Manataka American Indian Council

 

 

 

 

 

ABENAKI HISTORY 

 

Part III

 

History

The alliance failed to stop the Iroquois and may even have provoked them. In 1653 the western Sokoki villages were attacked, but the Mohawk had another war with the Susquehannock in Pennsylvania and could not maintain two offensives. After a Dutch attempt to arrange peace failed in 1654, there was a lull in the fighting in western New England until after the Mohawk ended their war with the Susquehannock in 1655. They turned east with a fury forcing the Mahican to make a separate peace and withdraw from the alliance in 1658. This left only the Sokoki, Pennacook, and Pocumtuc to face the Mohawk - something that might have been possible except for the English. Britain captured Port Royal for a second time in 1654 and held it until 1667. This stopped aid for the Abenaki from the French in Acadia. At first Boston traders supplied the Abenaki and made good profits in the process. However, this ended after the English captured New York from the Dutch in 1664 and signed a treaty of trade and alliance with the Mohawk. Most of the Boston traders moved west to Albany and abandoned the Abenaki.    

 

Meanwhile, the Mohawk by 1660 had resumed attacks on the eastern Abenaki in Maine because they were allies of the Montagnais. Two years later the Penobscot were hit for the same reason. Only the Quebec French continued to support the Abenaki. The French trader Baron de Castine settled among the Penobscot and married the daughter of their sachem, Madockawando. After Madockawando's death, Castine assumed the sachemship, until his son (Castine the Younger) became old enough to assume the responsibility. A permanent trading post and Jesuit mission (Castine, Maine) were added at this time. Castine and his son were implacable foes of the British, and under their leadership, the Penobscot grew increasingly hostile contributing to the English decision to abandon the Abenaki. Although the French supplied guns and ammunition, it was not enough. After a Pocumtuc attack on the eastern Mohawk villages failed in 1663, they asked the Dutch and Mahican to negotiate a peace. This came to nothing. Although a Mohawk-Seneca attack on their main village at Fort Hill (Deerfield, Massachusetts) in December, 1664 was repulsed, by the following spring, the Pocumtuc had abandoned the Connecticut Valley in Massachusetts leaving Missisquoi and Cowasuck as the only remaining large Sokoki villages in Vermont.  

 

Throughout 1665 the Mohawk continued the war against the Pocumtuc's Sokoki and Pennacook allies. The fighting was interrupted when the French brought the 1,200 man Carigan-Salieres regiment to Canada, and French soldiers attacked the Mohawk villages during the winter of 1665-66. By the following spring the Mohawk were asking the English for help. The governor of New York (also concerned about French intentions) agreed but only on condition the Mohawk make peace with Mahican and Sokoki. The Mahican, who had been fighting the Iroquois since 1662, were willing, but the Sokoki refused to quit. During the summer of 1666, there was an exchange of raids with the Mohawk raiding the Pennacook while the Sokoki and Kennebec attacked Mohawk villages.  

 

The Iroquois were able to arrange a general peace with the French in 1667 which allowed the western Iroquois to concentrate on the Susquehannock while the Mohawk went after western New England. During 1668 the Mohawk were able to drive the Pennacook across New Hampshire into southern Maine. The following year an alliance of New England Algonquin (including Sokoki and Mahican) retaliated with an attack on a Mohawk village but were ambushed on their return home. By 1670 most of the Sokoni were living under French protection as refugees along the St. Lawrence. Some eventually migrated west to the Great Lakes, and in 1681 a group of Sokoki accompanied LaSalle during his exploration of the south end of Lake Michigan. Afterwards, they chose to remain in northern Illinois and were later absorbed by the Potawatomi and Miami.  

 

For the most part, the Abenaki had remained neutral in the struggles between Britain and France, but the alliance between the English and Iroquois pushed them to the French. On the eve of the King Philip's War (1675-76), the Abenaki not only resented English support of the Iroquois but were increasingly concerned about the appetite of the New England colonists for land. Massive Puritan immigration during the 1660s launched a rapid expansion of white settlement into native territory, and the first areas taken were the valuable farmlands in the river valleys. Trapped between the Mohawk in the west and growing English settlement from the east, the Algonquin of southern New England joined together under the leadership of Metacom (King Philip) in a general attack against the New England colonies in 1675. Although many sympathized with Philip, the Androscoggin (also some Sokoni and Pennacook) were the only Abenaki at first to participate directly in the uprising. The majority of the Abenaki were neutral, but it appears some provided French firearms and ammunition to Philip's warriors, while others gave food and refuge to the hostiles.   

 

The colonists lost heavily in the struggle, and in their desperation, they retaliated with an indiscriminate fury against all Indians. Only two Pennacook villages joined Philip - the Pennacook sachem Wannalancet was able to keep most of his people out of the fighting. However, the English became convinced the Pennacook were giving aid and comfort, and a expedition commanded by Captain Samuel Mosely attacked them in 1676. After 200 Nashua were massacred and the survivors sold into slavery, most Pennacook either fought or left for Canada. By 1676 even the Penobscot and Kennebec had been drawn into the war. In the end the colonists won, but even by their own accounts, they were brutal. Thousands had been massacred or starved. After 1676 only 4,000 Native Americans remained in southern New England. In what has been called the "Great Dispersal," the survivors had been forced to leave their homeland, but they did not go far. Some accepted a sanctuary offered by the governor of New York (Edmund Andros) and settled among the Mahican at Schaghticook on the Hudson. Others found refuge with the Delaware in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, but large numbers of refugees - angry from their mistreatment by the New England colonists - joined the Abenaki.   

