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PASSAMAQUODDY/PENOBSCOT. The Passamaquoddies and Penobscots, residents of eastern and central Maine, respectively, were among the first Native Americans contacted by Europeans. Both groups had fluid social organizations, spoke related Algonquian languages, and lived in small villages or seasonal family band camps while relying on hunting, fishing, and gathering for subsistence. They were never organized as tribes but were perceived as such by English colonials and later state and federal officials. In 2002, most Penobscots resided on Indian Island in the Penobscot River, while the Passamaquoddies were divided between Pleasant Point on Passamaquoddy Bay and Indian Township near the St. Croix River.

The Passamaquoddies and Penobscots avoided European domination throughout most of the colonial period due to their strategic location and their remoteness

from English settlements. Catholic conversion and French intermarriage fostered friendly relations, but French influence has often been exaggerated. The six wars occurring between 1677 and 1760 were each caused locally by a combination of English insistence on sovereignty, disputes concerning subsistence or land, and indiscriminate mutual retaliation. These conflicts resulted in the decline and migration of Native populations and the merging of refugees into Penobscot and Passamaquoddy villages.

After supporting the American Revolution, these Indians were administered by Massachusetts (Maine after 1820), contrary to federal law. State authorities forced them to make large land cessions in 1794, 1796, 1818, and 1833. Significantly, each group has had a nonvoting representative to the state legislature since the early 1800s. Maine was the last state to grant reservation Indians voting rights (1954), but it created the first state Department of Indian Affairs (1965). In the late 1960s, the Passamaquoddies and Penobscots initiated the Maine Indian Land Claims, arguing that state treaties violated the Indian Nonintercourse Act of 1790. Several favorable court rulings prompted a $81.5 million settlement in 1980 and provided the foundation for other suits by eastern tribes.


Brodeur, Paul. Restitution: The Land Claims of the Mashpee, Passamaquoddy, and Penobscot Indians of New England. Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1985.

Ghere, David. "Abenaki Factionalism, Emigration, and Social Continuity in Northern New England, 1725–1765." Ph.D. diss., University of Maine, 1988.

Morrison, Kenneth M. The Embattled Northeast: The Elusive Ideal of Alliance in Abenaki-Euramerican Relations. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984.


See alsoTribes: Northeastern .

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