Pennacook, group of Native North Americans of the Algonquian branch of the Algonquian-Wakashan linguistic stock (see Native American languages). Although of the Eastern Woodlands cultural area (see under Natives, North American), they depended to a large extent on seafood. In the early 17th cent. they occupied NE Massachusetts, SE New Hampshire, and SW Maine. They then numbered some 2,000, but by 1674 smallpox and wars had reduced them to some 1,250. Most of the Pennacook remained neutral in King Philip's war (1675), but when 200 of them were treacherously seized (1676), the remainder fled to Canada and to the West; the survivors of the western group settled with the Mahican. The Pennacook in Canada first settled near Quebec, but in 1700 this group moved to St. Francis, where they joined the exiled Abnaki. The two tribes became bitter enemies of the British. There is no longer a distinct Pennacook population in the United States.

The Pennacook, or Merrimack, tribe were a people that formerly inhabited the Merrimack River Valley of Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and portions of southern Maine. The name roughly translates (based on Abenaki cognates) as "at the bottom of the hill." The Pennacook, unlike most tribes of Massachusetts, were more closely related to the Abenaki than to the Algonquian tribes such as the Massachusett or Wampanoag. This similarity was both linguistic and cultural, but during the time of early European settlement, the Pennacook were a large confederacy that were politically distinct and at odds with their northern Abenaki neighbours. The Pennacook farmed maize, corn, and squash along fertile river beds, and hunted the wooded, less fertile areas.

One of the first tribes to encounter European colonists, the Pennacook were decimated by introduced diseases, raids by Mohawk and Micmac. Passaconaway, despite his military advantage over the colonists, decided to make peace with them rather than lose even more lives through warfare. King Phillip's War, however, would make their numbers fall even further. Although Wonalancet, a chief of the Pennacook, tried to maintain neutrality, western bands in Massachusetts did not.

The Pennacook fled north with their former enemies, or west with other tribes, where they were hunted down and killed by English colonists. Those that survived, joined other scattered tribespeople at Schaghticoke, New York. Those that fled northward eventually merged with other displaced New England tribes and Abenaki. Although no longer a distinct tribe, many bands of Abenaki in New Hampshire, Canada, and Vermont have Pennacook blood in their veins.

See also


  • Johnson, M. and Hook, R. The Native Tribes of North America, Compendium Publishing, 1992. ISBN 1-872004-03-2
  • Pennacook History

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