Native Americans ? Abenaki Tribe Essay, Research Paper
The Abenaki tribe is a tribe that is not commonly spoken of. Some may think that it was just a minor tribe. But wow, this was a big tribe! The tribe had many divisions, mostly known as the eastern Abenaki, the western Abenaki, and the maritime Abenaki. However, there were many more. The main divisions were the Abenaki Confederation tribe, the Seven Nations of Canada, the Eastern Abenaki, the Maritime Abenaki, and the Western Abenaki. All these divisions consisted of many more tribes. The main language for the Abenaki was Algonquin, but distinct from the languages of the Micmac to the north and the New England Algonquin to the south. There was also a dialectic difference between the eastern and western Abenaki.
The names of the Abenaki tribe were very interesting. As thought that it would just have its one name, this tribe had many names. The Abenakis called themselves Alnanbal meaning ?men.? The name ?Abenaki?, spelled in various ways, originated from an Algonquin word meaning ?people of dawn? or ?easterners.? The French frequently referred to the eastern Abenaki as Loup (wolves) or as the Natio Luporem or Wolf Nation; and the western Abenaki as the Sokoki. Other names for the Abenaki were: Anagonges, Aquannaque, Bashaba, Gannongagehronnon, Moassones, Maweshenook, Narankamigdok, Natsagana, Obunego, Onagunga, Onnongonges, Opanango, Oweneagunges, Owenunga, and Skacewanilom. What names! They were called by so many different names, some very hard to read or pronounce, and all different from each other! Yet all these names were referred to the same group of people. It is like calling a group of specific people, such as the Swedish, 20 different names!
Before contact, the Abenaki had thousands of people in their tribe. Roughly 40,000 people, they were divided between 20,000 eastern; 10,000 western; and 10,000 maritime. Due to early contacts with European fisherman, two major infectious outbreaks occurred within the Abenaki. By 1617, the population of eastern Abenaki fell to about 5,000. The diseases that attacked the Abenaki were smallpox, unknown epidemic, influenza, diphtheria, and measles.
Native Americans have occupied northern New England for at least 10,000 years. There is no proof that these ancient residents were ancestors of the Abenaki, but there is no reason to think they are not. The Abenaki tribe called their homeland Ndakinna meaning ?our land.? The eastern Abenaki lived in Maine east of New Hampshire?s White Mountains, while the western Abenaki lived west of the mountains across Vermont and New Hampshire to the eastern shores of Lake Champlain. The maritime Abenaki occupied the St. Croix and the St. John?s River valleys.
The Abenaki relied very much on agriculture for a large part of their diet, so villages were usually located on the fertile floodplains of rivers. Agriculture was also supplemented by hunting, fishing, and the gathering of wild foods.
For most of the year, the Abenaki lived in scattered bands of extended families, each of which occupied separate hunting territories inherited through the father. The villages consisted of about 100 people. As far as houses, some lived in oval-shaped long houses, but most favored the dome-shaped, bark-covered wigwam in the warmer months. During the winter, the Abenaki moved further inland and separated into small groups of wigwams shaped like the buffalo-hide teepee of the plains.
The Abenaki tribe was more of a geographical and linguistic group, rather than political. Before contact, the individual tribes were the usual levels of political organization, and occasionally, several tribes would unite for purposes of work. However, the Abenaki were notable for their general lack of central authority. When it came to important decisions, such as peace and war, a meeting of adults was required to make the decision. The Abenaki Confederacy was only created in 1670, in response to continuous wars with the Iroquois and English colonists. Yet things did not change because Abenaki leaders usually had difficulty controlling their warriors. However, this lack of central authority served the Abenaki well. The Abenaki could abandon their villages, separate into small bands, and regroup in distances away from the reach of their enemies. The Abenaki could just melt away, regroup, and then counterattack, and this strategy served them well in times of war.
Sadly, as colonization and European conquest came about in North America, the Abenaki watched Europeans fight over who owned the Abenaki homeland. They also had many wars with the Iroquois. By about 1680, small groups of Abenaki moved west to the Great Lakes and the Ohio Valley. Some also settled on the White River in Spanish Arkansas, and in Kansas and Oklahoma. Vermont became a state in 1791, but Vermont and the United States has never recognized the land claims or tribal status of the Abenaki living there. The Sokoki presented claims for parts of their homeland several times, but each time, they were rejected by the State of Vermont.