Pennacook Tribe

Pennacook Indians (cognate with Abnaki pěnâ-kuk, or penankuk, ‘at the bottom of the of hill or highland.’ Gerard). A confederacy of Algonquian tribes that occupied the basin of Merrimac river and the adjacent region in New Hampshire, northeast Massachusetts, and the extreme south part of Maine. They had an intermediate position between the southern New England tribes, with whom the English were most directly interested, and the Abnaki and others farther north, who were under French influence. Their alliances were generally with the northern tribes, and later with the French. It has been supposed that they were an offshoot of the southern tribes, as they spoke substantially the same language as the Massachusetts and Rhode Island Indians, and are generally classed with the Mahican.

We know the confederacy only as constituted under the influence and control of Passaconaway, who probably brought into it elements from various tribes of the same general stock. The tribes directly composing the confederacy were: Agawam, Wamesit, Nashua, Souhegan, Amoskeag, Pennacook proper, and Winnipesaukee. The first three of these were in Massachusetts, the others in New Hampshire. The Accominta of Maine and the Naumkeag of Essex County, Massachusetts, were merged in larger tribes and disappeared at an early period. Besides these, the following tribes were more or less connected with the confederacy and usually considered a part of it: Wachuset, Coosuc, Squamscot, Winnecowet, Piscataqua, and Newichawanoc. Some writers also include the Ossipee, Sokoki, Pequawket, and Arosaguntacook, but these four tribes had their closest relations with the Abnaki group. The Arosaguntacook were certainly connected with the Abnaki confederacy. Pentucket village also belonged to the Pennacook confederacy, although the Indians there do not seem to have been designated as a distinct tribe. The Pennacook were reduced by smallpox and other causes to about 2,500 in 1630, and in 1674 had decreased to about 1,250.

On the outbreak of King Philip’s war the next year the Nashua and Wachuset joined the hostile tribes, but the greater part of the Pennacook, under the chief Wannalancet, kept on friendly terms with the whites until the treacherous seizure of about 200 of their number by Waldron in 1676.

They then abandoned their country, the greater part with their chief removing to Canada, while a considerable number fled westward. The latter were pursued by the English and overtaken at Housatonic river, and a number of them killed. The survivors escaped to the Mahican of the Hudson, and were afterward settled at Scaticook, Rensselaer County, New York. Those who had removed to Canada were first settled near Quebec, but being afterward joined by some of their relatives from Scaticook, they were given, in 1685, a tract at Côte de Lauzun whence they removed east in 1700 to St Francis, where they met the Abnaki, who were also exiles from New England. The St. Francis Indians soon became noted as the bitterest foes of the English colonies, and so continued until the fall of the French power in America. Their descendants still reside at the same place. Soon after their settlement at St Francis they endeavored to persuade those at Scaticook to join but without success.

The following were Pennacook villages and bands:

  • Accominta
  • Agawam
  • Amoskeag
  • Coosuc
  • Nashua
  • Newichawanoc
  • Ossipee
  • Pennacook
  • Pentucket
  • Piscataqua
  • Souhegan
  • Squamscot
  • Wachuset
  • Wamesit
  • Weshacum
  • Winnecowet
  • Winnipesauki

Hodge, Frederick Webb, Compiler. The Handbook of American Indians North of Mexico. Bureau of American Ethnology, Government Printing Office. 1906.

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