The Pennacook, also known by the names Penacook and Pennacock, were an Algonquian-speaking Indigenous peoples of the Northeastern Woodlands who lived in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and southern Maine. They were not a united tribe but a network of politically and culturally allied communities.[1] Penacook was also the name of a specific Native village in what is now Concord, New Hampshire.[2]

Total population
extinct as a tribe
Regions with significant populations
southern Maine Maine,
northeastern Massachusetts Massachusetts,
southern New Hampshire New Hampshire
unattested Algonquian language
Indigenous religion

The Pennacook were related to but not a part of the original Wabanaki Confederacy, which includes the Miꞌkmaq, Maliseet, Passamaquoddy, and Penobscot peoples. David Stewart-Smith argues that the Penacook are Central Abenaki people.[3]

Name edit

Pennacook is also written as Penacook and Pennacock. The name Pennacook roughly translates (based on Abenaki cognates) as "at the bottom of the hill."[4]

Territory edit

Their southern neighbors were the Massachusett and Wampanoag to the south.[5]

Pennacook territory bordered the Connecticut River in the West, Lake Winnipesauke in the north, the Piscataqua to the east, and the villages of the closely allied Pawtucket confederation along the southern Merrimack River to the south. The Pennacook homeland was built around the upper Merrimack and the major towns at Amoskeag Falls (now Manchester) and Pennacook (now Concord), which served as major population hubs and later fallback centers for people across the region during the colonial period.[5]

Confederacy edit

The Pennacook were a loose and fluid confederacy of village communities.[2] Pennacook was a specific community within this confederacy that also included Accominta, Agawam, Amoskeag, Coosuc, Cowasack, Nashua, Naumkeag, Newickawanoc, Ossipee, Piscataway, Piscatequa, Souhegan, Squamscot, Wambesit, Washacum, Winnepesaukee, Wachusett, and other villages.[2]

The children of Pennacook Sachem Passaconaway intermarried with the children of Pawtucket Bashaba Nanepashemet in the 17th century.[citation needed] Because decisions to ally and become a part of such alliances were largely in the hands of the leaders of individual bands, the membership of these confederations and alliances fluctuated regularly.

Subsistence edit

Pennacook people were semi-sedentary.[5] Families and bands had permanent claims to territory, and their hierarchical political structure from locally representative sagamores to more regionally representative sachems was fundamentally democratic and designed to reduce conflict and provide social stability. Leaders and sachems like Passaconaway played important roles in organizing long-distance kin and trade networks with allied neighbors (his own children were all married to the children of allied political leaders).[6] Before the major epidemics of the 16th and 17th century would kill 90% of the Pennacook population, the Merrimack Valley and its tributaries like the Souhegan, Piscataquog, and Suncook, would have been densely populated, the environment carefully maintained. David Stewart-Smith (1998:19) estimated that the Merrimack Valley had 8,000–25,000 people before the epidemics, with a median of around 16,500 for the central area around Pennacook.[5]

The major and permanent Pennacook towns and villages were built along the major rivers, and many were on the east side of the Merrimack, ostensibly for protection from the west. Life revolved around the seasons, and spring would begin with women collecting maple sap to make maple sugar. Men would return to hunting grounds and burn their grounds to turn over nutrients in the soils for later cultivation. In late spring the rivers and creeks would swell as the great fish like salmon and shad made their way up the Merrimack. Many Pennacook villages were built just above natural waterfalls that trapped fish and made it easier to catch them in the late spring. Fiddlehead season would be followed by others still known today, like blueberry and raspberry seasons. During the summers, families would disperse to summer villages and hunting camps. Women did most of the work of building and maintaining homes as well as farming. Their main crops were varieties of maize/corn and squash, which they planted along rivers and in meadows. While they found it difficult to clear the massive old-growth trees, the Pennacook were experts at manipulating beavers to move their dams and ponds up and down creeks and brooks, thereby clearing and opening up land for farms that would be essential to the first Europeans who arrived and found cleared fields ready for cultivation. Many of these fields were scattered with the bones of the Pennacook who had recently died of smallpox or other diseases. The fall was an important hunting and nut harvesting season (butternuts, hickory nuts, black walnuts, and beech nuts were all tasty, and several southern, fire-resistant species were propagated farther north when possible). The presence of southern, fire-resistant species of nut trees like hickories and black walnuts in New Hampshire today is thanks to the Pennacook. The forests would generally be burned again in the late fall before families returned to the more permanent winter camps to wait out the long winter. In addition to being farmers, hunters, and foragers, it is important to remember that the Pennacook and the peoples of the Merrimack River Valley were also long-distance traders, and their major towns of Pennacook and Amoskeag drew people from around the region in the late spring and summers. For more, see Michael Caduto's 2004 book, A Time Before New Hampshire and the work of David Stewart-Smith.[7][5]

