Indian Names of the Months

On one of the first leaves of an account-book of William Pynchon of Springfield, is the following account of the Indian months or Moons, in the handwriting of his son, John Pynchon, written about 1650.

Papsapquoho and Lowatanassick, they say, are both one. And if they be reckoned both for one, they reckon but twelve months to the year as we do. And they make the year to begin in Squanni kesos, as far as I yet can understand them, and so call the first month:

  1. Squanni kesos, part of April and part of May, when they set Indian corn.
  2. Moonesquanimock kesos, part of May and part of June, when the women weed their corn.
  3. Towwa kesos, part of June and part of July, when they hill Indian corn.
  4. Matterllawaw kesos, when squashes are ripe and Indian beans begin to be eatable.
  5. Micheennee kesos, when the Indian corn is eatable.
  6. Pohquitaqunk kesos, the middle between eating Indian corn and harvest.
  7. Pepewarr, because of white frosts on the grass and ground.
  8. Qunni kesos. [No remarks on this month.
  9. Papsapquoho, or about the 6th day of January; Lowatanassick, so called, because they account it the middle of winter.
  10. Squochee kesos, because the sun hath strength to thaw.
  11. Wapicummilcum, part of February and part of March, because the ice in the river is all gone.
  12. Namossack kesos, part of March and part of April, because of catching fish.”

Mr. Pynchon had another list of the Indian months, but part of the leaf has been torn off, and only the following lines are left :

Pepewar, November.
Qunni kesos, December.
Papsapquoho, January.

There are some errors in the explanation of the months. If the 9th month began on the 6th of January, the 11th month could not have included any part of February. It is not improbable that the notions of our Indians, as to the division of time, were somewhat vague and indefinite. In Long’s “Expedition to the Source of St. Peter’s River,” the names of the Chippewa months or moons are given; but the writer doubts their accuracy, and says, ” it may be questioned whether the Chippewa have any well defined ideas on that subject.”  Our Indians on Connecticut river, above Windsor, were Nipmuck. The sound of the letter Z is frequent in their language, though not used by the Indians about Boston. The letter Z is not found in Eliot’s Indian Bible. Kesos, the Nipmuck name of the moon, in Pynchon’s Indian months, is nearly the same with that of the Chippewa of the West, and that of the Eastern Indians of Maine, but very different from the Indian word for moon in Eliot and Roger Williams. S. J. of N.

[box]Source: The New England Historical and Genealogical Register, 1856, p. 166.[/box]



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