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Federations Comprise the Tribes 

 Native American Nations | Massasoit of the Wampanoags                    

These federations comprise the tribes with which the earliest colonists were brought directly in contact, and, consequently in the pursuit of the subject in which we are particularly interested, further mention of the Indians of New England will be limited for the most part to them. In passing, however, a glance at some of the other tribes whom Gookin groups as Abenakis or Tarrateens, will not be out of place.
     Other writers apply the term Abenaki to a much narrower limit, confining it to the Micmacs of Nova Scotia, called Souriquois by the French, the Abenaki, now called the St. Francis, in Canada, and the Passamaquoddies and Penobscots of Maine, which four tribes or federations are said to have called themselves not Abenaki, that being the name of one of them, but "Wabanaki," an Algonquin word meaning white or light, and believed to refer to the fact that they were the first upon whom the light of the sun rested as he started in his daily journey across the heavens.
     The Micmacs, Passamaquoddies and Penobscots appear to have been extremely rich in folklore, myth and legend, an interesting collection of which was made by Charles G. Leland in 1884 under the title of "Algonquin Legends of New England." As one of the sources of his authority for these legends and traditions, Leland tells us that the Wampum Records of the Passamaquoddies were read for him by "Sapiel Selmo, the only living Indian who had the key to them."
     Whatever subdivisions may have existed among them, or whatever federations made up of various closely related tribes; whatever potency there may have been in their totemic bonds; whatever civil wars may have rent them asunder, this fact we know, that from the time of our earliest knowledge of this part of the world after the Saga of Thorvald, until their practical extermination, all of New England was peopled by tribes of this great Algonquin family. To attempt an enumeration of them would be useless; their name is legion; and most of them are long since forgotten, except as they have left their names indelibly stamped upon the places they once inhabited, the mountains from whose summits their watch fires burned as they surveyed from the lofty heights the country round, and the streams upon whose silvery bosoms they paddled their light canoes.
     A few of the more powerful tribes, or, in some cases, federations, have made such an impress upon the life of the colonists, with whom the history of America, as it is today, begins, that their names and exploits have been handed down to us by the writers of that history; and a remnant of what was once a proud and powerful people in some few cases remains to remind their conquerors how futile were a he efforts of the children of nature to withstand the onward sweep of a higher civilization than they had ;attained. Among the latter are the Passamaquoddies, some five or six hundred of whom still occupy a small portion of their ancient hunting grounds in eastern Maine; the Penobscots, who in the early hart of the seventeenth century occupied the beautiful valley of the river and the shores of the bay from which time has not been able to efface their name, and in which river two islands still furnish a home for the five or six hundred remaining members of the tribe; and the Gay Heads, the descendants of the tribe that under the Sachem Epenow, in the Pilgrims' time occupied Capawack or Nope, now Martha's Vineyard, together with a few scattering members of other tribes distributed throughout Massachusetts; to say nothing of the few hundred descendants of the Mohicans who fought under Uncas, and a like number in whose veins flows the blood of the warriors who followed the three great Narragansett Chiefs, Canonicus, Miantonomo and Canonchet.
     Many of these have by intermarriage almost lost their identity, and even those who still cling to the lands allotted to them by the governments, are for the most part so crossed with other races that they would not, in most instances, be recognized as the descendants of the men our fathers found here three hundred years ago.
     The Passamaquoddies and Penobscots are as much French as Indian, and nearly all the natives of Massachusetts have mingled the blood of the Indian with that of the African, Schoolcraft saying in 1850 that there were not more than seven or eight full blooded Indians among the eight hundred and forty-seven in the state. Occasionally one meets a family who would never be suspected of being anything but the purest whites, but who boast the blood of the children of the forest.
     Among the tribes that have left their names indelibly stamped upon the localities in which they lived, but were not so closely connected with the earliest settlements as to have been active participants in the scenes enacted there, and consequently have not received the particular attention of historians, and have left no sufficient surviving remnant of their former strength to perpetuate their memory through their posterity, one notes with interest the Kennebecs, whose lordly river still flows down to the sea through their ancient hunting grounds with the same calm and peaceful movement in the seasons of low water, and the same torrential rush when the sun in his northward travels unfetters its thousand feeding brooks and springs, as in the days when the children of the forest dipped their dusky bodies in its cooling waters; the Norridgewocks, who dwelt farther back towards the headwaters of the same river, and whose name will not be forgotten as long as the people of Norridgewock, Maine, tell their children that their town derives its name from the Indians whose children listened to the folklore and songs of their people at their mothers' knees on this same spot three centuries ago; the Androscoggins who dipped their paddles noiselessly into the waters of the noble river that now turns the wheels of hundreds of mills, but will not allow the name of its first navigators to be sunk in oblivion; the Piscataquas who dwelt about the place where now a government navy yard gives shelter to men of war beside which the frail bark canoes of the natives are as the fingerlings of the shore beside the leviathans of the deep, and who have left their name upon the river that "widens to meet the sea" at Portsmouth; and the Pemaquids, who little dreamed when they heaped the shells of clams and other edible mollusks in huge piles along the shore, that they were erecting a monument to themselves, to be gazed at in wonder by generations of their destroyers; and whose name still clings to the places they once roamed at will.

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Massasoit of the Wampanoags

Massasoit of the Wampanoags

 

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