One is tempted to begin with who they were not, for there are many statements of fact in the historical record that turn out not to be true. For example, the people who were living in Essex County at the time of contact were not Massachuset. Nor were they Wampanoag, Nipmuc, Mahican, or Mohawk. They were Pawtucket and their original homelands were with the Pennacook in New Hampshire. It is surprising that this fact was not in our local historical canon. It is well documented in the earliest colonial literatures and attested to by oft-cited historical figures, such as the preacher to the Indians John Eliot and the first Indian agent for the Mass. Bay Colony, Daniel Gookin, not to mention by modern ethnographers.1
Plaque Commemorating John Eliot’s Ministry among the Pennacook-Pawtucket at Wamesit (Lowell)
The colonists variously called the native people living on Cape Ann the Agawam, Naumkeag, Pawtucket, Pentucket, or Wamesit, depending on where they encountered them on their subsistence rounds. On the coast in eastern Essex County on the Gulf of Maine the Pawtucket were called the Agawam, an extension of the name of their village on Castle Neck in Ipswich. On the coast in southern Essex County on Massachusetts Bay the Pawtucket were called the Naumkeag, an extension of the name of their village on the Bass River in North Beverly. At Pawtucket Falls in Lawrence, where they exploited the spring fish runs, they were the Pawtucket, and at their winter village at Lowell at the junction of the Merrimack and Concord rivers, they were the Wamesit. On the Merrimack and Powwow rivers in Haverhill and Amesbury, they were known as the Pentucket. They were all the same people, however. When asked who they were, they had simply given the name of where they were at the time—their place or village. The Europeans misapplied those names to invent tribes where no tribe existed. Rather, Pawtucket people lived in an alliance of bands occupying what became Essex County, an outflow of the Pennacook of New Hampshire’s Merrimack Valley. They were all the same people, and most likely referred to themselves as “the people” (Ninnu) or “the people here” (Ninnuok).
The Pawtucket migrated into Essex County from the lower Merrimack Valley by around 750 years ago. They were Algonquian-speaking and spoke a form of Eastern Algonquian, a so-called “genetic” language group (also known as Algic). This language group descended from Proto-Algonquian around 3,000 years ago, which, in turn descended from proto-Algic around 8,000 years ago.2 Eastern Algonquian was the parent language of the Abenaki dialects spoken by the people of northern New England and Essex County, including the Pawtucket, as well as other dialects spoken by the Massachuset and others living to the south of them. Eastern Algonquian languages were spoken from circumpolar regions (for example, Innu) all the way to Chesapeake Bay (for example, Powhattan). Other, different, languages were spoken in Central Algonquian and Western Algonquian areas: in the northern plains (for example, Cheyenne); in the Great Lakes region (for example, Ojibwe or Chippewa); and in Canada (for example, Cree). So it’s a large language family in which all the people had common ancestors in the remote past, much as the 445 Indo-European languages comprise a family of related languages and dialects. The Algonquian/Algic-speaking peoples were descended from some of the earliest people to occupy northeastern North America during the last Ice Age.3
Native North American Language Families
Algonquian Loan Words
English has many loan words from Eastern Algonquian languages, including place names—such as Winnipesauke, Nashua, Chebacco, Agawam—and names for native plants (for example, sumac, squash, tobacco) and animals (for example, raccoon, chipmunk, muskrat).4
|moose||quonset (hut)||wapiti (elk)|
The Pawtucket and Pennacook and some other people of northern New England spoke a dialect of Western Abenaki and may have referred to their homeland as N’dakinna, “Our Homeland”, as Abenaki-speakers do today. Algonquians in the Canadian Maritimes and Nova Scotia spoke dialects of Eastern Abenaki and were known historically as the Tarrantines, a French construct. The “Tarrantines” and the Pennacook-Pawtucket were traditional enemies. Agriculture gave the Pawtucket a higher standard of living than the coastal Algonquians to the north, who were hunter-gatherers. Corn was in such great demand by Eastern Abenaki in the north—where corn would not grow—that they annually raided coastal farms to their south each fall to procure it. Routine corn raids on New England by the so-called Tarrantines—Mi’kmaq (Mi’gmaw) of Nova Scotia, Maliseet (Wolastokwewiyik) and Passamaquoddy (Pestomuhkati) of the Canadian Maritimes, and sometimes the Penobscot (Panawahpskewi) of Maine—are well-documented in the earliest literatures (e.g., Winslow 1624, Winthrop 1649). Raiding likely began in the late 1400s and did not end until 1635 through the intervention of English colonists.
