Abenaki History

Brightly colored acrylic painting of an Abenaki man and woman standing outdoors, near a river,amd they are wearing historical Abenaki clothing. They are both wearing peaked hoods, white linen shirts are white linen ,and their bottoms are blue and red wool.
Francine Poitras Jones. “18th-Century Abenaki Couple.” 2017. Acrylic on canvas framed with bunches of birch twigs, and feathers hanging from the right side.


The Abenaki have lived in the region for over 12,000 years. They are sometimes referred to as the Dawnland People because the word Wabanaki translates to People of the Dawn. Historians categorize Abenaki communities into two categories: the Western and Eastern Abenaki. Historically the Western Abenaki people lived in what is today known as Eastern New York, Northern Massachusetts, Southwestern Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, and north toward Quebec, Canada. As members of the Seven Nations and Wabanaki Confederacy, Abenakis interacted with their Native American neighbors to the North, South, East, and West on a regular basis.

Upon the arrival of Europeans, disease and warfare caused immeasurable changes in the Abenaki way of life. The Abenakis allied
with the French with whom they traded raw materials for new commodities such as wool, linen shirts, silk ribbons, glass beads, tools, and firearms. As allies the Abenaki and French fought together against the British encroachment into N’Dakinna Abenaki for homeland).

By the late 18th century prejudice and the embattled situation in surrounding areas forced the Abenaki to break up into smaller family bands or clans in order to survive. In the 18th-century, the British burned our long-standing villages of Mission des Loups at the Koas, Missisquoi along the Missisquoi River, and St. Francis which the Abenaki people know as Odanak in Quebec. Little is recorded about the Abenaki in historical accounts of the 19th and the first half of the 20th-centuries. However, our families maintained oral histories and strong traditions from this time. Since the 1970s the Abenaki have been experiencing an interest in cultural revitalization.

Today there are two provincially recognized Western Abenaki tribes in
Canada: the Odanak and Wolinak tribes. In the United States, four Abenaki tribes received State recognition in Vermont in 2011 and 2012: the Elnu, Koasek, Missisquoi, and Nulhegan tribes. According to data from the 2010 census,it is estimated that there are approximately 2,100 Abenakis in Quebec and 3,200 in Vermont and New Hampshire. That is a conservative figure because it doesn’t include non-recognized and unaffiliated Abenaki families.

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