Cowasuck Indian Tribe of Massachusetts

Published on October 19, 2010 by John

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Cowasuck Indian
Cowasuck Indian

Our People

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Jesuit Father Pierre Biard came in contact with Abenaki Indians at Kennebec in 1611. He attributed to them the qualities of “noble savages”. In an excerpt from the Jesuit Relations, he wrote this: “… The most prominent sagamore was caled Betsabes, a man of great discretion and prudence; and I confess we often see in these savages natural and graceful qualities which will make anyone but a shameless person blush, when they compare them to the greater part of the French who come over here”. Jesuit Father Sebastien Rasles spent most of his life among the Abenaki. He produced an Abenaki-French dictionary. In a letter to his brother in 1723, he wrote the following about the Abenaki language: “It cannot be denied that the language of the savages has real beauties, and there is an indescribable force in their style and manner of expression.”

Our Sacred Land

The Wabanaki were divided into the Western Abenaki, which were located west of the White Mountains, in New Hampshire, Vermont and Quebec, Canada and the Eastern Abenaki in Maine, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and New Brunswick. The Cowasuck, meaning the “people of the white pines”, were located in the upper region of the Connecticut River. The Pennacook, also called Merrimac, were located around Concord, New Hampshire and north central Massachusetts. The name means “at the bottom of the hill”. N’dakina – Our Homelands & People The following is a detailed description of N’dakina, our homeland. It includes all lands and waters that our ancestors of the above named groups lived, fished, hunted, trapped, planted, farmed, and harvested nature’s bounty. In colonial times N’dakina covered all of New France and the colonial Commonwealth of Massachusetts. This area is now known as the province of Quebec, Canada, and the states of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, New York, and Massachusetts in the United States. The following describes the boundaries of N’dakina by way of the rivers, lakes, landmarks, and the meeting points with the other First Nations People that border N’dakina. The primary descriptions of N’dakina are identified in the Aln8bad8wa (Abenaki) language. At a starting point from – Nsawiwi pebonkik ta ali-nkihl8t (northwest from) where the Chateauguay River and the Ktsitegok (great river) – Moliantegw (St. Lawrence River) meet near Molian (Montreal). The Os8ganek (Algonquin place) is the point where the lands of the Abenaki (N’dakina), Algonkin, and Mohawk nations (Magwak) meet. Waji nahil8t (going easterly) along the Ktsiegok (great river) Moliantegw (St. Lawrence River), past the Bitawbagwizibok (Richelieu River), past the Wigw8madenik (Yamaska River) and the village of both the Abenaki and Mohawk lived, past Masessolina (Sorel), past Pithiiganek (Nicolet) and the Pithiganitegw (Nicolet River), past Mad8balodnik and the village of Mad8balodniak (Three Rivers). Continuing, Ali-nkihlot (easterly) past the Alsog8ntegok (St. Francis River) and Welinaktegw or W8linaktegw (the river which has long turns – which causes delay by its windings) (Becancour River) upon which Abenaki villages of Odanak and W8linack (Wolinak) are still occupied by the Abenaki People. Continuing, Ali-nkihlot (easterly) along the Ktsiegok (great river) Moliantegw (great river) (St. Lawrence River) to the Kik8ntegok (river of fields) (Chaudiere River) upon which the Abenaki villages of St. Joseph de Collraine and Kwanah8moik (long point in the river bend) (Durham) and other Abenaki villages along the Koattegok or Koattegw (pine river) (Coaticook River), Namaskonkik (fish field) (Megantic Lake) were settled. Continuing, Ali-nkihlot (easterly) beyond the Etchemin River (sand