In European historical literature, names of language groups, bands, tribes, chiefdoms, confederacies, and temporary alliances often are used interchangeably or are confused. For example, Algonquian is a language group and is not the same as the Algonquins (or Algonkins), who were Algonquian-speaking people occupying the St. Lawrence Valley and Ottawa Valley in Canada. Many similar confusions persist, such as the Mohegans and Mahicans, two entirely separate Algonquian-speaking peoples. The Mohegans, with their famous sachem Uncas, occupied the Thames River valley in Connecticut (formerly the Pequot River), while the Mahican Confederacy included a group of bands living in New York’s Hudson Valley. James Fennimore Cooper’s 1826 novel, Last of the Mohicans is about the New Yorkers, despite his misspelling of the name and appropriation of the Connecticut sachem’s moniker for one of his characters. Mahican territory encompassed western Massachusetts and the Mahicans and their allies the Pocumtuck of the Connecticut Valley were allies of the Pawtucket of Essex County and others against the Iroquois, arch enemies of the Algonquians to their west.5
Likewise, Iroquois is not the name of a tribe but of a language group (Iroquoian). It is also the name of the famous confederacy composed of a few Iroquoian-speaking tribes originally known collectively as the Haudenosaunee (“People of the Longhouse”). The Iroquois confederacy was composed of the Five Nations: the Mohawk (Kanien’kehaka), Seneca (Onondowaga), Cayuga (Gayogohono), Onondaga (Ononda’gega), and Oneida (Onyota’aka). The confederacy was founded by Ayenwatha of the Onandaga more than 600 years ago between 1400 and 1450 CE. The League of the Iroquois became the Six Nations in 1722 with the addition of the Tuscarora (Skaru’ren).6
All the native populations in the Northeast had similar material cultures and lifestyles because of their similar adaptations to their Eastern Woodland environment. The Pawtucket were not Iroquois, however. They had a different language and kinship system and traditionally did not build longhouses. Elementary school teachers erroneously present Iroquois culture as local and have students construct Iroquois longhouses instead of Algonquian wigwams, but the Iroquois did not live in Essex County. The Iroquoians–Huron (Wyandot), Erie, Susquehanna, and the nations of the Iroquois League—were traditional arch-enemies of the Pawtucket and other Algonquian-speaking peoples of New England.7
Members of the Iroquois League
“Song of Hiawatha”
Artists and writers, along with schoolteachers, get things mixed up. The “Song of Hiawatha” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow is an example. Its title to the contrary, this narrative poem does not celebrate the life and legend of Ayenwatha of the Iroquois League but is about a fictional hero by another name belonging to the Algonquian Ojibwa. The confusion is based on errors in the work of the early ethnologist Henry Rowe Schoolcraft.8 Longfellow’s 1855 poem is a classic example of romanicism and mysticism in mid-19th century treatments of Native Americans. The following excerpt from the poem begins Chapter 1 of Part 1, “The Peace-Pipe”:8
On the Mountains of the Prairie, On the great Red Pipe-stone Quarry, Gitche Manito, the mighty, He the Master of Life, descending, On the red crags of the quarry Stood erect, and called the nations, Called the tribes of men together. From his footprints flowed a river, Leaped into the light of morning, O'er the precipice plunging downward Gleamed like Ishkoodah, the comet. And the Spirit, stooping earthward, With his finger on the meadow Traced a winding pathway for it, Saying to it, "Run in this way!" From the red stone of the quarry With his hand he broke a fragment, Moulded it into a pipe-head, Shaped and fashioned it with figures; From the margin of the river Took a long reed for a pipe-stem, With its dark green leaves upon it; Filled the pipe with bark of willow, With the bark of the red willow; Breathed upon the neighboring forest, Made its great boughs chafe together, Till in flame they burst and kindled; And erect upon the mountains, Gitche Manito, the mighty, Smoked the calumet, the Peace-Pipe, As a signal to the nations.
As the poem goes on, Manitou gathers the tribes, admonishes them for warring among themselves, and tells them he will send a prophet to show them the way of peace. The prophet is “Hiawatha” (modeled on the historical Ayenwatha), and the poem sets forth his fictional adventures, including his famously tragic love affair with “Princess” Minnehaha. In the process Longfellow mixes up historical tribes, languages, heroes, and legends, which readers of his day nevertheless took as truth. Other writers did the same thing, such that Native American “history” is rife with mistakes, misnomers, and misconceptions stemming from centuries of European Americans’ efforts to tell it.
