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Native Languages of the Americas: Penobscot Tribe


Abnaki-Penobscot is an Algonquian language still spoken today by Western Abenaki elders in Canada. Eastern Abenaki is another dialect of the same language which was spoken by the Penobscot people in Maine. Though the last fully fluent speaker of the Penobscot dialect has passed on, several Penobscot elders still speak some of the language and are working to revive its use in the Penobscot Nation today.

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Names: Alternate spellings of "Penobscot" include Penawahpskewi , Panawahpskek, and Penobscott.

Names: The Penobscot tribe, together with the Mi'kmaq, Maliseet, Passamaquoddy, and Abenaki Indian tribes, were members of the old Wabanaki Confederacy. These allies from the eastern seaboard region spoke related languages, and "Abenaki" and "Wabanaki" have the same Algonquian root, meaning "people from the east." The Penobscot are not affiliated with the Abenakis today, and distance themselves from the Abenaki of New England. There are 3000 Penobscot Indians now, most of whom live in Maine.

Bands: There were several other Algonquian bands of Maine who spoke the same language as the Penobscots and were culturally and/or politically associated with them, including the Caniba (Kennebec), Norridgewock (Nanrantsouak), Androscoggin (Arosaguntacook or Aroosagunticook,) Wawenock (Wawinak), and Pigwacket (Pequawket or Saco River Indians.)

History: Like other Wabanaki tribes, the Penobscot Indians were longstanding enemies of the Iroquois tribes, particularly the Mohawk. This led them to side with the French and Algonquins in the costly war against the English and Iroquoians. The English paid out bounties for dead Penobscots, but it was European diseases (especially smallpox) that really decimated their nation, killing at least 75% of the population. Still angry with the British, the much-reduced Penobscot tribe supported the Americans in the Revolutionary War, and having picked the winning side they were not expelled from New England, remaining on reservations in their native Maine to this day. Recently the Penobscot Indians and their Passamaquoddy allies--despite formidable harassment from white neighbors--successfully argued that their treaty rights had been violated, and in 1980 received a settlement of $81 million for land that was illegally stolen from them. The Penobscot tribe was able to buy back some of their ancestral lands, and today they are a sovereign nation working to maintain their traditions, language, and self-sufficiency.

Abenaki-Penobscot Language Directory
Penobscot language samples and resources.

Penobscot Culture and History Directory
Information and links about the Penobscot people.

Penobscot Indians Fact Sheet
Our answers to common questions about the Penobscots.

Penobscot Culture and History

As a complement to our information about the Penobscot language, we would like to share our collection of indexed links about the Penobscot Indian people and various aspects of their society. Native Americans are living people with a present and future as well as a past. Penobscot history is interesting and important, but the Penobscot are still here today, too, and we have tried to feature modern writers as well as traditional folklore, contemporary art as well as museum pieces, and the issues and struggles of today as well as the tragedies of yesterday. Suggestions for new links are always welcome.

Penobscot Tribal and Community Websites

Penobscot Indian Nation:
    Official website of the Penobscot Nation.
Indian Island School:
    Serving the Penobscot Indians of Maine.
Penobscot Nation Museum:
    Tribally owned and operated Penobscot museum.
Penobscot High Stakes Bingo:
    The Penobscot gaming hall in Old Town.
Wabanaki Program:
    Indian youth center in Maine.
People of the Dawnland:
    Personal pages of individual Penobscot Indian people.

Books for sale on the Penobscot Indians
Our organization earns a commission from any book bought through these links

Abenaki-Penobscot Dictionary:
    Gordon Day's Abenaki-Penobscot dictionary for sale.
The Penobscot Dance of Resistance:
    Interesting book on the importance of Penobscot legend, dances, and oral traditions to the tribe's survival.
Women of the Dawn:
    Biographies of four Penobscot Indian women.
Molly Spotted Elk: A Penobscot in Paris:
    Biography of Penobscot dancer/actress Molly Spotted Elk.
Baseball's First Indian * The First Cleveland Indian * Louis Sockalexis: Baseball Pioneer:
    Indian Summer: Louis Francis Sockalexis:
    Biographies of Penobscot Indian baseball pioneer Louis Sockalexis.
Crossing the Starlight Bridge:
    Young adult novel about the life of a contemporary Penobscot girl.
Many Hands: A Penobscot Indian Story:
    Picture book about a young Penobscot basket-weaver learning a lesson about family and community.
Penobscot Man:
    Definitive 1940 ethnography by anthropologist Frank G. Speck.
Twelve Thousand Years:
    Reference book on the American Indians of Maine.
Uncommon Threads: Wabanaki Textiles, Clothing, and Costume:
    Photo-essay on Penobscot and other Wabanaki textile arts from the Maine State Museum.
Indian Place-Names of the Penobscot Valley and the Maine Coast:
    Study of the Penobscot Indian placenames of Maine.
    Land claims of the Mashpee, Passamaquoddy and Penobscot Indians.
Native American Books:
    Evolving list of books about Penobscots and Native Americans in general.