berries) and up to Kebek (Quebec) and the Isle de Orleans at the point that the Abenaki and Ksitegwiiak (the land of the Hurons) meet near the village of Pamadenainak (Lorette), up to village of O’bamasisek (Yamachiche). Going inland to the Big Black River to the point that it joins the St. John River at the Notre Dame Mountains the point where the Abenaki meet the Moskwas (muskrat – Malecite – Maliseet – broken talker). Across the St. John River and along the the lands of the Malecite (Maliseet, Wulastegniak, Aroostook, St. John’s – good river people) and further east to the land of the Passamaquody (Machias, Opanango, Pesmokant, Quoddy, Scotucks, Unchechauge, Unquechauge, St. Croix – plenty of pollock / pollock spearing place). Sowanakik, (going southward) through the watersheds of the Allagash River, the Musquacook Lakes, the Chemquasabamticook Lake, the Churchhill Lake, the Chamberlain Lakes, the Caucomgomoc Lake, the Baker River, the Baker Lake, the Seboomook Lake, the Chesuncook Lake, the Moz8debinebesek (Moosehead Lake), and to the Kenebec (Kennebec River) and through Kwen8bagok (long lake – Kennebago Lake). The Kenebec (deep river – Kennebec River) being the point where the Abenaki meet the Pan8bskaik (land of the Penobscot) Pana8bskaiiak (Penobscot Pentagoet, Panaomeska – plenty stones / rocky place / ledge place). Going down the Kenebec (Kennebec River), past the ancient Abenaki village of Mol8joak (deep flow river) (Norridgewock) and continuing to the Sobagwa (great ocean – Atlantic Ocean). The Abenaki villages on the Laesikantgw (rock shelter river – Androscoggin River) are the villages of Amescana and Narakamik. Sowanakik (going southerly) along the coast of the Sobagwa (Atlantic Ocean), past W8linak (village on the bay – village of Wwenock), past Kaska, past Pejepskw (bad rock – Pejepscot), past the Laesikantegw (Androsooggin River), past the Presumpscot River, past Sokwakik (Saco) and the Zawakwtegok (Saco River), past Kinib8ka (rough ground) (Kennebunk), past the M’mosem (my moose river – Mousam River), past Ogwa8mkwik (at the accumulated sand -Ogunquit), past the village of Piscataqua on (great deer river) Pesgatakwa (dark river – Piscataqua River), to the outlet of the Mol8demak (deep river – Merrimack River) at the Sobagwa (Atlantic Ocean). The Mol8demak leads to the Pemijewasek (Pemigewasset River) and to the lake of Wiwinebesaki (lake around lake – Lake Winnepisaukee), the Abenaki villages of this area are Wiwinebesakik land around lake place – Winnepisaukee Village), Akwadocta, Asepihtegw (river alongside – Ossippee), and Apikwehkik). The Abenaki villages on the Mol8demak are the villages of (Wamesit (fishing place), Nanaskik (place of fish – Manchester), Penokok (down hill – Concord), and Senikok (at the rocks – Suncook), Wiwinijoanek (water flows around it – Dover). The other area lakes and waters are: Massabeskik (large lake – Massabesikick Pond), N8wijoanek (long rapids – Salmon Fall River), Seninebik (rocky lake – Lake Sunapee), and W8bagok (clear lake – Lake Umbagog). Ali-ali-nkihl8t (westward) along the Mol8demak (Merrimack River) past the village of Wamesit to the Pagontegok (Concord River), a one day’s walk from the eastern shores of the Mol8demak (Merrimack) and Concord Rivers lands of the Pawtucket (Agawam, Naumkeag, Saugus, Winnisinet) to the lands of the Msajosek (the great hill) (Massachuset Nation), Neponsit (Massachusett) and Shawmut (Massachusett), to the headwaters of the Concord, Sudbury, and Assabet, and Nashua Rivers lands of the Nsawiwi (between the rivers) (Nashua) (Nashaway, Washoc, and Nashoba) to the area known as the Narragansett corridor along the Blackstone River and lands of the Nipmuc (Nipmuck) Nation. Ali-ali-nkihl8t (westward) to Wachuset (mountain of small / middle height – Mt. Wachuset) at the Warre River the meeting place of the Nipmuc and Abenaki. Ali-ali-nkihl8t (westward) to Millers River, west to the