American Indian languages
American Indian tribes
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Native Languages of the Americas:
Wabanaki Confederacy (Wabenaki, Wobanaki)
The Wabanaki (Eastern) Confederacy was a coalition of five Algonquian tribes
of the eastern seaboard, banded together in response to Iroquois aggression.
These tribes--the Abenaki, the Penobscot, the Maliseet, the Passamaquoddy, and the Mi'kmaq--each retained their own political leadership, but
collaborated on broader issues such as diplomacy, war, and trade. The confederation officially disbanded in 1862, but the five tribes remain
close allies, and the Wabanaki Confederacy lives on in the form of a political alliance between these historically friendly nations.
There is some confusion associated with the term "Wabanaki." It literally means "people of the dawn" or
"dawnland people," meaning easterners, and at times all five tribes of the Wabanaki Confederacy have referred to
themselves this way. Also, the Mi'kmaq and Maliseet of New Brunswick collectively refer to themselves as
Wabanaki, and some information about these two tribes has this name on it. Finally, the Abenaki, though their
name clearly has the same Algonquian root, are not identical to the Wabanaki--they are one constituent tribe, and
though a Maliseet may be referred to as a Wabanaki, he is not an Abenaki.
Wabanaki Language Pages
There are three languages spoken by Wabanaki nations:
Abnaki-Penobscot, whose two dialects are
spoken by the Abenakis and the Penobscots,
Maliseet-Passamaquoddy, whose two dialects are
spoken by the Maliseets and the Passamaquoddys, and
Mi'kmaq, spoken by the Mi'kmaqs.
Wabanaki Tribal Pages
The five Wabanaki tribes are:
The Abenaki Indians of New England and Quebec
The Penobscot Indians of Maine
The Maliseet Indians of New Brunswick, Quebec, and Maine
The Passamaquoddy Indians of Maine and New Brunswick
The Mi'kmaq Indians of the Canadian Maritimes, Quebec, and Maine
Wabanaki Confederacy Information
The Historical Wabanaki Confederacy
The Wabanaki Indian Collection:
Summary of Wabanaki culture, history, and the component Wabanaki tribes by historian Nicholas Smith.
Oral History and the Wabanaki Confederacy:
History of the Wabanaki alliance from Indian oral tradition.
Formation of the Wobanaki Confederacy:
Traditional Wabanaki history (in Maliseet-Passamaquoddy with English translation).
People of the Dawn:
Information about the Wabanakis of Maine.
Native American Culture in Maine:
Historical timeline and maps for the Wabanaki tribes.
The People of the Dawnland:
History of the Wabanaki nations told by a Passamaquoddy author.
Gluskabi Stories and other Wabanaki Legends:
Collection of Wabanaki legends and folktales.
History of the 17th-century Wabanaki war.
Property and Land:
Conflicts caused by differing English and Wabanaki Alliance views about land use.
Native Americans of New England:
Map of Wabanaki Indian territory in early New England.
Wabanaki Allies Today
Information on the Wabanaki in the present day.
Wabanakis of Maine:
Articles about Wabanaki issues from the Maine Rural Development Council.
Wabanaki Confederation Information Network:
News and activism for the Wabanaki people of New Brunswick.
Cultural group maintaining the integrity and way of life of the Wabanaki Nations.
Maine Indian youth program sponsored by the Americans Friends Service Committee.
Wabanaki Authors Abenaki Authors Penobscot Authors Malecite Authors Mi'kmaq Authors:
Wabanaki writers, their lives and work.
The Wabanaki Challenge:
Article about cross-border Wabanaki Indian relations and the law.
Wabanaki License Plate:
Tribal license plate issued to Wabanaki people in Maine.
Books for sale on Wabanaki Tribes
Voice of the Dawn:
Wabanaki history by Abenaki tribal archaeologist Fred Wiseman.
An Upriver Passamaquoddy:
Enlightening book of oral history from a Passamaquoddy storyteller.
On The Trail Of Elder Brother: Seven Eyes, Seven Legs: Giants of the Dawnland:
Good collections of Wabanaki myths and legends.
Women of the Dawn:
Biographies of four Wabanaki Indian women.
Uncommon Threads: Wabanaki Textiles, Clothing, and Costume:
Photo-essay on Wabanaki textile arts from the Maine State Museum.
Twelve Thousand Years:
Reference book on the Wabanaki Indians of Maine.
Rich anthology of stories, songs, and oral history from the Wabanaki and other Algonquian tribes.
Raccoon's Last Race: Thanks To The Animals:
Children's picture books illustrating Wabanaki legends.
Echoes of the Night: Gluskap Stories:
Audio recordings of Wabanaki storytelling.