The Pawtucket were closely related to the Pentucket to their immediate north, Abenaki-speaking people around Haverhill above the Merrimack. Pentucket translates as “At the bend in the large tidal river”. The area is erroneously identified as a tribal territory in Sidney Perley’s 1843 map of Essex County. Like the Pawtucket, however, the Pentucket were a branch of the Pennacook of central New Hampshire. The Pennacook were Central Abenaki, closely allied with Western Abenaki of Vermont, such as the Sokoki and Missisquoi, and with the Eastern Abenaki of Maine, such as the Saco, Androscoggin, and Penobscot. Following European contact, these Abenaki-speaking groups were further allied through the Pennacook Confederacy, named after its most powerful group in 1620. The leader of that Confederacy was Passaconaway (Pappiseconewa). So, the Pawtucket were not an isolated band of Indians with seasonal migration between Lowell and the coast. They were connected in a vast network of sophisticated, nuanced, ever-changing relationships of kinship and alliance. Thus, the answer to the question of who they were turns out to be both more complex and more dynamic over time than we thought.9
Abenaki Distribution in VT, NH, and ME
Pennacook permanent winter villages included Concord, New Hampshire, and the Pennacook Confederacy had its seat at Amoskeag, today’s Manchester, NH. Amoskeag village was by a waterfall that exists by that name in Manchester today. Amoskeag means “place for taking small fish,” referring to the alewives or shad (river herrings) and smelt that swam far upriver on the Merrimack to spawn. You can still see stone fish weirs or corrals made by the Pennacook fishers at Amoskeag Falls.10
In 1640 there were 19 principal bands or sagamoreships in the Pennacook Confederacy, as recorded by Daniel Gookin and John Eliot. They are named not for tribal identity, however, but for villages or names of places under the jurisdictions of sagamores:
|Accominta||York ME + Rockingham NH counties|
|Newichawawock (Norridgewock)||York + Cumberland counties ME|
|Piscataqua (Pascataway)||Stratford County NH + Oxford County ME|
|Monchiggan (Morattigan)||Mohegan Island|
|Coosuc and Cowasuck (Cohassiac)||Grafton + Coos counties NH|
|Winnipesaukee||Carroll + Belknap counties NH|
|Pennacook||Merrimack County NH|
|Amoskeag||Hillsborough + Rockingham counties, NH|
|Squamscot||Rockingham County NH|
|Winnecowet||Rockingham County NH|
|Natticook||Cheshire + Hillsborough counties NH|
|Souhegan||Sullivan + Hillsborough counties NH|
|Agawam||Northern Essex County MA|
|Naumkeag||Southern Essex County MA|
|Pentucket||Rockingham NH + Northern Essex MA|
|Wamesit (Pawtucket)||Northern Middlesex County MA|
|Nashua (Nashaway)||Hillsborough NH + Worcester County MA|
|Wachuset||Northern Worcester County MA|
|Weshacum||Northern Worcester County MA|
The Pennacook Confederacy often allied with other Abenaki groups of New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine to defend against their mutual enemies. Abenaki allies in Vermont included the Sokoki, for example, while New Hampshire allies included the Ossipee and Pequawket (often written as Pigwacket). Abenaki allies to the east included at times the Saco (Sawacotuck), Kennebec, and Penobscot. During the 1650s, the Pennacook Confederacy also allied with some members of the Massachuset Alliance, especially the Nipmuc of Worcester County.11
Traditional Pawtucket Allies
The Pennacook dominated the White Mountain region of New Hampshire. Pennacook is said to mean “at the bottom of the hill” or “at the bottom of the cliff”, referring perhaps to a foothill of the White Mountains or to hills in Merrimack County, NH, near Suncook or Hooksett, both Pennacook sites—or perhaps Jeremy Hill in Pelham, NH. Other candidates are a hill above Long Pond in Dracut, MA, and a bluff at Sugar Ball Hill near Concord, NH, both places where the great Pennacook sachem Passaconaway is said to have resided.
Another translation of Pennacook is “Land of the Winding Hills” (penna = winding and sloping land + coo = continuous [as in a range] or abundant + k = place, land), referring to the southern foothills of the White Mountains. However, penna (plural pennak) is also Abenaki for “groundnut(s)”, small potato-like tubers that grow at intervals on a long, winding, continuous root. This food was critical for subsistence as a survival food to both the Indigenous people and arriving colonists. As one or two others have suggested, the true meaning of Pennacook may be “Here Are Abundant Groundnuts”.12
Passaconaway was at his fort at the foot of Sugar Ball Hill (present-day Fort Eddy in Concord, NH) in 1659 (according to other sources this was in 1655) when, according to the ethnographer Henry Schoolcraft, he sold Pennacook to a Major Richard Waldron, having already given up his seat at Natticook. Other than these sites on the Merrimack River, Pennacook leaders favored the regions of Lake Winnepesaukee and Lake Ossipee and summered on the coasts of New Hampshire and southern Maine, including Ogunquit, Kittery, York Beach, Hampton, Portsmouth and Seabrook, NH, and Salisbury, MA. When explorer Bartholomew Gosnold went ashore to get directions at York Beach in 1602, he almost certainly was talking to Pennacook.13
So, in addition to Cape Ann’s history being tied to the histories of other towns and cities in Essex County, Pawtucket history is tied as much to that of other New England states (especially Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine), as it is to the history of Massachusetts. We can see the big picture in this context—the broader sweep of time and place, which seems important, because we live in a culture that prefers to keep things simple and tends to treat American history without reference to the history of the rest of North America.