Pokw8mtegok (very narrow river) (Pocumtuck River) and the land of the Pocumtuc. Ali-nkihl8t (westward) crossing the Kwinitegok (long river – Connecticut River). The Abenaki villages along the Kwinitegok are the villages of Sokwakik (southern place – Squakeag), Ktispontegok (great falls – Bellows Falls, Vermont), Goasek (place of pines – Newbury, Vermont). The rivers that feed the Kwinitegok are the 8manosek (fishing place -Ammonoosuc River), the Pasomkasik – Pemijoaswek (swift current – Pemigewasset River), and the Goategok (pine river – Coaticook River) (upper Connecticut valley). The other lakes, rivers, and waters of N’dakina are the Menahanbagok, (island pond – Island Lake), Mamhiawbagok (wide water – Lake Mephramagog), Wasabastegok, Sobagwa (ocean – Sebago Lake), Nebiz8nnibizik (little medicine water – Alburg Springs), Mikazawitegok (black river – Black River), Bonsawinno (fire keeper – Lake Bomoseen), Pibesgantegok (roily river – Dead Creek), Nebiz8nnibik (medicine water – Highgate Springs), Massawippi (clear water – Holland Pond), Kwenosakek (pike place – mouth of Lamoille River), Kwenaskategok (long point river – La Platte River), Tamakwa (beaver – Maquam Bay), Masipskiwibi (flint water – Missisquoi Bay), Klahigantegok (wooden trap river – Nulhegan River), Pas8mkasik (clear sandy river – Passumpsic River), Kwenozasek (at the pike place – Pike River), and Wasabastegok (clear stream – White River). Continuing, Ali-nkihl8t (westward) crossing the Kwinitegok to the Deerfield River and the lands of the Mahiganek (at the Mahigans) Mahican Nation. Continuing, Pebonkik (northward) to Onegigwizibok (otter river – Otter Creek). The lands of the Green Mountains and Onegigwizibok (Otter Creek) and the lands beyond Lake George up to the western lands (Wawobzdenik, Senapskaizibok, and the lands of Ganienkeh) to the west of Bitawbagok (lake between – Lake Champlain) are the Wawobadenik (white mountains – Adirondack lands and mountains) between the N’dakina (Abenaki) and Magwak (Mohawk) nations. The Abenaki villages on Bitawbagok are the villages of Winoskik (onion place – Winooski), Mskitegwa (quiet water – Milton, Vermont), and Mazipskaik (flint place – Swanton, Vermont), and on the river Onegigwizibok is the village of Natami pontegok (first falls – Vergennes, Vermont). The rivers that feed the Bitawbagok are the Wazowategok (crooked river – Missisquoi River), the Wintegok (marrow river – Lamoille River), the Winoskitegok (onion river – Winooski River), the Seniganitegok (stone works river – Lewis Creek), and the Onegigwizibok (otter river – Otter Creek). Continuing, Pebonkik (northward) up through the Bitawbagok (Lake Champlain) and all of its shores going north and west through the water sheds of the Chateuaguay and Bitawbagwizibok (Richelieu) Rivers back to the Ktsitegwiiak (St. Lawrence River). The major mountains of N’dakina are: Gawasiwajo (windfall mountain – Mt. Kearsage), G8dagwjo (hidden mountain – Mt. Washington), Menonadenak (stands alone mountain – Mt. Monadnock), Wawobadenik (White Mountains or Adirondack Mountains), Pemapskadena (rocky mountain – Mt. Ascutney), Mozeodebe wadso (moose head mountain – Mt. Mansfield), Mateguasaden (rabbit mountain – Mt. Philo), Pisgag (dark – Mt. Pisga) and Wachuset (mountain of small / middle height – Mt. Wachuset), Dowabodiwadjo (saddle mountain – Camel’s Hump), Mozal8mo (calls like a moose – Mt. Moosalamoo), and Mozalhlakik (cow moose land – Mt. Mooselauke). This describes the Abenaki homelands, N’dakina bordered by the Magwak (Mohawk) to the west, the Ksitegwiiak (the land of the Hurons) and Osoganek (Algonquin Place) to the north, the Moskwas (Malecite-Maliseet), Mikm8z (Micmac), (Passaamakwadi) Passamaquoddy, and Pan8bskaik (Penobscot) to the east, the Massacusett and Nipmuc to the south, and the Mahiganek (Mahican) to the west. This describes the N’dakina that the Abenaki People claim to be their sovereign homelands.

