribou was one of the most respected animal. Communication with animal masters can only be achieved after many years of learning, and the elders are generally best to accomplish this feat. This is especially true for the caribou, and for this reason caribou hunting is generally led by an elder. The Caribou totem stands for Travel, mobility, preference to be nomadic, and adaptability to adversity. This is because caribou can travel as many as 600 miles when the seasons change.

    Animal masters can be contacted through songs, and drums, by reading bones, and through dreams.

    Care must be taken to not litter the ground with used bones to dogs or vultures. This is seen as disrespectful to the caribou/or any animal used for food. A female caribou weighs 250 kg. many people are needed for the feast to be a success. Male caribou can reach 700 lbs.

    Caribou live an average of 15 years. Now they are considered an endangered species. Caribou are the only deer that both male and females can have horns, but some females do not have them. Their antlers are about three feet long and are shed in the winter. They eat grass, moss, and lichens and can eat twelve pounds of food each day. The Abenaki became Christians more than 300 years ago. The Odanak reserve in Quebec, Canada, has one Anglican and one Catholic church. Between 1670 and 1760, the Abenaki were considered the guardian angels of the French.

    The Abenaki are the indigenous people of northern New England. They were originally called "The People of the Dawnland" or "easterners." When the Europeans first came here they occupied a region from the Atlantic Ocean to Lake Champlain and from northern Massachusetts to the Saint Lawrence River Valley. They were primarily hunters, fisherman, and farmers. Abenaki peoples included the:

  1. Penobscot, spoke the Algonquian language(in Eastern Maine)

  2. Passamaquoddy (in Eastern Maine)

  3. Norridgewock (in Eastern Maine)

  4. Kennebec (in Eastern Maine)

  5. Androscoggin (in Western Maine)

  6. Pennacock (in New Hampshire)

  7. Piguaket (in New Hampshire)

  8. Sokoki (Connecticut)

  9. Cowasuck (Connecticut)

  10. Winoski (Lake Champlain)

The Abenaki were like other Algonquians of the Northeast. They did farming, hunting, fishing,and gathering. However, the land of the Abenaki was more stony and the growing season was short so they relied less on agriculture. The Abenaki lived in cone-shaped wigwams rather than dome-shaped ones. They used birchbark and elm-bark mats over sapling frames to shape their woodland style tents. In winter they lived the inside walls with bear or deer furs for insulation. There was an opening at the top for fire smoke to escape. Surrounded their homes was a palisade of upright logs to protect them from animals and other tribes.

They still used their own religious customs such as skulls of wild animals as before they became Christians. The women grew corn like the Huron-Wendat and the Mohawks, but used fertilizer in the way the Europeans taught them. In Carl Waldman's Atlas of the North American Indian he states:

"Both the Iroquois and Algonquians had strong tribal (or band) identities above and beyond the basic nuclear families, often living in palisaded villages. The Iroquois came to be known as the People of the Longhouse for their communal houses, whereas the Algonquians generally lived in wigwams. Both Iroquois and Algonquians came to have confederacies of various tribes--i.e. The Iroquois League of Five Nations, the Abenaki Confederacy, and the Powhatan Confederacy (32).


King William's War involved both the Iroquois and the Abenakis because they were considered valuable to the French and the English trade. In Maine, Abenakis were enraged when Sir Edmund Andros, the governor of England's northern colonies, led a company of soldiers against the trading post of their friend Baron de St. Castin on Penobscot Bay in 1688, demanding his submission to the English Crown. Next the settlers in Saco, Maine, seized 16 Indians for selling livestock. The Abenakis then took a number of settlers.

The Iroquois raid in 1689 Lachine along the St. Lawrence River. Two hundred French colonists were killed and 120 were taken as prisoner. The French were angry as the Iroquois were sent by the English. The governor of New France then began a war against both the Iroquois and the English.

In 1690, New York, New Hampshire, and Maine were attacked by Frontenac with the purpose of killing the English and tried to make the Iroquois to make peace with the French. Frontenac then attacked Schenectady killing 60. Then they attacked Salmon Falls, New Hampshire, killing 34 English. In a third attack with both the French and Abenakis captured Fort Loyal (in Falmouth), in Maine. This raid resulted in 100 dead settlers. There were many more raids until, in 1697, a treaty was signed between France and England and the Iroquois were asked to sign as well. The Mohawks, finally signed the treaty in 1700. Many wars continued in the reigns of Queen Anne and King George.

The French called them Abenaqui or Oubenaqui. The Abenaki sided with France and their wars with the British between 1689 and 1763 The British victory in the Seven Year's War (1756-1763) took their French allies and their land was open to English settlements. Some fought on both sides of the border between Canada and the US colonies. After this the Abenaki sided with the Colonists who fought for independence from the British in 1776 and 1837.

The English were in contact with those living in Eastern Maine, after King Philip's War in 1675-1676. The conflicts between the Abenaki and the British sent many refugees to the French Missions. St Francis (Odanak) and Becancour ((Wolinak). The Abenaki called themselves Wabanaki or Wabanaki Confederacy. The Confederacy included the Passamaquoddy (Algonquian)in eastern Maine, Maliseet, and Micmac of northern Maine and the Maritime Provinces of Canada. Anthropologists divide the Abenaki into two groups: The Eastern (Maine) and Western (Vermont) because of their linguistic differences.

Bedagi (Big Thunder) spoke about the Abenaki's relationship with the spirit world and nature. "The Great Spirit is our father, but the earth is our mother." Websites on the Abenaki:

[Abenaki Books and Websites]Passamaquoddy Reservation|Wabanaki of Maine|Odmogan Museum in Maine|Abenaki Wigwam

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