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Northeast Tribes

Abenaki
The Abenaki were native to Maine and New Hampshire. They made their villages along rivers and streams. Each village was surrounded by palisades—tall log walls that guarded against attacks. They lived in wigwam lodges and were primarily into agriculture, but they also hunted and fished.

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 a series of epidemics after encountering the Europeans in the 1500s. They allied with the French, and other local tribes in 1600s to fight the English. After defeats by the British, they moved to Canada.

Iroquois
The Iroquois were a group of five allied tribes. They lived in New York along the St. Lawrence River. They were farmers, hunters, and trappers of native animals. The villages consisted of 30-60 people. The settlements were usually 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 with them. Around 1650, epidemics of new diseases greatly reduced their population. Before the Revolutionary War began, they had regained their numbers through absorption of other tribes and their own military quest. 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.

Lenape
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 some of the first European traders in the early 1600s and enjoyed bartering pelts for European goods that helped to make farming easier and their dress more fashionable.

By mid 1600s, the Lenape were plagued by epidemics of disease brought by the Europeans. During the Revolutionary War, the Lenape supplied the colonist 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 further west. Settlers pushed the Lenape westward over the next 100 years, until the tribe was forced to resettle in Indian Territory.

Massachuset
They lived in the Massachusetts Bay area. They survived by farming, hunting, and fishing. In the winter, they retreated inland where they could hunt. Agriculture was also important; the tribe grew crops such as corn, beans, squash, and tobacco.

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

Miami
They 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 at the Battle of Fallen Timbers and surrendered most of their land to the U.S. By the 1820s, they had ceded all of their remaining territory and first moved to Kansas and then to Oklahoma in the 1860s.

Pequot
The Pequot were native to Connecticut and survived through hunting, fishing and farming. To guard against attack, 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 began attacking their neighbors to establish a trading monopoly.

In the 1620s, the English began moving into Pequot territory and trading with them. There was a rift in the tribe, half united with English traders and the other half with the Dutch. A smallpox epidemic in 1633 ravaged those members allied with the Dutch and the death of an English trader at the hands of Pequot led to the Pequot war in 1673. Hundreds of Pequot were killed and those who were captured were divided into different tribes or sold into slavery.

Powhatan
A confederacy of 30 tribes, living in Virginia and Maryland, 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 the years that followed 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, Opechancanoug, launched an attack on the British settlements in 1622. After the Powhatan family signed a peace treaty in 1646, they were forced onto a small reservation.

Shawnee
Lived in Ohio and Indiana in wigwams made of trees and grasses. Life centered around 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 began arriving 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 at the Battle of Fallen Timbers in 1794.


Source: Northeast Tribes
Copyright Annenberg Foundation 2016. All rights reserved.

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