The Wabanaki were forced to go to war time and again during a century of conflict that saw the French and English jockey for control of North America. The Wabanaki made war in an effort to stop the invasion of their homelands. They also supported their French and American Revolutionary allies against the English. Many treaties were signed, but broken or never enforced.
Separate treaties between the Passamaquoddy (1794) and Penobscots (1796) with Massachusetts reliniquished vast tracts of Native homelands and established small Indian reservations in Maine.
In 1790, the U.S. Congress had passed the Non-Intercourse Act that declared the federal government must ratify all treaties between the States and Indian Nations. Because Congress never ratified the 1794 and 1796 treaties with the Maine tribes, the tribes successfully negotiated the Maine Indian Land Claims Settlement Act in 1980.
Joseph Orono, Penobscot chief, travels to Boston and Newport, RI to offer the aid of the Penobscots to the American Revolutionaries.
Pledge of Loyalty and Request for Support, Conference at Machias.
Wabanaki pledge their loyalty to the Revolutionary Army. In return, they request support and safety for their people.
Our white brothers (the Americans) tell us that they come to our land to enjoy liberty and life. But their king (of England) is coming to bind them in chains and kill them. We must fight him. We will stand on the same ground with our brothers (the Americans).
Joseph Orono, Chief of the Penobscots, 1775
British attack Machias; the Wabanaki join the Revolutionaries. Captain Sopiel Soctoma, Passamaquoddy, and 50 men of his tribe capture an armed schooner off Passamaquoddy Bay and deliver it to Colonel John Allan in Machias.
At the end of the French and Indian Wars, France cedes Canada to Great Britain. The French-Wabanaki alliance ends.
The Wabanaki Confederacy established an alliance of the Wabanaki Nations. This alliance provided individual Wabanaki Nations with greater political power with which to negotiate with European Nations and potentially threatening neighboring Native alliances like the Iroquois Confederacy. In addition to political power, the Wabanaki Confederacy also provided individual Wabanaki nations with a broader sense of community—although they were individual nations, they could choose to unite under the confederacy to address issues that affected them all. At the Grand Council Fires of the Seven Nations, Confederacy members met, made decisions and settled disputes.
The records of these meetings were kept on the wampum belts, symbolic objects that commemorated events.
Native people sent and received Wampum woven into belts as a form of communication. Through the geometric patterns of the purple and white beads, Native people wove wampum designs to remember and recall important events like oral histories, treaties and agreements. These belts were brought back and forth from important events, and passed down from generation to generation.
This belt is a reproduction of a historic wampum belt and represents the union of the Maliseet, Micmac, Passamaquoddy and Penobscot in their local alliance. The four white triangles are tribal "wigwams." In the center is the pipe, the symbol of the peace ceremony by which the allies are joined.
As the English and French fought for control of the continent, the Wabanaki, caught in the middle, struggled to maintain their territory.
This English map dated February 13, 1755, shows the territories claimed by England and France. The large territory to the west below the St. Lawrence River is all claimed as part of the colonies of New England. French lands are to the north and east. Remaining Wabanaki tribal lands are sandwiched between them. After England defeated France in 1759, England claimed all of the lands known as the Province of Maine.
After defeating France, in 1759 Great Britain takes control of all French holdings, including traditional Wabanaki territories.
Lewis Lolar, a direct descendent of the famous Penobscot war-chief Loron, bequethed this hatchet to linguist Frank Siebert in 1935. The hatchet, manufactured in France in 1695, is one of only 200 such hatchets given to the Penobscots by French naval officer Simon-Pierre Denys de Bonaventure, during the French and Indian Wars. "The hatchet is a genuine relic of seventeenth century warfare in northeastern North America and perhaps the only one for which a detailed history can be sketched."
The Phips Proclamation posts a bounty on the scalps of Penobscots:
"And I do hereby require his Majesty's Subjects of this Province to Embrace all opportunities of pursuing, captivating, killing and Destroying all and every of the aforesaid Indians."
England places a bounty on all Wabanaki after some participate in French raids against English settlements in Nova Scotia.
"We are most aggrieved that the River Presumpscot is dammed up so that the passage of fish, which is our food, is obstructed, and what Col. Westbrook did promise about two years ago that he would leave a place open in the dam and that the fish should have free passages up said river into the pond in proper season, but he has not done so, and we are therefore deprived of our proper food. It was agreed that the bounds of the settlement made by the English should be known, but the English are encroaching upon our land, which we never knew or understood was lawfully purchased, and we move that the English may not be allowed to settle any further as yet... and that English improvements caused the hunting to be very difficult so that we cannot get our trade as usual..."
Statement of Polin, Sagamore of the Presumpscot River, 1739
The English raid the village of Norridgewock, on the Kennebec River, scalping and killing French missionary Father Sebastian Rale and 30 Wabanaki.
The English attempt to assert control over Wabanaki territories ceded to England by France in the Treaty of Utrecht, 1713.
Wabanaki leaders send a letter to Massachusets Governor Shute, signing it with their signatures:
1. Ceux de Narrants8uk, Norridgewock *
2. Ceux d'Arsikanteg8, St. Francis Abenaki near Pierreville, Quebec.
3. Ceux de Pentug8uet, Pentaguet or Castine
4. Ceux d' 8an8iak Wawenocs of Becancour, Quebec, originally from Maine.
5. Ceux de Narakamig8, Canton or Jay's Point on the River Androscoggin
6. Leurs allies: Their allies.
7. Les Iroquis de sante Iroquis of Coughnawaga (Montreal).
8. Ceux d'Anmiss8kanti, Farmington Falls on the Sandy River
9. Les Iroquis de la Montagne, Iroquis of Oka
10. Ceux de Muanbissek, Missiquoi Bay near Santon, Vermont
11. Les Algonquis, Algonquins north of the St. Lawrence River
12. Ceux de Peg8akki, Freyeburg, Maine
13. Les Hurons, Hurons (near Quebec City).
14. Ceux de Medokteck, Meductic, near Woodstock, New Brunswick.
15. Les Micmaks, Micmacs
16. Ceux de K8upahag, Ekpahak or Savage Island near Fredrickton
17. Les Montagnez du cote du nord Montagnais north of the St. Lawrence River
18. Ceux de Pesamokanti, Passamaquoddy
19. Les Papinachois, et autres nation voisnes.
*"8" is a common colonial-era shorthand standing for an "oo" or "w" sound.
The war is begun by the Wampanoag leader Metacom, or King Philip, as an attempt to remove the English from Indian territory. In the Province of Maine, English settlers on the lower Kennebec, fearing attacks from the Wabanaki, demand that they surrender their guns and cut off sales of ammunition. Many Wabanaki, unable to hunt for food, starve. Bounties are placed on the heads of Wabanaki and trade is cut off. Many Wabanaki seek refuge in Canada or on the eastern frontier.
The extraordinary contempt in which (the English) held these peoples, whom they have ever treated very harshly, led them to believe that it would be very easy, either to destroy them utterly, or to reduce them to such a condition that they would never again have to fear a similar revolt among many of them.
1676, The Jesuit Relations
A New Dawn (Present - 1950)
Hard Times – The Survival of the People (1950 - 1800)
Strangers in the Land – European Contact (1675 - 1500)
Time of Dawn (500 - 12,000 years ago)