Maps of Penobscot Indian Lands

Native Americans of New England:
    Map showing the location of early Penobscot Indian territory in New England.
Maine Native American Culture:
    Historical maps and timeline for the Penobscot tribe in Maine.
Maine Indian Maps:
    Tribal map showing the original territory of the Penobscot Indians and their neighbors.

Penobscot Lifestyle and Tradition

Barry Dana:
    1999 interview with the former Penobscot teacher and chief of the Penobscot Nation.
Canoeing Cultures: Penobscot:
    Passamaquoddy and Penobscot canoe building and traditional life.
Teachers on Mission to Save Heritage * Reservation Schools Preserve Cultures:
    Children's classes on Passamaquoddy and Penobscot Indian language and heritage.
Penobscot Clothing Style * Penobscot Costume * First Nations Clothing * Headbands * Native American Hair:
    Traditional Penobscot clothes, regalia, and hairstyles.
Triangle Game * Bowl & Dice Game * Penobscot Lacrosse Ball * Ring & Pin Game * Waltes:
    Penobscot Indian games and toys.
Penobscot Indian Drum:
    Photograph of a traditional Penobscot drum.
The Penobscot Bow * Cable-backed Bows:
    Articles on the construction of the unusual Penobscot style of double bow.
Flag of the Penobscot Tribe * Penobscot Indian Nation Flag:
    Pictures of the Penobscot flag and its symbols.
Penobscot Fry Bread:
    Penobscot Indian recipe.
Wampum History and Background:
    Wampum and its importance to the Wabanaki Indians.
Penobscot Culture:
    The late Frank Siebert, who helped transcribe the Penobscot language and preserve hundreds of artifacts.
Penobscot License Plates * Wabanaki License Plate:
    Tribal license plates issued to Penobscot and other Wabanaki people in Maine.
Wigwams * Native American Food:
    Articles on Penobscot and other Native American food and homes.

Penobscot Mythology and Religion

Gluscabi Stories and other Penobscot Legends:
    Collection of Penobscot Indian legends and folktales.
Penobscot Indian Stories * Klouskap Creates the Penobscots:
    Mythology of the Penobscot Indians.
American Indian Religion:
    Advice for people researching traditional Penobscot religion and Native American beliefs in general.
Indian Reservation Priests Follow A 300-Year-Old Tradition:
    The Catholic religious tradition of the Penobscots and Passamaquoddys.

Penobscot Literature and Arts

Native American Authors: Penobscot Tribe:
    Penobscot writers, their lives and work.
Ssipsis * Molly Molasses and Me:
    Information about Ssipsis, a Penobscot writer.
John Bear Mitchell * Native American Stories at Hudson Museum:
    John Bear Mitchell, Penobscot storyteller and educator.
How Gluskabe Stole Tobacco * Glooskap and the Baby:
    Stories about the adventures of the Abenaki-Penobscot hero Glooskap.
Penobscot Theatre Company: Transformer Tales:
    A community theater project bringing traditional Penobscot legends to life.
Maine Native American Basketmaking * Penobscot Indian Basketry * Maine Indian Baskets:
    Penobscot Brown Ash Basketry * Penobscot Fancy Baskets:
    Splint basketry of the Penobscot and other Maine-area Indians.
Brilliantly Beaded:
    Beadwork of the Northeast American Indians.
Porcupine Quill Decoration on Birch Bark * Porcupine Quill Embroidery:
    Quill embroidery of the Penobscot Indians and other Wabanaki peoples.
Songs of the Wabanaki * Voices of Katahdin:
    Traditional Micmac and Penobscot music and drumming.
Molly Spotted Elk (Mary Alice Nelson Archambaud) * Molly Spotted Elk * Penobscot in Paris:
    Molly Spotted Elk, Penobscot Indian dancer and actress.
Penobscot Indian Art * Sunrise Sunset Designs * Molly Molasses:
    Contemporary Penobscot art, craft, and jewelry, with photographs and artist biographies.
Wind Dancer Basket Art * Harraseeket Basketry:
    Homepages of two Penobscot basketweavers, some baskets are for sale.
Ruth and Mitchell Attean Johnson:
    Penobscot jewelry and basket artists.
Native American Art:
    Information, photographs and links about Penobscot and other native artwork.

