June 14, 2014

Amaseconti Tribe


The Amaseconti Tribe (also known as Odanak, or St. Francis River Abenakis) was a small division or band of the Abenaki , formerly residing partly at Farmington Falls on the Sandy River in Franklin County, Maine, and partly near the present day town of New Sharon between the upper Kennebec and Androscoggin rivers in western Maine.

The Abenaki are one of the five members of the Wabanaki Confederacy.

The Amaseconti took part with the other Abnaki in the early Indian wars against the English and joined in the treaty made at Portsmouth, New Hampshire, in 1713.

Some of them lingered in their old homes until about 1797, when the last family removed to St Francis, Quebec, Canada, where they retained their distinctive name until 1809.

Amaseconti means “abundance of small fish,” referring to the herring.

Eighty miles due north of Portland Maine is the valley of the Sandy River.

From its main sources, the two Sandy River Ponds just south of Saddleback Mountain, the river flows southeast to a low waterfall then turns to the northeast growing in size until it empties into the Kennebec River.

Before the area was settled, the river was thick with Atlantic salmon, alewives, shad, sturgeon and striped bass. These all swarmed far upstream to spawning grounds. The streams and forests were filled with beaver, otter, sable, ermine, moose and deer. Natural meadows in the valley were few and small. The native trees are several kinds of maple, beech, ash, elm, basswood, pine, hemlock, fir, spruce, cedar, with some oak in the highlands and black larch or “hackmetack” on the low lands.

The first people to settle in the area were an offshoot of the Abenaki people called the Amaseconti.

They established two villages along the banks of the river, one at the falls and another a few miles further downstream to the northeast.

They called the valley “Mussalunsquit,” which means “good hunting place.”

No one is sure when they settled there.

The Amaseconti cleared a large tract of land along the river from what is now Farmington Falls where the primary village was to the edge of New Sharon.

The Abenakis as a whole were a stable population.

Once settled they didn’t move around much. Some branches would migrate from lake or riverside into the hills for better shelter during the winter, but the Amaseconti had a prime location with both hills and a river.

Corn, beans, squash, and potatoes were among the crops they grew. The river also provided food and they netted or speared the salmon and alewives easily.

The Amaseconti hunted for meat and hides from non-migratory game like moose and deer with bow and arrow or used snares and traps for smaller game.

Trappers came through occasionally for the valuable fur animals in the area.

This hunting did not significantly lower the animal population.

The Amaseconti band used wild foods such as berries, nuts, mushrooms, maple syrup, and had a wide knowledge of medicinal plants.

The Amaseconti lived in wigwams.

These were not the conical tents covered with hides of the plains indians, but eight-foot high, dome-shaped dwellings that were capable of withstanding high winds and heavy snows.

The men were responsible for the framing of the wigwam. They cut down saplings ten to fifteen feet long, bent the longer ones into arches, then placed them around a 10 to 16 foot diameter circle or oval drawn on the ground.

The arches of the long saplings formed the basic structure and the shorter saplings wrapped the longer ones to provide support. The sides and roof were birchbark, elm bark, reed mats or a combination. Bed platforms were attached to the inner frame. These kept sleepers off the cold hard ground and provided additional storage space.

Larger wigwams or different shaped wigwams could accommodate larger families, or provide a meeting space.

The Amaseconti were a relatively small group led by a civil chief.

The civil chief advised and facilitated decisions of a council made up of representatives of all the families rather than imposing unilateral rule. A separate war chief led a council composed of all adult men and women to decide matters relating to the defense of the group.

By the mid 1700s the Abenakis had lost a much of their population to a series of plagues, one of which in 1617 had a mortality rate of 75%. There is no reason to think that the Amaseconti would not have suffered the same losses.

Alternate spellings: Amesokanti, or Anmissoukanti

Abenaki Indians
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