Northeast Tribes


The Abenaki were native to Maine and New Hampshire. They made their villages along rivers and streams. Each village was surrounded by tall log walls that guarded against attacks. They lived in wigwam lodges and were into agriculture, hunting, and fishing.

Known for beadwork and baskets, they traded with local tribes using birch bark canoes, sleds, and snowshoes to travel. They were nearly wiped out by epidemics after encountering the Europeans in the 1500s. They allied with the French and local tribes in 1600s to fight the English. After defeats, they moved to Canada.


The Iroquois were five allied tribes. They lived in New York along the St. Lawrence River. They were farmers, hunters, and trappers. The villages consisted of 30-60 people, built near streams, and surrounded with palisades and watchtowers. They moved about every 20 years when the soil was exhausted.

Following the European arrival the Iroquois traded furs. Around 1650, epidemics reduced their population. Before the Revolutionary War, they had regained their numbers through absorption of other tribes and their own military quests. The colonists defeated the Iroquois still loyal to the British in 1779. In the early 1800s, the Iroquois began selling their land, and by 1833, they were forced into reservations.


The Lenape lived in Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and New York. They were known as peacemakers, called to solve conflicts between rival tribes. When forced to fight, they were fierce warriors. They welcomed European traders in the early 1600s and bartered pelts for European goods that helped to make farming easier and their dress more fashionable.

By mid-1600s, the Lenape were plagued by European epidemics. During the Revolutionary War, the Lenape supplied the colonists with scouts and warriors when they were promised a leadership role in a future Native American state. The tribe signed their first treaty with the U.S. government in 1778, giving up their land and moving farther west. Settlers pushed the Lenape westward over the next 100 years, until the tribe was forced to resettle in Indian Territory.


The Massachuset lived in the Massachusetts Bay area. They survived by farming corn, beans, squash, and tobacco, hunting, and fishing. In the winter, they retreated inland where they could hunt.

They were almost totally wiped out by European diseases. When the Puritans arrived in 1629, they found roughly 500 members. By 1633, a smallpox epidemic had killed nearly all of them.


The Miami tribe lived in areas of Indiana and Ohio. They were one of the most powerful tribes at that time. They lived in reed houses in permanent villages where life centered on farming and hunting local animals like buffalo. They traded with other tribes and used dugout canoes and sleds pulled by dogs to carry trade goods and travel.

During the 1740s, the Miami allied with the French to push British traders out of their region. When the French lost to the British in the French and Indian Wars, the Miami moved to Indiana in hopes of avoiding further conflict with the British. In 1794, the Miami were defeated and surrendered most of their land to the U.S. By the 1820s, they had ceded all of their territory and first moved to Kansas. They moved to Oklahoma in the 1860s.


The Pequot were native to Connecticut and survived through hunting, fishing, and farming. They lived in fortified villages consisting of longhouses or wigwams. They were highly organized, governed by tribal councils and a chief.

Dutch traders formed a relationship with the Pequot in 1614. They traded beaver skins for European goods. Other tribes in the area also wanted to trade goods with the Dutch, but the Pequot attacked their neighbors to establish a trading monopoly.

In the 1620s, the English began moving into Pequot territory and trading with them. Half the tribe united with English traders and the other half with the Dutch. A smallpox epidemic in 1633 ravaged those members allied with the Dutch. When the Pequot murdered an English trader in 1673, a war broke out. Hundreds of Pequot were killed and those who were captured were divided into different tribes or sold into slavery.


The Powhatan were a confederacy of 30 tribes in Virginia and Maryland. They lived along the rivers for access to food and transportation, only moving when the soil became exhausted.

The establishment of the Jamestown colony in 1607 and its expansion in later years led to warfare between the British settlers and the Powhatans. The situation worsened until Chief Powhatan’s daughter, Pocahontas, was abducted in 1613 and held at Jamestown. Her marriage to Englishman John Rolfe in 1614 brought peace for a few years. Following the death of both Pocahontas and Powhatan, the confederacy’s new leader attacked the British settlements in 1622. After the Powhatan family signed a peace treaty in 1646, they were forced onto a small reservation.


The Shawnee lived in Ohio and Indiana in wigwams made of trees and grasses. Life centered on hunting and farming corn and squash. Women did all domestic labor and were skilled potters. Men focused on hunting and protecting their families as warriors.

When the French moved into the Shawnee territory, the tribe allied with them. Conflict arose between the tribe and British traders who arrived in the 1740s. The Shawnee sided with the French during the French and Indian Wars and continued to fight as they tried to colonize the areas. The Shawnee allied with the British during the Revolutionary War, hoping that they could protect them from further encroachment by colonists. They were defeated in 1794.

Source: Northeast Tribes
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