Confusion about Pawtucket identity stems in part from their close associations with trading partners and shifting alliances and confederacies, not to mention extended kinship networks maintained through intermarriage. The Pawtucket traded with members of the Massachuset alliance to their south and the Nipmuc alliance to their west. The Pawtucket and others carried out trade (in corn, stones, minerals, copper, shells, pearls, furs, medicinal plants, dried seafood, animal pelts, and finished goods) by canoe and via their extensive network of trails through woodland forests and along riverbanks. Many trails that the colonists made into roadways had been in use for a thousand years or more. Most ran east to west, connecting the coast to the interior, but also north-south along the coast and major north-south rivers such as the Connecticut, the Upper Merrimack, and the Hudson. The Pawtucket traded mainly with the Pennacook of New Hampshire, the Abenaki of Vermont and Maine, the Nipmuck and Massachuset, and the Mahicans of the Hudson River Valley.14 Indigenous peoples east of the Appalachians in the Ottawa Valley (e.g., Algonquins), St. Lawrence (e.g., Hurons/Wendats), upstate New York (e.g., Iroquois), and eastern Pennsylvania (e.g., Susquehannocks) served as intermediaries in trade between the Algonquians on the East Coast and the peoples west of the Appalachians. Intermediaries in the north-south coastal trade were the Montagnais, Abenaki, Mi’Kmaq, Narraganset, and Delaware.
Animal pelts were used to make clothing, coverings, and hide thongs and were actively traded among Indigenous peoples. Furs denoted status. Then, early in the Contact Period, pelts became tickets to new wealth and material goods through participation in the fur trade. That commerce began in the 1400s with Basques, Bretons, and French trading through Abenaki and Mi’Kmaq middlemen on the coast and inland with the French and Dutch through the Iroquois. Those peoples were the first to receive copper pots, steel knives, iron kettles, woolen coats, glass beads, and, fatefully, guns, gunpowder, and liquor. Indigenous peoples all up and down the St. Lawrence, Merrimack, Connecticut, and Hudson rivers and on the Gulf of Maine coast increased trapping efforts when they learned how lucrative it was to trade furs to the Europeans. Europeans especially prized beaver and muskrat skins for export to make water-repellent hats and coats. By 1600 beavers and muskrats in southern New England had been driven to near extinction, leaving control of the fur trade in the hands of the hunter-gatherers to the north and in the interior.
Algonquians of Southern New England Pawtucket neighbors
Pawtucket Trading Partners15
Algonquian Confederacies of the Northeast
The history of Pennacook-Pawtucket alliances is quite checkered. Prior to European Contact the Pawtucket were part of an Eastern Abenaki coastal confederacy led by Bashabes, but this fell apart prior to 1600 when Bashabes was killed in a war with the Mi’Kmaqs. During the Contact Period, most Pawtucket were part of the Pennacook Confederacy, which gradually weakened. After King Philip’s War, some Pawtucket families looked to Chicataubut’s Massachuset alliance, but most distanced themselves from the southern New England groups. Pawtucket who had not already fled to Canada joined the Wabanaki, a powerful Abenaki confederacy centered on the Gulf of Maine that attacked English fisheries and settlements on the Maine frontier. Members of the Wabanaki Confederacy, included remnants of defeated Pennacook, along with some Pawtucket, who ultimately allied with the French.16
Strong Algonquian confederacies other than the Pennacook and the Wabanaki included the Wampanoag of the southeast coast of Massachusetts (the Pokanoket sachem “Massasoit” famously met William Bradford at Plymouth in 1620); the Nantucket alliance of islanders on Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket; the Massachuset of Boston and the Charles River watershed (first contacted by John Smith in 1614 and in 1629 by English colonists led by John Eliot); the Nipmuc, whose territory overlapped with the Pawtucket in Worcester County; the Narraganset of Rhode Island (Canonicus and Miantonomi sold “Providence” to Roger Williams in 1636); and the Pequot and Niantic of Connecticut (who traded with the Dutch at Hartford in 1633 and ended up in a disastrous war with the English). The Algonquian confederacies maintained alliances for mutual trade, exogamous marriage, and aid against enemies, but they frequently realigned and sometimes turned on each other.17
The numbers on the map below represent the chronology of confederacies to which the Pawtucket bands of Essex County belonged. Prior to 1600 (1 on the map) they were in a Penobscot-Abenaki confederacy led by a powerful sachem by the name of Bashabes. This confederacy ended when Bashabes was assassinated by Tarrantines (Mi’Kmaq), a historical event reported by Samuel de Champlain, which sparked a series of wars of retribution.