Aln8bak – Our People

The greater Abenaki Nation includes all Abenaki and Pennacook Bands and groups, including but not limited to the following Aln8bak groups now known or previously known as: Abenaki (Abnaki, Abenaqui, “eastern” Abenaki, “central” Abenaki, “western” Abenaki), Aberginians, Accominta (shore line), Adirondack (Wawobadenik – white mountains), Agawam (fish curing place), Almouchiquios, Amaseconti (Amesokanti, Anmissoukanti – abundance of small fish), Amoskeag (one takes small fish), Ammatoscoggin, Androscoggin (Amariscoggin, Amerascoggin, Ameriscoggin – rock shelter place), Anasagunticook, Arosaguntacook (Arosaguntacook, Arrosaguntacook), Aucocisco, Bashaba, Canibas, Cochecco, Cowasuck (Cahass, Cohassiac, Coos, Coosuc, Koes, Eastern Woodland People, Northeastern Woodland People – at the white pines), Etchemin, Green Mountain Band, Kennebec (Caniba, Sagadahoc, Kanibesinnoak, Nurhantsuak,Kinibeki), Kik8ntegok (river of fields – Chaudiere River), Loup (Wolves), Massapuag, Merrimac, (Merrimacks – at the bottom of the “sand” hill), Missisquoi (Mezipskwik Missiassik, Missisiak, Mazipskoik, Misiskuoi, Missiassik, Missique, Missisco – place of flint), Morattigan (Monchiggan), Musketaquid, Nashoba, (Nashua, Nashaway – the land between), Natacook (Naticook), Naumkeag (Naumkeg, Naimkeak, Naamkeek, Namaoskeag, Namaske), Nechegansett, Norridgewock (Newichawawock, Newichawannock, Newichawanoc, Norridgewock, Naridgewalk, Neridgewok, Noronjawoke – people of the still water between rapids), Odanak (our village – St. Francis Jesuit mission), Ondiakes (Ondiakee), Onegigwizibok (otter river – Otter Creek), Ouarastegouiak, Oppenangoes, Ossippe (Ossippee – lake made by river widening), Otonic, Ouragie, Owaragees, Patsuiket, Pawtucket, Pequawket (Pigwacket, Pegouakki, Peguaki, Pequawket – at the hole in the ground), Pejypscot, Pechiepsacut, Pemigewasset, Pennacook (Penakuk, Panukkog, Peenecooks, Penagooge, Penakook, Penecooke, Penicoock, Penicook, Penikook, Pennacokes, Pennacooke, Pennagog, Pennecooke, Pennekokes, Pennekook, Pennokook, Penny Cook, Penny-Cooke, Pennykoke, Pinnekooks, Pnoacocks, Ponacoks, Sagadahoc), Saco (south place), Rocameca (on the land upstream), Soheg, Sokoki (Assokwekik, Ondeake, Onaiake, Onejagese, Ossipee, Sakukia, Sokokiois, Sokoquios, Sokoquis, Sokokquis, Sokoni, Sokwaki, Soquachjck, Zooquagese – people at the outlet / people who separated), Spirit Bear Band, St. Francis (St. François- du-Lac), St. Joseph de Colraine, Souhegan (Souheyan, Nacook, Natacook, Natticook), Squamscot (Squam, Squamsauke, Wonnesquam), Sunapee, Suncook (Senikok – at the rocks), Wachuset (at the small / middle sized mountain), Wamesit (fishing place), Washucke, Wataunick, Wawenock, (Wawenoc, Wewenoc, Ouanwiak, Sheepscot, Wawenock, Wawnock) (people of the bay country), Weshacum, Winnecowet, Winnicunnet, Winnipisauki (Winnepiscogee, Winnipesaukee, Winnepiseogee, Maunbisek, Muanbissek – the land around lake), Winnisemet, Winoski (Winoskik – onion place people), Wioninebesek, and, Wolinak (village at the bay – two villages – Becancour, Quebec and coastal Maine). The above list is a historical representation of the known Abenaki and Pennacook groups, it does not exclude or include any group or groups that may be historically mis-identified or now identified with another “Eastern Abenaki” group.