History edit

A 1634 map by William Wood[8] showing both Pennacook bashaba Passaconaway at Amoskeag Falls and a separate settlement of Pennacook under an unknown sachem Mattacomen. The map also shows Sagamore John and Sagamore James of the Naumkeag who were politically aligned with the Pennacook.[9]

One of the first Indian tribes to encounter European colonists, the Pennacook were devastated by infectious diseases carried by the newcomers. Suffering high mortality, they were in a weakened state and subject to raids by Mohawk of the Iroquois Confederacy from the west, and Micmac (Mi'kmaq) tribes from the north, who also took a toll of lives. Chief Passaconaway had a military advantage over English colonists from New England, but he decided to make peace with them rather than lose more of his people through warfare. They were caught up in King Philip's War, however, and lost more members. Although Wonalancet, the chief who succeeded Passaconaway, tried to maintain neutrality in the war, bands of Pennacook in western Massachusetts did not.

After King Philip's War, the colonists of New England enslaved some Pennacook captives. Some joined the Schaghticoke.[10] Other Pennacooks fled to the Hudson Valley and on to Quebec.[2] North-bound refugees eventually merged with other member tribes of the Wabanaki Confederacy. In the north, some Pennacook merged into the Pigwacket people, an Abenaki group.[5] Gordon M. Day suggested that Pennacook moved north to Odanak Reserve in Quebec, and their descendants belong to the Odanak First Nation, an Abenaki government in Canada.[11]

Cultural heritage groups edit

Several groups in present-day Vermont claim to be Pennacook bands. The Odanak Abenaki Band Council has denounced them.[12][13] Contemporary scholarship indicates that most members of such groups have a single Indigenous ancestor many generations removed or no Indigenous ancestry at all.[14][15] Indigenous activists and their allies strongly critique this phenomenon, sometimes called race-shifting, as an existential threat to the sovereignty of Indigenous nations and part of a larger pattern of settler self-indigenization.[citation needed]

Legacy edit

William James Sidis hypothesized in his book The Tribes and the States (1935) that the Pennacook tribes greatly influenced the democratic ideals which European settlers instituted in New England.

The Boy Scouts of America's Spirit of Adventure Council adopted the name "Pennacook" for their Order of Arrow lodge.[16]

Notable Pennacook edit

  • George Tahanto, sachem, land proprietor, participant in Deerfield Raid
  • Passaconaway, 17th-century sachem, or leader, of the Pennacook proper in New Hampshire
  • Plausawa (c. 1700–1754), a veteran of King George's War and last known Native American living in the town of Suncook, New Hampshire
  • Wonalancet (c. 1619–1697), 17th-century sachem and son of Passconaway

See also edit

Notes edit

  1. ^ David Stewart-Smith, "The Pennacook Indians and the New England frontier," p. 6.
  2. ^ a b c d Sherburn Friend Cook, The Indian Population of New England in the Seventeenth Century, p. 13
  3. ^ David Stewart-Smith, "The Pennacook Indians and the New England frontier," p. 1.
  4. ^ Waldman 2006, pp. 220–21.
  5. ^ a b c d e f Stewart-Smith 1998.
  6. ^ Stewart-Smith, David (1994). "Pennacook-Pawtucket Relations: The Cycles of Family Alliance on the Merrimack River in the 17th Century". Actes du Congres des Algonquinistes. 25. ISSN 0831-5671.
  7. ^ Caduto, Michael J. (2003). A Time Before New Hampshire: The Story of A Land and Native Peoples. Illustrated by Adelaide Tyrol. Hanover: University of New Hampshire. ISBN 1-58465-185-7. OCLC 50285128.
  8. ^ Wood, William. The south part of New England as it planted this yeare, 1634 (Map). Retrieved 2021-11-02 – via Digital Commonwealth.
  9. ^ Perley, Sidney (1912). The Indian Land Titles of Essex County, Massachusetts. Salem, MA: Essex Book and Print Club – via Internet Archive.
  10. ^ Murphree, Daniel S. (2012). Native America: A State-by-State Historical Encyclopedia. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO. p. 736. ISBN 9780313381270.
  11. ^ Day, Gordon (1981). The Identity of the Saint Francis Indians. Ottawa: National Museums of Canada.
  12. ^ "Darryl Leroux Translation of Odanak Statement".
  13. ^ "Denunciation of Self-Proclaimed Abenaki Groups".
  14. ^ "Raceshifting".
  15. ^ Leroux, Darryl (2019). Distorted Descent: White Claims to Indigenous Identity. Winnipeg, Manitoba: University of Manitoba Press.
  16. ^ "Pennacook Lodge, Order of the Arrow – Spirit of Adventure Council". Retrieved 2016-01-12.

References edit

External links edit