Algonquian Confederacies of the Northeast, 1600-1700
The Pawtucket of Essex County belonged to different overlapping regional confederations over time, represented by the numbers. The other four groups in the south represent the other key confederacies of southern New England.
Next (2) the Pawtucket under Masconomet joined a confederacy, along with the Massachuset, led by the powerful Abenaki-Nipmuc sachem Nanepashemet, who summered in Marblehead. One of Nanepashemet’s sons was married to one of Masconomet’s daughters. In 1619, however, Nanepashemet, too, was killed by Tarrantines at his fort in Medford, a historical event reported by Edward Winslow. More warfare and realignments ensued. Nanepashemet’s widow became known as squaw-sachem, a saunksqua. She remarried a Muskataquid shaman from the Lower Merrimack at Concord and brought her people into the new confederacy led by the powerful Pennacook sachem Passaconaway (Papisseconewa), who summered in Amoskeag (Manchester, NH). One of Squaw-sachem’s sons was married to one of Passaconaway’s daughters. Only one of her three sons survived the smallpox epidemic of 1633, but their stories are taken up elsewhere.
In 1644 most sachems, sagamores, and saunksquas in Passaconaway’s Pennacook Confederacy (3), including Masconomet, signed a declaration of allegiance to the King of England, agreed to become Christians, put themselves under the protection of the colonists, and swore to maintain strict neutrality in times of conflict. This confederacy broke up in 1674 when some warriors joined the Wampanoags in King Philip’s War, becoming enemies of the English, who then indiscriminately attacked Indian villages or forced the people to live on reservations or in internment camps. In the aftermath of that war, most surviving members of the Pennacook confederacy ended up on slave plantation or fled to western allies, went north to Quebec, or joined Abenaki war parties on the eastern frontiers.
Some Pennacook joined the Wabanaki Confederacy (4), which had formed around 1610 and included Abenaki, Penobscot, Passamaquoddy, Maliseet, and Mi’Kmaq and was led by war chiefs such as the famous Membertou. Between 1680 and the Revolutionary War, members of the Wabanki Confederacy fought on the side of the French and were dedicated to expelling the English from coastal settlements and fisheries on the Gulf of Maine.18 Between 1675 and 1775 members of the Wabanki Confederacy were involved in the harassment of English fishing fleets and settlements on the coast of Maine. These “Anglo-Wabanaki Maritime Wars”, in which Essex County fishermen paid a high price for plying their trade, is taken up in another context.
After King Philip’s War other surviving Pawtucket and Pennacook of the Lower Merrimack Valley and Essex County allied themselves with successors of the Massachuset sachem Chickatawbut of Neponset (5), largely because they had a special positive relationship with the English. Chickataubut had fought for the English against Pometacom (King Philip). As the Pawtucket and Massachuset lost their discrete identities, other groups in southern New England survived in place in sufficient numbers to retain their identities even to the present day, including the Nipmuc, Mohegan, Pequot, Pennacook, Ponkapoag, and Wampanoag. Today there are no groups who call themselves Pawtucket, Agawam, Naumkeag, Pentucket, or Wamesit.
So the Pawtucket, Pentucket, Wamesit, and Namkeag were the same people. As I learned this, the “Agawam Indians” I thought I knew began to seem unfamiliar, even alien. And that’s another thing about real history: It is indeed strange. To know what really happened in the past, one needs to be open to the unexpected, the hidden, the odd, and the untrumpeted. Untrumpeted heroes of this history include the sachems, sagamores, and saunksquas who heroically strategized and temporized for the survival of their people during the turbulent colonial period.
Thus, the Algonquians living in Essex County at the time of European Contact were the Pawtucket. They and all the other Algonquian-speaking peoples in New England were descended from the Eastern Woodland Indians before them. The Pawtucket started occupying Essex County and Cape Ann probably between 750 and 1,000 years ago. They were an offshoot of the Pennacook people of the Lower Merrimack Valley in New Hampshire. Another outgrowth of the Pennacook, the Pentucket, occupied both banks of the Merrimack River from Haverhill to Salisbury.
The Pennacook, in turn, were part of the Western Abenaki-speaking populations who occupied northern New England. Present-day Concord and Manchester, NH, were the sites of major Pennacook villages, and their sphere of influence extended in an arc from Lake Winnipesauke to Salem Sound. The timing of Pawtucket expansion southward may have been motivated by climate change: they were farmers, and the cold period known as the Little Ice Age was just starting at that time. Corn needs 50-degree soil to germinate and at least a 3-month growing season, even with the early-maturing varieties the Algonquians of the Northeast had developed. The Pawtucket would have displaced or absorbed whatever other Algonquians were here at that time–most likely Eastern Abenakis: Mi’Kmaq and other coastal people on the Gulf of Maine, who may also have reoccupied the coast during the Contact Period as the Pawtucket declined in numbers or withdrew from the area.
