Origin and History
The Wabanaki Confederacy ("People of the Dawn") was a wide alliance of many Algonquian-speaking Native Americans formed after 1670, which included:
- the Abenaki, inhabiting present-day Maine, the Connecticut River valley in Vermont, New Hampshire and Massachusetts, the southern Québec, southern New Brunswick and southern Nova Scotia; they numbered approx. 40,000 peoples before contact
- the Passamaquoddy, inhabiting present-day Maine and New Brunswick
- the Penobscot, inhabiting present-day Maine
- the Maliseet, inhabiting the Saint John River valley and its tributaries, in present-day New Brunswick and Québec in Canada, and parts of Maine in the USA
- the Miꞌkmaq (aka Micmac), inhabiting the Gaspé Peninsula of Québec, present-day Prince Edward Island, and eastern New Brunswick as well as the northeastern region of Maine (from 1630, a band occupied southern Newfoundland); they numbered approx. 20,000 peoples before contact
- the Pennacook, inhabiting the Merrimack River valley of present-day New Hampshire and Massachusetts, as well as portions of southern Maine
As early as 1520, the Miꞌkmaq people began to trade fur with the European fishermen and whalers.
From their first contacts with Europeans to 1620, the Abenaki people saw their population fall to some 20,000 and the Miꞌkmaq to less than 4,000, due to epidemics.
After King Philip’s War (1675-76), the Abenaki people absorbed several Native American bands, which were moving north to Canada. Some of them settled at the Saint-François mission (present-day Odanak) and at Bécancour (present-day Wôlinak), near Trois-Rivières.
In 1688, the Wabanaki Confederacy allied itself with the French and took part in many raids against British settlements in New England. Until 1748, Wabanaki warriors continued to take active part in most raids launched by the French against British settlements in New England.
In 1724, a British force managed to capture the large Abenaki village of Norridgewock on the Kennebec River and many Abenaki families migrated to Canada, where they rejoined the bands already established at Saint-François and Bécancour.
By 1790, there were less than 1,000 Abenaki peoples.
As many other Native American peoples, from their first contacts with European colonists, the members of the Wabanaki Confederacy were decimated by smallpox.
Role during the War
In June 1755, 50 Miꞌkmaq warriors joined the French garrison for the defence of Fort Beauséjour, which surrendered on June 16. In August, an Abenaki war party from Saint-François made a raid against the Mahican village of Schaghticoke, bringing its inhabitants back to Canada with them. The defection of this village made the British suspect the loyalty of all of their native allies.
On July 20, 1756, 42 Abenaki warriors who were at Fort Carillon moved closer to the carrying place to be in a better position to launch raids against British parties. On September 16 at 6:00 p.m., 100 Canadiens and 400 Native American warriors (including Abenaki warriors) under Captain de la Perrière embarked aboard 34 canoes at Contrecoeur’s camp for an expedition in the direction of Fort Edward and Fort William Henry. On September 25, Montcalm sent Florimond with 17 Abenaki warriors to reconnoitre Fort Edward.
In February 1757, a party of Abenaki warriors from Saint-François and Bécancour joined Rigaud's forces for a winter raid against Fort William Henry on the shores of Lake George. At the end of July, 245 Abenaki warriors from Saint-François, Bécancour and Missisiquoi, and 56 Maliseet from Acadia formed part of the French army assembled at Fort Carillon (present-day Ticonderoga) for the expedition against Fort William Henry.
On March 23, 1758, a party of Abenaki warriors left Montréal for Fort Carillon. In July, a party of Miꞌkmaq warriors formed part of Boishébert’s detachment, which intended to reinforce the troops defending Louisbourg. On October 12, 150 Iroquois and Abenaki warriors arrived at Carillon.
On May 31, 1759, Niverville was detached with 95 Abenaki warriors and about 40 Canadien volunteers fro Beauport for a reconnaissance at Isle-aux-Coudres. On June 17 at 5:00 p.m. near Isle-d'Orléans, the British launched their boats against the fireship Jaloux but they were chased by about 24 Abenaki canoes who captured a boat belonging to the Squirrel (20), taking 8 prisoners. On June 29, during the Siege of Québec, Monckton's brigade marched along the river road to Pointe Lévis, drove off a body of French and Abenaki warriors posted in the church, and took possession of the houses and the surrounding heights. On August 4, troops stationed at Pointe-aux-Trembles (present-day Neuville) were recalled to the exception of a force of about 750 men (500 French and Canadiens along with 250 Wabanaki warriors). In October, Rogers' Rangers launched an raid on the Abenaki settlement of Saint-François, the village was located on the river Saint-François a few km above its junction with the Saint-Laurent. The town was pillaged and burned, not excepting the church.
We have been unable to find specific characteristic about the dress of this Native American people that would distinguish them from other peoples. If you can suggest sources documenting such characteristics, please do not hesitate to contact us with your suggestions.
Sulzman, Lee: Abenaki History
Sulzman, Lee: Micmac History
Waldman, Carl: Encyclopedia of Native American Tribes, Revised Edition, pp. 3-4
N.B.: the section Role during the War is mostly derived from our articles depicting the various campaigns, battles and sieges.