The Nashua (or Nashaway or Weshacum) were a sub-tribe of the Western Abenaki branch of the Algonquain Indians. They lived along the upstream portions of the Nashua River valley in what is now the northern half of Worcester County, Massachusetts, near Mount Wachusett.
ABENAKI INDIANS are a linguistic and geographic group of Eastern Woodland tribes that originated in the New England region of the United States and Quebec and the Maritimes of Canada, a region called Wabanaki (“Dawn Land”) in the Eastern Algonquian languages. The Abenaki are one of the five members of the Wabanaki Confederacy. Historically, there was not a strong central authority, but a large number of smaller bands and tribes who shared many cultural traits.
One of the five tribes of the Wabanaki Confederacy
The Abenaki Indians were one of five algonquin tribes that belonged to the Wabanaki Confederacy. The Sokoki, or western Abenaki, were known in New England as the St Francis Indians. While the Abenaki are a separate tribe on their own, their name is often used interchangably to mean the whole Wabenaki Confederacy.The Abenaki live in the New England region of the United States and Quebec and the Maritimes of Canada, a region called Wabanaki in the Eastern Algonquian languages. Wabenaki is actually the geographical area these tribes lived in, and means Dawn Land. Wôbanakiak is the term used to mean People of the Dawn Land. Abenaki and Wabanaki have the same Algonquian root, meaning in English “people from the east.”The Penobscot Indians are often included in the Western Abenaki grouping, although they are a separate tribe from the Abenaki. The eastern abenaki peoples also include separate tribes called the Mi’kmaq, Maliseet and Passamaquoddy.Ethnologists divide the Abnaki people into two subdivisions: the Eastern Abenaki and Western Abenaki. These subdivisions are further broken down into bands.
Eastern Abenaki Bands:
Amaseconti (also known as Odanak, or St. Francis River Abenakis) Alternate Spellings: Amesokanti, or Anmissoukanti
Ossipee – One of the twelve Algonquian tribes. The Ossipees lived along the shores of Ossipee Lake in east-central New Hampshire. Sometimes classed as Western Abenakis.
Penobscot (now considered a separate tribe)
Western Abenaki Bands:
Arsigantegok (also Arrasaguntacook, Ersegontegog, Assagunticook, Anasaguntacook) – Lived along the St. Francis River in Québec. Principal village: St. Francis (Odanak), therefore called St. Francis River Abenakis and came to be applied to all Western Abenakis
Cowasuck – (also Cohass, Cohasiac, Koasek, Koasek, Coos- “People of the Pines”), lived in the upper Connecticut River Valley. Principal village: Cowass, near Newbury, Vermont.
Missiquoi (or Missisquoi) – Located in the Wabanaki region of what now is northern Vermont and southern Quebec. This sub-group of the Abenaki lived along the eastern shore of Lake Champlain at the time of the European incursion. Their name Missiassik, from which “Missisquois” is derived, means “place of flint” in the Abenaki language; or alternatively, from Masipskoik, a word that means “place where there are boulders”, more specifically “boulders point.”
Nashau (or Nashaway or Weshacum)
Ossipee – One of the twelve Algonquian tribes. The Ossipee Indians lived along the shores of Ossipee Lake in east-central New Hampshire. Often classed as Eastern Abenakis.
St. Francis – Sokoki Band of the Abenaki Nation
Alternate names and spellings for Abenaki
The Abenaki people call themselves Alnôbak, meaning Real People. There are a dozen variations of the name Abenaki (singular) or Abenakis (plural form), such as Abnaki (contracted), Abanaki, Abenaquiois, Abakivis, Alnanbal meaning “men,” Abenaqui, Benaki, Oubenaki, Quabenakionek, Wabanaki, Wippanap, Wabenakies and others.
The earliest use of the term Abenaki in its various spellings appears to be French. Champlain, the Jesuit Relations, and other sources use the term after about 1630, abandoning the earlier extension of Etchemin (Maliseet-Passamaquoddy) to include them.
Many later writers lumped all the abenaki with the Western Abenaki under the heading Openango (with several spelling variations). English writers of the seventeenth century usually called the Eastern Abenaki simply Eastern Indians.
In the nineteenth century the term Tarrantine, a seventeenth-century English name for the Micmac, was revived as Tarratine and erroneously applied to the Penobscot. Various other obscure and confusing identifications also exist.