Algonquians of New England at the Time of Contact
The Pawtucket were flanked by Pennacook and other Abenaki-speaking people to their north; Nipmuc, Pocumtuc, and Mahican people to their west; and Massachuset people to the south. These people were linked via the Merrimack River and its 70 tributaries. They also were linked by diplomacy, military alliance, and inter-marriage. By 1640, Pawtucket, Nipmuc, and Massachuset people had joined a powerful Pennacook Confederacy, led by the legendary shaman-sachem Passaconaway (Pappiseconewa). It is this networking that has led to confusion about the identity of the people who were here.
So the Pawtucket were the people occupying Essex County at the time of European contact. But now, where exactly in Essex County were they living? Do we know where their villages were?
Next: Where were the Pawtucket villages?
Notes and References
- References to the Pennacook are in Eliot’s Brief Narrative of the Progress of the Gospel amongst the Indians in New England, in the Year 1670: http://www.bartleby.com/43/12.html. See also Cogley, Richard W. 1999. Eliot’s Mission to the Indians Before King Philip’s War. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press; and Eames, Wilberforce, ed. 1915. John Eliot and the Indians 1652-1657: Being Letters Addressed to Rev. Jonathan Hanmer of Barnstaple, England. New York: Museum of the American Indian: https://archive.org/stream/cu31924104076884#page/n1/mode/2up.Eliot, John. 1671. Daniel Gookin’s 1674 descriptions of the Pennacook (Published in 1692, reprinted in 1792 and 1806) are in his Historical collections of the Indians of New England and their several nations, numbers, customs, manners, religion, and government before the English planted there. Boston: Massachusetts Historical Society Collections Paper 13: http://digitalcommons.uri.edu/sc_pubs/13/. See also Gookins’ Historical Account of the Doings and Sufferings of the Christian Indians in New England in the years 1670-1677. The definitive modern ethnography of the Pennacook Indians is by David Stewart-Smith, in several works. See, for example, The Pennacook Lands and Relations: An Ethnography in The New Hampshire Archaeologist 33/34 (1994). The Massachusetts Tercentary Marker photo is from https://richardhowe.com/2021/07/24/massachusetts-tercentary-markers/.
- My take on historical linguistics comes mainly from the works of Ives Goddard and Frank Siebert.
- The classification of languages of North America is presented authoritatively by Ethnologue at http://www.ethnologue.com/region/Americas. See also Steven Johnson’s historical linguistic analysis of Algonquian in Ninnuock: the Algonkian People of New England (Bliss, 1995) and the website of the Cowasuck [Kowasek] Band of the Pennacook-Abenaki People (the People of the White Pines), especially the pages on N’dakina history, http://www.cowasuck.org/history.cfm and The Abenaki Language, http://www.cowasuck.org/language.
- A more detailed map of Native American language families is at http://www.cogsci.indiana.edu/farg/rehling/nativeAm/ling.html.
- A good source for Algonquian loan words is Alexander Chamberlain’s 1902 Algonkian Words in American English: A Study in the Contact of the White Man and the Indian, in The Journal of American Folklore 15 (59): 240–267. Note that in English many loan words are corruptions of Algonquian words. Caucus, for example, comes from Algonquian caucauasu, “counselor” and hickory comes from the last syllables of pawcohiccora.
- James Fennimore Cooper, The Last of the Mohicans (H. C. Carey & I. Lea, 1826). Note that originally there was never a group called the Mohicans; the name is a mash-up of Mohegans and Mahicans, two separate groups from Connecticut and New York respectively. Descendants of the New Yorkers refer to themselves as Mohicans, however. For a perspective on Mahican identity, see the web site of the Stockbridge-Munsee Community Band of Mohican Indians at http://www.mohican-nsn.gov/.
- The Iroquoian-speaking and Algonquian-speaking people of the Northeast represented different waves of immigration to the region with cultures that reflected similar adaptations to life in the Eastern woodlands but were otherwise quite different in kinship and social and political organization. For more on this, see, for example, Dean Snow’s ethnography, The Iroquois (Blackwell, 1994). Traditional and enduring enmity between the Iroquois, especially the Mohawk of upstate New York, and the Algonquians of New England is first attested in the accounts of Samuel de Champlain and early French missionaries. Both the French and the English exploited this enmity in their own aims for dominion over North America. For example, the French used Algonquians to defeat Mohawks living in the Champlain Valley and attempting to trade with the Dutch, and the British used Iroquois to defeat the Algonquians in King Philip’s war. Pometacom himself died at the hands of Mohawks with whom he had mistakenly sought refuge. See accounts by Increase Mather and Cotton Mather in Samuel Drake’s 1862 The History of King Philip’s War, Jill Lepore’s groundbreaking work, The Name of War: King Philip’s War and the Origins of American Identity (1998), and most recently Our Beloved Kin by the Indigenous scholar Lisa Brooks (2018).
