New Hampshire's Lakes region was entirely inhabited by the Abnaki Family. About the time of birth of Christ, after thousands of years wandering, these people found a homeland of peace and plenty where they lived happily for 2,000 years until the French and English almost exterminated them.
Considering their background, the Abnaki, with only primitive opportunities, progressed toward a civilization of remarkable elements. The French missionaries wrote that the Abnaki were the most highly developed and possessed greater intelligence than all other Indian Families with whom they came in contact. Abnaki inventions were simply astonishing. From stone or bone they contrived tools for uses that metals supply today.
The Abnaki Name
January (Snow Moon)
February (Hunger Moon) Game was hibernating
March (Crow Moon) First call of spring
April (Grass Moon)
May (Corn Planting Moon)
June (Strawberry Moon)
July (Thunder Moon)
August (Red Moon)
September (Harvest Moon)
October (Hunter's Moon)
November (Mad Moon)
December (Long Night Moon)
Various forms of spelling for this name are found---every writer decided for himself since no written language existed among the tribes. The derivation tells along story. In their language Abnaki mean't "white and shining" The word was applied to the Dawn , the East and to the Northern Lights. They called themselves the Northern Light People. During the centuries that they existed in the northern regions they chose their name from the most impressive and beautiful manifestations of nature.
Time and Moon
Also from their northern sojourn they learned to reckon time by the moon. In the long nights they observed the phases of the moon, month by month and they noted the northern and southern position of its orbit annually. To the moon of each month they applied a special name
Judging from these names, annual customs were observed. The corn was planted at the full of the May Moon. When the Indians taught the English to grow corn, they so impressed the White Men with their customs that even to this day many farmers wait for the proper time of the May Moon to plant corn in New Hampshire. The Indians also learned that October was the moon for hunting game after the young fawns had grown old enough to find their own food , and pelts were thickest.
The Abnaki Totem
Every Indian Family possessed its indiviual signauture or totem and many tribes had their own sign also. The Abnaki chose a symbol of the northern heavens. Their totem was the Big Dipper, the northern constellation that is always above the horizon.
In summer almost no covering of their bodies was worn. As the cold season advanced, skins of deer, otter and beaver were sewn into garments. Sometimes hides were tanned and the hair removed with stone scrapers. At other times the women chewed the deer hides to remove the oils, then rubbed certain oils back into the skins so they became soft and smooth as velvet. These were used to wrap the babies.
Leggings, mocassins and protective pieces for the chest and back were sewn with bone needles and strips of bark or skin for thread. Blankets of bear and deerskins were worn in the cold weatherand were used for covering the ground floors of wigwams and for sleeping comfort. Nothing like soap had been discovered among the Indians and except for swimming in the summer, bathing could not have been practiced.
The wigwams of the Abnaki were constructed by tying the bark of trees to a framework of saplings. This bark had been stripped from trees in the spring and weighted down to flatten it. The roofs were slanting from the ridge where an opening protected by clay was the smoke-hole above the fire-hole. Through the center of the ground floor a deep ditch was dug and firmly packed on all sides with large rocks at the bottom and field stones in graduated sizes to form a walled trench, the fire-hole where a fire was constantly burning. The surrounding groiund became throughly heated and was comfortable even on the coldest winter days. Few openings were place in the walls-one for the doorway and more often than not no others. The interior was hung with the fur of bear and deer to form a protection from the wind and chilling temperatures. On winter nights the occupants slept on the floor with their feet toward the fire-hole with skins for covering.
Since metals were unknown, the Indians devised other methods for boiling foods. They learned that green birch would withstand heat for a time. They fashioned kettles by burning and chipping out the center of short lengths of birch logs and set them near their fireplaces in the open air. Stones were heated and plunged into liquids in these kettles to hasten the boiling, and metas and vegetables were cooked by this means. The seeds of pumpkins, beans and squash were discovered in a forgotten bygone day. Women cultivated them along with the corn and cooked these vegetables for food. The corn was parched, probably popped ground into meal and baked as corn bread and boiled as mush.
Maple syrup was made in the spring and for a few days the Indians reveled with the sweetness. They knew of no utensils in which to preserve this treat but enjoyed the season while it lasted.
The squaws dried venison and fish and hung them from the ceilings of their wigwams for winter use. They also built storehouses to preserve a winter supply of foods-corn and beans, as well as game.
Indians of New Hampshire
Eva A. Speare copyright 1965
Historic Indian Trails of New Hampshire
Chester B. Price copyright 1967
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Published on: 2005-11-29 (1299 reads)[ Go Back ]