Saint Croix Courier, St. Stephen, NB
April 28, 1892


Contributions to the History of Charlotte County and the Border Towns.


[Rev. W. O. Raymond, M. A.]

At the beginning of the seventeenth century, the Indians of the Nova Scotian peninsula were termed Souriquois; those on the St. John river and westward to the Kennebec were called Etemenquois or Etchemins.

In the following century the Souriquois were usually called Micmacs.  Their tribe in additon to the peninsula possessed eastern New Brunswick and the lower part of the St. John river.  In historic times their relations with the Etchemins or Maliseets have been amicable and they were usually allied when anything was undertaken of a hostile nature against the English.

The Etchemins possessed the country from the St. John to the Kennebec, and may be territorially divided into the St. John river Indians, the Passamaquoddies, the Penobscots, and the Canibas, or Kennebec Indians.

The name Wabanaki or Abenaquis is frequently used as a common name for this group of Indians, although the early French authorities regard the Canibas as the Wabanaki proper.

Thus M. de Callieres writes:-

‘The Abenaquis or Canibas, who occupy toward the coast the country above Acadia inland from Doagues (Mt. Desert) to the river St. George which separates Acadia from New England, ordinarily reside on the Quinnebeguay (Kennebec) and disperse themselves for the purpose of hunting as far as Quebec.’

Parkman also states, on the authority of the Jesuit fathers:-

‘On the river Kennebec dwelt the Abenaquis, an Algonquin people destined hereafter to become a thorn in the sides of the New England colonies.’

Governor Villebon, than whom few have been more intimately associated with the Indians of Acadia, writes to M. de Lagny, September 2, 1694:

‘There are three Indian nations in Acadia the Canibas, the Malicites and the Micmacs each having a different language . . .  The Malicites begin at the river St. John and inland as far as riviere du Loup and along the sea shore, occupying Pesmouquadis, Majais (Machias), les Monts Deserts and Pentagoet (Penobscot) and all the rivers along the coast.  At Pentagoet among the Malicites are many of the Kennebec Indians.  Taxous was the principal chief of the river Kinibeguy, but having married a woman of Pentagoet he settled there with her relatives.  As to Matakando he is a Malicite.  The Canibas are those settled on Kinibeguay.’

It is thought by many that the Wabanaki were driven eastward by the Mohawks about the beginning of the seventeenth century.  This movement brought them into collision with the Souriquois, who were in turn pressed back toward the Gulf shore.  This tradition is strengthened by the extraordinary dread with which the very name of Mohawk has been regarded by the Maliseets of the St. John.

After their settlement in Acadie the French estimated the number of Indians on the St. John, St. Croix and Penobscot at about 2,500.

Whilst the Maliseets figure prominently in the early history both of New England and Acadia, it is doubtful if they could at any time have placed in the field more than 400 or 500 warriors.  In point of fact there were never more than 300 Maliseets engaged in any of the numerous raids on the English settlements.

The migratory habits of the North American Indian were equally seen in peace or war.  At one time the sea side attractions prevailed, at another the charms of the inland waters.  At one time the failure of game necessitated the quest of other hunting grounds, at another time the mere love of change inspired a removal to new quarters.  At one time the Indian bark skimmed the lakes bearing its dusky warriors against the enemies of their tribe, at another the breaking out of pestilence broke up the old camping grounds and scattered the savages in a dozen different directions.

The general effect of the nomadic life led by the Passamaquoddies in common with other Indians caused them to have an intimate acquaintance with the physical features of the surrounding country.

The old routes whereby the Indians kept up communication one with another are easily traced at the present day.  Whilst it was quite practicable for the Indian in fine weather to pass from point to point along the coast, as a rule the frail nature of his bark led him to prefer the inland waters as a means of communication.

The Passamaquoddies, in going to the St. John, ascended by the St. Croix and Cheptuneticook lakes to the well known portage, or carrying place, leading to the head waters of the Medoctec, or Eel river.  The extensive use made of this route is strikingly shown by the fact that the coarse granite rocks along the trail are in places worn to a depth of two or three inches by the feet of the voyageurs.  It high water it was practicable to descend the Medoctec to the St. John, but in low water a portage was necessary.  This portage led across a neck of land to the Medoctec fort, or village, on the bank of the St. John river.  From Medoctec the way to Quebec lay up the St. John, and via the Temiscouata to the St. Lawrence.  Communication with the head of the Bay of Fundy was easy via the St. John, Washademoak and Petitcodiac rivers.

The waterways westward to Penobscot, Machias and Kennebec, were via the St. Croix and Schoodic lakes, whence there was a short portage to the Machias lakes and another to the Passadumkeag, one of the eastern tributaries of the Penobscot.

The St. John river Indians, in travelling westward, went by way of the Mattawamkeag; between the headwaters of which stream and the large Cheptuneticook lake there is another famous and well-worn Indian trail.

A good deal of interesting information about these old Indian highways is contained in Kidder’s Memoir of Col. John Allan and his military operations in eastern Maine and Nova Scotia during the Revolution.

Addition: Article XXIII contains the following addition to this one: "At end of first paragraph may be placed the following note-
‘The Indians south of the Kennebec were called Armouchiquois.  Lescarbot, a contempory of Champlain, says the river St. Croix is in the land of the Etchemins; and further mentions that, there being a war between the Etchemins and the Armouchiquois, an ambassador who came from the Etchemins was from the St. Croix.’"