- Of the many excellent secondary sources on the history of the League of the Iroquois, I relied mainly on William Nelson Fenton’s The Great Law and the Longhouse: A Political History of the Iroquois Confederacy (University of Oklahoma Press, 1998) and Daniel Richter and James Merrell (eds.), Beyond the Covenant Chair: the Iroquois and Their Neighbors in Indian North America, 1600-1800 (Pennsylvania State University Press, 2003).
- See Henry Rowe Schoolcraft’s Algic Researches (Harper 1839). Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s “Hiawatha: A Poem” is at http://etext.lib.virginia.edu/toc/modeng/public/LonHiaw.html.
- See Sidney Perley’s map in Chapter 2. English sources for the Pawtucket-Pennacook in Pentucket and the lower Merrimack Valley include Abiel Abbott’s 1829 History of Andover: From Its Settlement to 1829; Nathaniel Bouton’s 1856 The History of Concord: From Its First Grant in 1725, to the Organization of the City Government in 1853, with a History of the Ancient Penacooks….; George Wingate Chase’s 1861 The History of Haverhill, Massachusetts: From Its First Settlement, in 1640, to the Year 1860; John Pendergast’s 1991 The Bend in the River; and Arthur Veasey’s 2009 Olde Pentucket—Haverhill’s First Hundred Years. A useful general source for towns in Middlesex County is Duane Hurd’s 1890 History of Middlesex County, Massachusetts: Vol. 1 (See, for example, his naming of sagamores on p. 811). See also sources cited in Notes for Chapter 2 on the history of Indians in Chelmsford, Dracut, Billerica, and Lowell. For example, read “Indian History” from the History of Chelmsford by Wilson Waters at http://www.chelmhist.org/INDIANS.htm, and Vol. I Charles Cowley’s 1862 . Memories of the Indians and Pioneers of the Region of Lowell (Library of Congress). Abenaki distribution in northern New England is described, for example, in Volume I (pp. 511-512) of William Williamson’s 1831 The history of the state of Maine: from its first discovery, A. D. 1602, to the separation, A. D. 1820 (Glazier, Masters & Smith); Donald Rickey’s 2000 Encyclopedia of New Hampshire Indians: Tribes, Nations, Treaties of the Northeastern Woodlands; and Gordon Day’s In search of New England’s native past, Michael K. Foster and William Cowan, eds. (UMass, 1998). See also George Varney’s 1886 History of Kennebec County, Maine in A Gazetteer of the State of Maine.
- See Amoskeag Fishways, Manchester, NH, at http://www.amoskeagfishways.org/. Amoskeag as a Pennacook administrative center and fishing site is described in John B. Clarke (1875), Manchester: A Brief Record of its past, a picture of its present, including an account of its settlement and of its growth as a town and city, as well as in Chandler Potter’s The History of Manchester, Hillsborough County, New Hampshire (1856). (See especially chapters III and IV). The Potter is the classic source for English accounts of the Pennacook in southern New Hampshire.
- I found the following the best sources on Abenaki-speaking people of Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine: Michael Caduto, A Time Before New Hampshire: The Story of a Land and Native Peoples (University of New Hampshire Press, 2003); Federal Writers Project, New Hampshire: A Guide to the Granite State. U.S. History Publishers, 1989); Colin Calloway, The Western Abenakis of Vermont 1600-1800 (University of Okalhoma, 1990); and Thadeuz Pietrowski, Thadeuz, The Indian Heritage of New Hampshire and Northern New England (McFarland, 2002). For the names of Pennacook and Pawtucket villages, tribes, bands, and sagamoreships I have relied mainly on the books and articles by David Stewart-Smith, cited in previous chapters. Other sources on the Pennacook sagamoreships in New Hampshire include Duane Hamilton Hurd’s county-by-county histories: History of Rockingham and Stafford Counties (1882): http://www.archive.org/details/cu31924082451547; History of Hillsborough County, New Hampshire (1855): http://www.archive.org/details/cu31924028812662; and History of Merrimack and Belknap Counties, New Hampshire (1855): http://www.archive.org/details/historyofmerrima00inhurd.
- Pennacook possibly referring to “groundnuts” instead of “rolling hills” or “winding foothills” was first mentioned on page 149 in N. T. True’s 1868 Collation of geographical names in the Agonquin language, in the Essex Institute Historical Collections 8:144 (Salem, MA). He cites Penaqui-cook—“crooked place” but notes that French missionaries recorded pena (a potato-like tuber otherwise knows as groundnuts) as the root word for the name, with coo(k) referring to the ubiquitousness of groundnuts growing throughout that area.
