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Wabanaki Timeline

Abbe : Research : Wabanaki : Timeline : Strangers in a Strange Land

Strangers in the Land: European Contact


The Wabanaki were some of the earliest Native communities to encounter Europeans. Contact involved the exchange of ideas and knowledge, as well as material goods. Within decades, European diseases, warfare, alcohol and conversion to Christianity dramatically altered Wabanaki societies.


1660sEtching Detail

Detail from an etched birchbark container.

Mohawk raiding parties attack Wabanaki villages, as they compete to control trade with English, French and Dutch trading partners.









Uphanum, alias Jane, a Wabanaki woman, deeds lands in Scarborough to Andrew Algers. In exchange for the land, she retains the rights to plant corn in his field and to receive a bushel of corn yearly.




A Jesuit Mission is built at the Wabanaki village of Norridgewock on the Kennebec River.


Jesuit Cross

Jesuit Cross found at Norridgewock.
Photo © Maine Historical Society

Jesuit missionaries established the first French missions in North America in Maine between 1611 and 1613. The French missionaries wanted to convert the Wabanaki people to Catholicism. To do that, they established mission villages where the Natives could settle, grow crops and attend mass. Some of the mission villages became places of refuge for the Wabanaki when they were forced to flee their homelands.










French capture the English trading post at present day Castine in Penobscot Bay and begin Fort Pentagoet.




Oral Tradition: Glooskap Visits England

Glooskap Visits England

Glooskap built a stone canoe. He worked a year at it. Then, he dried meat, and so provisioned the canoe with food and water. Along with his Grandmother Woodchuck, Glooskap sailed across the sea. This was before white people had ever heard of America. The white people did not discover this country first at all. Glooskap discovered England, and told them about it.


Adapted from The Algonquin Legends of New England by Charles G. Leland, 1884.


Photo from Detail of an etched birchbark mailpouch, Passamaquoddy, 19th Century, Abbe Museum Collections



1629European Glass Beads

European Glass Beads

Trade Ax

Trade Ax from the Abbe Collections


Snowshoes from the Abbe Collections

An English trading post is established at present day Castine in Penobscot Bay.


The Wabanaki exchanged furs, moccasins, canoes and snowshoes as well as the knowledge of how to survive in a strange land for metal tools, beads and clothing.




























Governor Bradford, Massachusetts Colony, complains, that the Kennebec people:


"…already abundantly furnished with pieces, powder, and shot, sword, rapiers, and javelins; all which arms and munition is this year plentifully and publicly sold unto them… not only corne, but also such other commodities as the fishermen had traded with them, as coats, shirts,rugs, & blankets, pease, prunes, [etc]; and what they could not have out of England, they bought of fishing ships…"




Pilgrims arrive at Plymouth.



Understanding European Depictions of Native Americans

European Depictions of Native Americans

Early depictions of Native people from European sources often provide more information about what the Europeans were thinking than about the actual appearance of the Wabanaki. Depictions of naked people reflect the European view of Natives as uncivilized. Written accounts often describe the Wabanaki as statuesque, handsome people in comparison to the typically short Europeans.



Early European Accounts of Native People and the Use of the Word "Savage."

Sixteenth century European culture and society contained very different ideas from today about civilization, humankind and the social order. Early European explorers wrote descriptions and accounts of Native people based on their accepted cultural belief that Natives were uncivilized, inhuman and at the bottom of social order. In most accounts, they used the biased and damaging word "savages" to represent Native people.


The early European use of the word "savage" reveals early European bias and discrimination against Native people and does not reflect who Native people really were or are today.


Photo from Detail from Champlain's Map of New France

The John Carter Brown Library, Brown Universit



1616-1619: The Great Dying

Massive epidemics devastate Wabanaki communities.



1613Jesuit Mission

© The John Carter Brown Library,
Brown University

The French Jesuit Mission of St. Sauveur is established in Frenchman Bay.

Father Pierre Biard writes of the people in the Jesuit Relations:


...I confess we often see in these Savages natural and graceful qualities which will make anyone but a shameless person blush, when they compare them to the greater part of the French ...we were very glad to

be in a country of safety; for among the Etchemins, as these.














Popham Colony (in present day Maine) is founded as the first English settlement in North America but lasts only five months. The English fail to gain the trust of the Wabanaki after the kidnapping of their people in 1605.


Henry Hudson steals native hides:


"...we manned our Boat & Scute with twelve men and Muskets, and two stone Pieces or Murderers, and drave the Salvages from their houses, and tooke the spoyle of them, as they would have done of us. Then we set sayle."
- Robert Juet, Henry Hudson's log keeper, 1609, Penobscot Bay

Jamestown Colony (in present day Virginia) is the first permanent English settlement in North America.




Porcupine quills

Quill Box

Quill decorated birchbark box about 1850.
From the Abbe Collections

"...the maids and women do make [ornaments] with the quills or bristles of the porcupine, which they dye black, white and red colours, as lively as possibly may be..." Marc Lescarbot, French explorer, 1606


Traditionally, porcupine quills were worked into armbands, necklaces and other jewelry and applied to leather clothing for ornamentation.
















In the first encounter between the English and Native Americans in present day Maine, explorer George Waymouth kidnaps five Wabanaki men from present-day Pemaquid, at the mouth of the St. George River in Maine.



1604Map of New France

© The John Carter Brown Library,
Brown University

Samuel de Champlain maps New France.


Champlain describes Mount Desert Island:


"The island is high and notched in places so that from the sea it gives the appearance of a range of seven or eight mountains.
The summits are all bare and rocky. The slopes are covered with pines, firs, and birches. I named it Isle des Monts Desert. Two canoes with savages in them came within musket range to observe us. I sent out our two savages in a boat to assure them of our good-will, but their fear of us made them turn back. On the morning of the next day they came alongside and talked with our savages. I ordered biscuit, tobacco, and other trifles to be given to them. These savages had come to hunt beavers and catch fish."
-Samuel de Champlain, September 1604 off Mount Desert Island


Learn more about Champlain's maps of New England >




Geographer Gerardus Mercator uses the name America for the first time on a map.




Explorer Giovanni da Verrazzano trades with cautious Natives along the coast of Maine.


"If we wanted to trade with them for some of their things, they would come to the sea shore on some rocks where the breakers were most violent, while we remained in the little boat, and they sent us what they wanted to give on a rope, continually shouting to us not to approach the land; they gave us the barter quickly, and would take in exchange only knives, hooks for fishing, and sharp metal."


Giovanni da Verrazzano, north of Cape Cod.




Quick Links

A New Dawn – (Present - 1950)

Hard Times – The Survival of the People (1950 - 1800)

Resistance – Making War & Negotiating Peace (1796 - 1675)

Time of Dawn – (500 - 12,000 years ago)

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