Penobscot Tribe

The Occom Circle

Penobscot Tribe


The Penobscot (Penawahpskewi) people are indigenous to the Penobscot River watershed in what is now Maine, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. When Europeans arrived in the early 17th century, the Penobscots were part of the Wabanaki, a powerful confederacy of tribes that included the Mi'kmaq, Maliseet, Passamaquoddy, and Abenaki Indians, who all spoke a related Algonquian language. Other tribes who spoke the same language and were culturally and/or politically associated with the Penobscots include the Caiba (Kennebec), Norridgewock (Nanrantsouak), Arosaguntacook (Androscoggin), Wawenock (Wawinak), and Pigwacket (Pequawket or Saco River Indians). Their first recorded leader, Chief Bessabez (or Bashaba), ruled over a nation of 20 villages. From 1606 to 1616, the Penobscots were decimated by intertribal conflict, and smallpox introduced by Europeans. Long wars with their hereditary enemy, the Mohawks, lasted until 1678 when only 347 Penobscots remained. Between 1675 and 1760, the Penobscots and other Indian nations, who allied with the French, were caught up in the battle between Britain and France for control of the region, which exhausted their resources. Washington requested that the Penobscots side with the Americans during the Revolution, and because of this they were allowed to stay on their lands after the war. But despite continued support of American causes, the tribe was ignored, their lands appropriated when Maine became a state, and treaties broken. In 1965, Maine became the first state to create a separate Department of Indian Affairs to help recognize and implement Penobscot sovereignty. In 1980, Penobscot and the Passamaquoddy Indians received a settlementof $81 million and were able to buy back some ancestral lands where the nation continues to maintain its traditions. In 1766, Aaron Kinne mentions the Penobscots to Wheelock as one of the tribes in the area around Georgetown, Maine, who might be ripe for missionizing.


"Historical Background." ; Penobscot Indian Nation.;; "Penobscot (Eastern Abnaki, Penawahpskewi, Penobscott)." ; Native Languages of the Americas.;