- Passaconaway’s roles and lineage are explored in Access Genealogy, Pennacook Indian History: http://www.accessgenealogy.com/native/ and in Charles Beals, Passaconaway in the White Mountains (1916) and Russell Lawson, Passaconaway’s Realm (University Press of New England, 2002). A source on the Pennacook Confederacy is Dick Shovel’s essays in First Nations Histories at http://www.tolatsga.org/Compacts.html. Passaconaway’s loss of Pennacook lands is described in Volume 12 of William Foster’s The Farmer’s Monthly Visitor (1852), including the sachem’s petition in 1662 to John Endicott of the General Court for sufficient land to plant enough corn to sustain his people, which the Court granted. Richard Waldron was a fur trader with a trading post at Dover, NH, called Cocheco. He was killed by Pennacook following King Philip’s War in retribution for his betrayal of long-standing friendship and trust (in which he used trickery to capture Indians for the slave trade). Abenaki, Pennacook, and Pawtucket patterns of trade are considered in H. G. Brack’s Norumbega Reconsidered: Mawooshen and the Wawenoc Diaspora: The Indigenous Communities of the Central Maine Coast in Protohistory 1535-1620 (Davistown Museum Publication Series Volume 4, 2006). See also See Brothers among Nations: The pursuit of intercultural alliances in early America, 1580-1660 (Van Zandt, 2008). Coastal Algonquian trade with Europeans prior to and during exploration and settlement is documented in Kenneth Andrews’ 1984 book. Trade, Plunder, and Settlement: Maritime Enterprise and the Genesis of the British Empire, 1480–1630 and Thomas Nixon’s 2011 book, The North American Fur Trade and its Effects on the Native American Population and the Environment in North America. See also articles by Bruce Bourke and Ruth Whitehead (1985), Tarrentines and the Introduction of European Trade Goods in the Gulf of Maine. Ethnohistory 32 (4): 327-341; and Dean Snow (1976), The Abenaki fur trade in the sixteenth century, The Western Canadian Journal of Anthropology. 6 (1): 3-11. Sources for the fur trade and its impacts of Algonquian life include Fred Anderson and Andrew Clayton (2005), Champlain’s Legacy: The Transformation of Seventeenth-Century North America, in The Dominion of War: Empire and Liberty in North America, 1500-2000; Dean Snow (1976), The Abenaki fur trade in the sixteenth century, in The Western Canadian Journal of Anthropology 6 (1); Thomas Axtell (1988), At the Water’s Edge: Trading in the Sixteenth Century, in James Axtell, After Columbus: Essays in the Ethnohistory of Colonial North America; Thomas Nixon (2011), The North American Fur Trade and its Effects on the Native American Population and the Environment in North America; and W. R. Wilson (2010), Eastern Woodland Indians & the Coming of the Europeans and New France, in Early Canada Historical Narratives: http://www.uppercanadahistory.ca/fn/fntoc.html.
- See Chester Price’s maps in Historic Indian Trails of New Hampshire, in The New Hampshire Archaeologist 14: 1-33 (1958). A source map of Native Settlements and Trails c. 1600-1650 appears on page 12 of Wilkie and Tager’s Historical Atlas of Massachusetts (1991): http://www.geo.umass.edu/faculty/wilkie/Wilkie/maps.html. Other maps appear in William Haviland’s Canoe Indians of Down East Maine (The History Press, 2012) and Colin Calloway’s The Western Abenakis of Vermont 1600-1800 (University of Oklahoma, 1990). My map of Pawtucket trading partners is an amalgamation from these sources.
- For a perspective on Pennacook allies in the Wabanaki Confederacy, see the web site of the St. Francis-Sokoki Band of Abenaki Indians at http://www.aaanativearts.com/wabanaki/St-Francis-Sokoki-Band-abenaki.htm.
- Details on the changing native alliances and confederacies in southern New England may be found in Dennis Connole’s 2007 Indians of the Nipmuck Country in Southern New England 1630-1750: An Historical Geography, and the Lewis and Newhall 1844 History of Lynn, Essex County, Massachusetts, including Lynnfield, Saugus, Swampscott, and Nahant, 1628-1893.
- See Dick Shovel and David Stewart-Smith for details on the Pennacook Confederacy.
1 thought on “Who were the Pawtucket and where did they come from?”
This is fascinating, and very helpful!
I am trying to figure out which natives my ancestor, Simon Stone of Watertown likely got his farm (“granted 8 units”?) from in 1635. The Stone Farm included the land that Mt. Auburn and Cambridge Cemeteries now occupy. Was that perhaps winter ground (on the Charles) for the Naumkeags? Were the Naumkeags part of the Pawtuckets in 1635, or the Masssachusets, or both? Might Stone have gotten this land from the Squaw Sachem (was she a Naumkeag?) after she lost her two sons, John and James, and many of her people to smallpox? Do you have a guess?