American Indian Books:
Evolving list of books about Native Americans in general.
Links, References and Additional Resources
Wabanaki Confederacy Community Messageboard:
Open to members of Wabanaki tribes.
These Facts For Kids were written for young people learning about the Wabanakis for school or homeschooling reports. We encourage
students, especially older kids, to use the links listed above for more in-depth information about the
Wabanaki tribes and their cultures, but here is some Wabanaki information specifically answering questions we are most often asked by kids.
How do you pronounce "Wabanaki?" What does it mean?
It's pronounced WAHB-uh-nah-kee. ("Wahb" rhymes with "sob.") It means "dawnland people," or easterners.
Are the Wabanaki Indians a tribe?
No. The Wabanaki Confederacy was an alliance between five different tribes: the
Abenakis, the Penobscots,
the Maliseet, the Passamaquoddies, and the
Micmacs. Follow those links to learn more about each Wabanaki tribe. The
Wabanaki Confederacy was a little like the European Union. The Wabanaki nations had special trade agreements,
special rights on each other's lands, and joint diplomacy. However, each Wabanaki nation was independent with its own leadership, like France
and England today. Before they joined the Wabanaki Confederacy, these nations were not always friends--in fact, they
sometimes fought wars against each other (just like France and England used to.) But once they joined the Confederacy,
the Wabanaki tribes never fought each other again. The Wabanaki Confederacy disbanded in 1862, but the five
Wabanaki nations still exist, and they remain friends and allies today.
Where do the Wabanaki Indians live?
The Wabanaki are original people of New England (particularly
New Hampshire) and the Canadian Maritimes
(particularly Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.) There are more than 40,000 Wabanaki people in Canada and the United States today.
What kind of homes did Wabanaki Indians live in? The Wabanakis didn't
live in tepees. They lived in small round buildings called wigwams,
about the size of a modern camp tent.
Here are some photographs of wigwams like
the ones Wabanaki Indians used.
Today, American Indians only build a wigwam for fun or to connect with their heritage.
Most Wabanaki people live in modern houses and apartment buildings, just like you.
What kind of clothes and headdresses did Wabanaki Indians wear?
Wabanaki women wore dresses with removable sleeves or wraparound skirts with mantles or ponchos, and the men wore breechcloths with leather pant legs tied on.
Each Wabanaki tribe had its particular style of dress, and Wabanaki people could tell each other apart by their clothing. Here are sketches of some different
Wabanaki outfits, and some photographs and links about
traditional Indian clothing in general.
What language did the Wabanaki Indians talk? They spoke three different languages. The Abenaki and Penobscot spoke one
language, Abnaki-Penobscot; the Maliseet and Passamaquoddy spoke another language,
Maliseet-Passamaquoddy; and the Mi'kmaq spoke a third language,
Mi'kmaq (Micmac). The languages were different enough that the Wabanakis needed
bilingual interpreters for their council meetings. You can see a comparison between the three languages at this site:
The three Wabanaki languages are still spoken today, though they are all endangered.
What was Wabanaki culture like? How did Wabanaki children live, what did they
eat, and what kind of things did they make?
Each Wabanaki nation has its unique culture. Some things shared by all the Wabanaki tribes were travel by
birchbark canoes (though each Wabanaki tribe had a
distinct style of canoe), decorating their moccasins and clothing with
using wampum for regalia
and remembering important events, using bows and arrows to hunt
and pronged spears to catch fish, and using
carry their babies.
What kinds of stories did the Wabenaki Indians tell?
There are many traditional Wabanaki legends and fairy tales. Storytelling is very important to
Wabanaki Indian cultures. Here is the
Glousgap (Gluskabe) cycle of Wabanaki
myths, and here are some Maliseet stories about little people
(supernatural beings like brownies or leprechauns).
Can you recommend a good book for me to read?
There's a good book of Wabanaki legends called
Giants of the Dawnland,
told by Alice Mead and Penobscot elder Arnold Neptune.
You may also enjoy Women of the Dawn, a collection of
four interesting biographies of Wabanaki women. If you prefer to read fiction stories,
Arrow Over The Door is a nice work
of historical fiction about Abenaki and Quaker boys who form a friendship, or
Muskrat Will Be Swimming
is a novel about a modern Wabanaki girl learning to take pride in her culture.
How do I cite your website in my bibliography?
You will need to ask your teacher for the format he or she wants you to use. Our names are Laura Redish and
Orrin Lewis and the title of our site is Native Languages of the Americas. The site was first created in 1998 and last updated in 2009.
Thanks for your interest in the Wabanaki people and their languages!
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