Because Abenaki was not a written language, there are no rules for spelling, adding to the proliferation of Abenaki names.
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, and are still there today.
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.
The original Abenaki name for their specific tribe is Alnombak, “the people.” Today there are 2,000 Abenaki Indians living on two reserves in Quebec, where they fled from British aggression in the 1600’s, and another 10,000 descendants scattered throughout New England. The Abenaki tribe is only officially recognized in Canada, and only the Canadian population still speaks the Abenaki language fluently.
Modern Abenaki history has been a fugue of attrition and regrouping. Up to 75% of the Native Americans in New England were killed by European diseases in the 1500’s and early 1600’s.
Dozens of distinct tribes originally lived in this area, but after each disaster the survivors of nearby villages moved together for safety’s sake, and even Indian oral history became blurry about who was who. Since the Abenaki tribe tended to retreat into Canada to avoid attacks from the British and Iroquoians, England was left with the impression they were Canadian Indians, but in fact the Abenakis were originally natives of New England. The Abenaki bands’ strategy of merging after heavy losses and keeping more powerful neighbors in the dark about their existence may have caused them headaches in getting federal recognition, but it has also ensured their survival, whether their neighbors are aware they are still there or not.
Abenaki, or Western Abenaki, is an Algonquian language spoken today by only a few elders in Canada.
Native speakers call their language Alnombak, Alnôbak, or Aln8bak (the 8 was a Jesuit symbol for a nasalized, unrounded ‘o’.) Penobscot or Eastern Abenaki, a dialect mutually comprehensible with Western Abenaki, was once spoken in Maine. Sadly, the last fully fluent speaker of Penobscot Abenaki has passed on, but several elders know something of the language and are working to revive the language in the Penobscot Nation today.
In 1614, Thomas Hunt captured 24 young Abenaki people and took them to England. During the European colonization of North America, the land occupied by the Abenaki was in the area between the new colonies of English in Massachusetts and the French in Quebec. Since no party agreed to territorial boundaries, there was regular conflict among them.
The Abenaki were traditionally allied with the French; during the reign of Louis XIV, Chief Assacumbuit was designated a member of the French nobility for his service.
Facing annihilation from English attacks and epidemics of new infectious diseases, the Abenaki started to emigrate to Quebec around 1669. The Governor of New France allocated two seigneuries (large self-administered areas similar to feudal fiefs). The first was on the Saint Francis River and is now known as the Odanak Indian Reservation; the second was founded near Bécancour and is called the Wolinak Indian Reservation.
In 1724 during Dummer’s War, the English took the principal Abenaki town in Maine, Norridgewock, and killed their Catholic missionary, Father Sébastien Rale. The following year a party of English colonists led by John Lovewell, out to collect scalps to redeem for bounties offered by the Province of Massachusetts Bay, came near an Abenaki village near present-day Fryeburg, Maine. Two returning Abenaki war parties engaged the English, who withdrew after a 10-hour battle. Due to this pressure, more Abenaki emigrated to the settlement on the St. Francis River. Because many of the Abenaki moved further north as white settlers settled around the seacoast and southern areas of New England, when they later attacked the English, they were considered raiders’ invading from Canada.
No Abenaki group is a federally recognized tribe in the United States. In 2006, the state of Vermont officially recognized the Abenaki as a People, but not a Tribe. The state noted that many Abenaki had been assimilated, and only small remnants remained on reservations during and after the French and Indian War (the Seven Years War).
Facing annihilation, the Abenaki began emigrating to Canada, then under French control, around 1669 where they were granted two seigneuries. Seigneuries are a feudal land system that granted small plots of land. A tribal council was organized in 1976 at Swanton, Vermont, as the Sokoki-St. Francis Band of the Abenaki Nation. Vermont recognition of the council was granted that same year but was later withdrawn for unknown reasons. In 1982, they applied for US federal recognition, which is still pending.
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.
In order to become a member of the Aroostook Band of Micmacs, you must be able to prove pre-recognition ties to Aroostook County, Maine before November 26, 1991, and provide documentation to prove your Aroostook ancestry. Other requirements include:
- You must have the certification within the application notarized.
- Provide a Certified Birth Certificate, which will be returned to you after copies are made for your file.
- You must be a United States citizen.