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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.

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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.
Tarrateen War:
    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

Wabanaki Confederacy:
    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.
Wabanaki Program:
    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.
Algonquian Spirit:
    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.

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Wabanaki Facts For Kids

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 Maine, Vermont and 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: Wabanaki Words. 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 beadwork, using wampum for regalia and remembering important events, using bows and arrows to hunt and pronged spears to catch fish, and using cradleboards to 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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