 

The English had also suffered (at least 600 killed and 13 towns burned), but it is pretty obvious they had given much better than they had received, and their hatred is reflected in the harsh peace terms they imposed on the survivors. By most accounts, the King Philip's War ended with Philip's death in 1676. In reality it was just beginning and would continue for 50 years. During the war, several English expeditions sent against the Abenaki and Pennacook only succeeded in capturing empty villages. It was the first experience of the English with an enemy that would vanish only to attack later. Abenaki retreated to Canada and settled near Sillery (Quebec). They did not return to Maine for several years until after the fighting had subsided. The Sokoki continued to raid Massachusetts, but the governor of New York set the Mohawk on them forcing them to relocate to Trois-Rivieres, and St. Francois River for French protection.  

 

New England was perfectly content to see the Abenaki leave, but New York's Governor Andros was concerned about the defection of so many possible new allies for the French. Although it made him a hated man in New England, his offer of asylum at Schaghticook to refugees was intended to prevent this. The offer met with some success, but over the years there was a steady exodus of New England Algonquin from Schaghticook to join their relatives and the Abenaki in the north. Meanwhile, the Abenaki continued to punish New England with long-distance raids from Canada. While the English could not retaliate, the situation was not ideal. Thousands of Abenaki along the St. Lawrence quickly strained the available resources and caused friction with the resident Montagnais. By 1679 the Abenaki were ready to go home. The Pigwacket were the first to make peace with the English and return to Maine. Other Abenaki and Sokoki gradually followed.  

 

However, important changes had occurred during their stay in Canada. The Abenaki had organized into a loose confederation allied with the French. The role of the French in the subsequent warfare between the Abenaki and New England has often been exaggerated, because the New England colonists never understood the underlying reasons for Abenaki hostility. The Abenaki were never interested in helping the French control North America. Actually, the Abenaki did not always get along with the French - at the beginning of the King William's War in 1688, as the French demanded they remain near Montreal, the Sokoki decided instead to move south and burned several French settlements enroute. For the most part, the Abenaki had their own war with New England to avenge past injustices and to keep the English from taking their land. The New England colonists, however, saw themselves as victims of an unprovoked attack during the King Philip's War, generally refused to recognize any aboriginal title to the land, and viewed the continued raids by the Abenaki as French aggression.  

 

Since the French needed the Abenaki as a buffer to protect Quebec against the English, they provided weapons and encouraged hostility towards New England. A final ugly element had been added when French Jesuits began making conversions among the Abenaki while they were refugees in Canada. After the Abenaki had returned to their homeland, the Jesuits had followed them, and by 1699 there were at least six Jesuits permanently living in the Abenaki villages. In the closing years of the 17th century, the Jesuits had been increasingly alarmed that the fur trade was corrupting and destroying Native Americans. Since this placed them at odds with more practical economic concerns, their complaints were generally ignored by the French government - that is until a glut of fur on the European market caused the price to drop. With the support of French court, the fur trade was restricted, and Jesuits afterwards were able to work first for conversion and then tried to isolate their converts from further contact with Europeans.  

 

If the Jesuits were reluctant to allow French Catholics to visit their Abenaki converts, there should be little doubt as to their attitude about contact (or trade) with the English "heretics." The Jesuit policy was particularly effective among the Abenaki and should have served to isolate and protect them. Instead, it roused the darkest fears of the New England's Puritans who usually saw the manipulative hand of Catholic France being directed against their Protestant colonies. The main reason for continued hostilities between the Abenaki and New England was not a French or Catholic plot, but Massachusetts' inability (or unwillingness) to prevent encroachment and abuse by its citizens on the frontier. Fighting with the Abenaki dragged on until a truce in 1685, a brief three-year break that erupted into open warfare with the King William's War between Britain and France (1688-97). Afterwards, the struggle between the Abenaki and New England began to reflect the bitter religious divisions of 17th century Europe.

 

The reasons for this are rather complicated. The few and gentle Pilgrims who landed at Plymouth in 1620 were absorbed by the numerous Puritans of the Massachusetts Bay Colony during the 1630s. There was an enormous difference between these two groups. Beginning as a movement to purify the English church of its Catholic traditions, the Puritans overthrew and executed Charles I in 1649 and established a military dictatorship under Olive Cromwell. After Cromwell's death in 1658 and the restoration of the English monarchy two years later, the Puritans were, to put it mildly, in political disfavor, and many of them found it prudent to immigrate to New England. By appointing Sir Edmund Andros governor of New York in 1674, Charles II attempted to re-assert his authority over the people responsible for the death of his brother, Charles I. Colonial charters were revoked, and the Dominion of New England was established in 1686 with Andros as governor. This lasted only until the Glorious Revolution (1688) removed the Stuarts from the throne.

 

Lee Sultzman

From the Archives of Little Mother
Our thanks to Blue Panther, Keeper of Stories blue_panther@mindspring.com

 

READ ABENAKI HISTORY - PART IV 

 

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