Penobscot Politics, Issues, and News

Donna Loring:
    The Penobscot Nation's government representative.
Wabanaki Legal News:
    Legal information, news and support for the American Indians of Maine.
    Articles about Maine Indian issues.
Tribal Sovereignty:
    Essay about the sovereignty of the Penobscot Nation by tribal member Mark Chavaree.
The Wabanaki Challenge:
    Cross-border Wabanaki Indian relations and legal issues.
Penobscot: A People and Their River * Pollution of the Penobscot River * Penobscot River Summit:
    Penobscot Tribes Roots in Water * Dioxin in the Penobscot River * The Mercury Menace:
    Protecting Maine Rivers * River Summit at Penobscot Nation * Tribal Stewardship:
    The environment on the Penobscot reservation and dioxin pollution in the Penobscot River.
Penobscot Nation Considers Fairfield * Casino Petition * Casino Yes * Casino Developer Involved:
    Casino Concerns * Casino Aims for Biddeford * Familiar Figures on Casino Mission:
    Proposed Passamaquoddy-Penobscot casino in Maine.
At Loggerheads:
    Differing viewpoints on the Passamaquoddy and Penobscot Land Claim Settlement of 1980.
Native American Human Remains * Important Change in Maine Law:
    Repatriation of American Indian human remains in Maine.
Maine House Bans the Word 'Squaw' * Northeast Wigwam: Squaw Names * Squaw:
    The "Squaw" Word * Bill to Ban 'Squaw' from Place Names * Hurtful Words:
    The successful fight by Maine Indians to re-name landmarks with the word squaw in them.
Penobscots Seeking Ban of Cleveland's Mascot * Little Black Sambo and Chief Wahoo:
    Indian Mascots and Logos * Chief Wahoo and the Tomahawk Chop * An Act of Honor or Exploitation?:
    Objections to the Cleveland Indians' Chief Wahoo mascot (supposedly modelled on Penobscot player Louis Sockalexis).

Penobscot History and Biography

Penobscot Indian History:
    Historical background from the Penobscot Nation.
Passamaquoddy/Penobscot History:
    Essay on Passamaquoddy and Penobscot history from ancient times until 1985.
Penobscot History:
    Penobscot history from the Indian Island school.
Abenakis History:
    History of the Penobscot Indians and related Wabanaki tribes.
Timeline of Native American Culture in Maine * Wabanaki Indian Collection * Ready to Tell Overdue Story:
    People of the Dawn * People of the Dawnland:
    History of the Penobscot and other Maine Indians.
Tarrateen War:
    History of the 17th-century Wabanaki war.
Penobscot Scalp Proclamation:
    1755 bounty notice by the English offering rewards for the scalps of dead Penobscot Indian men, women, and children.
Maritimes Treaties:
    18th-century English treaties with the Mi'kmaq, Abenaki and Penobscot Indians.
A Visit with Henry Mitchell:
    Personal history of a Penobscot Indian.
A Season of Brilliance * The Story of Louis Sockalexis * Louis Sockalexis:
    Penobscot Nation Marker * The First Cleveland Indian * Indian Summer: Louis Sockalexis:
    Louis Francis Sockalexis, Penobscot Indian and first Native American baseball player.
Thoreau's Allegash & East Branch:
    Henry David Thoreau's account of his interactions with Joe Polis, Molly Molasses, and other 19th-century Penobscots.
Four Directions: Penobscot:
    Timeline and links about Penobscot history.

Penobscot Genealogy Links

Are You Sure You're Penobscot? * Genealogy Research Requests:
    Information about Penobscot genealogy and identity from the Penobscot Nation .
Maine Native American Genealogy:
    Resources for descendants of Maine Indians.
Penobscott Nation:
    Messageboards for Penobscot Indian ancestry.
American Indian Genealogy:
    Direction for those seeking Penobscot and other American Indian ancestors.

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Additional Resources, Links, and References

   Penobscot People * Penobscot Indians * Penobscots (Pentagouet):
   Encyclopedia articles about the Penobscot Indians.
  Pueblo Penobscot * Los Penobscot:
  Information about the Penobscot in Spanish.
   Native Americans: Penobscot * Penobscot Indians: * Penobscots:
   Penobscot links pages.

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