French Jesuit Missions

“French Jesuit priests took up residence in Indian country and shared the lifestyle of their hosts. Unlike their gray-robed Recollect predecessors, the Jesuit Black Robes did not insist that Indians be remade into French pesons before then into Christians. The contrast between English Puritans and French Jesuits was not lost on the Abenakis. An Indian oral tradition suggests French missionaries may have been active in Abenaki villages on the shores of Lake Champlain as early as 1615. When the French built fort St. Anne on Isle la Motte in 1666, they also established a mission there. They had a thriving mission on Lake Champlain by 1682 and, in 1700, built the first Catholic church in Vermont, overlooking the Missisquoi River. There was a short-lived French mission at Mount Desert on the coast of Main in 1614; Jesuits established a mission on the Kennebec in 1646; Capuchins began another at the mouth of the Penobscot in 1648; and one of the oldest Catholic cemeteries in New England, dating from 1688, is located in Penobscot country on Indian Island. The French had a mission among the Cowasuck on the upper Connecticut before 1713. Jesuit teachings reached south across the dawnland to the villages of the Sokokis and Pennacooks, and French missions on the banks of the St. Lawrence atttraced refugees and converts from New England in genral and Abenaki country in particular. Jesuit priests traveled into the heart of Abenaki country, built chapels and churches, and decorated them with the paraphernalia of their religion. They administered the sacraments in Indian villages across the dawnland and often functioned as military and political agents of the French Crown as well as servants of God (although the Penobscot chief, Loran, assured Governor Belcher of Massachusetts that the French priests “don’t leas us to war, but show us the Way to Heaven”). French mssionaries made heroic sacrifices in their campaign to win converts and save souls. Traveling alone into Indian country and making their abofes in Indian villages, they had to adapt to Indian ways. Some, like Father Sebastien Rasles, became almost totally immersed in Indian culture. They lived in Indian lodges, ate Indian food, and traveled the seasonal round by canoe and snowshoe. They learned the native language, adapted their messages to suit Indian oratorical styles, and behaved as much as possible according to Indian protocol and cultural expectations. Indifferent to the Indians’ lands, women, and furs, they won respect by their poverty, their humility, their courage, and their apparent immunity to the devastating new diseases that left the shamans powerless. They shared the Indians’ lives and earned their trust, even though their missionary calling required them to undermine Indian culture, promote divisions within the community, discredit established religious leaders, and initiate social and spiritual revolution. Father Jacques Bigot remarked that he functioned n a shamanistic role among the Abenakis. Arriving in time of cataclysmic change, Jesuit priests “helped the Abenakis to bridge teh procontact and postcontact worlds.” They functioned as intermediaries between Indian and European society, sometimes representing the Abenakis in conferences with the English. Men like Sebastien Rasles became pivotal figures in Abenaki history, and the Abenakis soon acquired a reputation as the most devout Catholics and staunchest of New France’s Indian friends.”

The Cowasucks Refuse Refuge 1704

“Withdrawal, and even migration, was a common Abenaki response to military danger and the disruption of war. Many Abenakis followed well-worn paths to mission villages in Canada, where the French welcomed them with open arms. IN 1704, Governor Vaudreuil invited several tribes to resettle on the St. Lawrence where they could enjoy French protection against the English. Some bands accepted, but the Cowasucks preferred to stay and fight in their homeland. The same month that the Cowasuck delegates were decling Vaudreuil’s offer, Caleb Lyman was leading his expedition against their village. Speech of the Abenaki Indians of Cowasuck to the Governor-General, 13 June 1704 Father, to tell the truth you have shown great care for me in inviting me to come and settle on your lands. However, I cannot bring myself to come there because the English have already struck me too hard. I believe, therefore, that the only place where I can strike back against the English is the place I come from, which is called Cowasuck. I could not do that easily if I was in your country. (Presented a wampum belt.) Father, hear me, I wish to remain at Cowasuck. It is true you have acted well in offering me a fort on your lands, and that would have been good if we had been at peace as we used to be, and we could have done it easily. But hear me, I am a warrior. I offer you my village which is like a fort thrust towards the enemy, sot hatyour lands on this side can be protected, and so that you can think of me as “my child who is at Cowasuck to carry on the war and protect me, serving as a palisade against my enemies.”"

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