U.S./Canada Abenaki Indians

U.S./Canada Abenaki Indians

Native American | American Indian

Abenaki Indian tribal member with sacred drum. Used with permission. Photo © D. Brakeville, 2021.

The Abenaki (“People of the East”) are an ancient indigenous people of eastern North American concentrated in historical times in upper New England (Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont), Quebec and the southern Maritime Provinces of Canada. Today their numbers are rebounding and tribal descendants even with partial ancestry are rediscovering their rich culture. They are related to the Mi’kmaq, Penobscot, Passamaquoddy, Narragansett, Maliseet and other Algonkian tribes. Neighbors are the Iroquois, Wampanoag, Lenape, Shawnee and Pennacook. The name is also spelled Abnaki, Abinaki, Alnobak, Wobanakak and Odanak.

A famous Abenaki was the silent film actor Elijah Tahamont (Dark Cloud), whose daughter was the actress Beulah Tahamont Filson (1887-1945). Margaret “Soaring Dove” Camp, Elijah’s wife and Beulah’s mother, was also a member of the Abenaki tribe. Beulah married Arthur C. Parker, an Iroquois, descendant of Handsome Lake and noted scholar. Their daughter, Bertha Parker, was known as one of the first Native American archeologists (if not the first). She married Iron Eyes Cody (born Espera Oscar de Corti) , a Hollywood actor who portrayed Native Americans and claimed to be one but who was proved to be of Sicilian descent after his death in 1999. 

Accounts of life with the Abenaki can be found in many famous captivity narratives of colonial times, including that of Mary Rowlandson (1682).

One of the Abenakis’ neighbors in the French and Indian War was memorialized in James Fenimore Cooper’s novel, The Last of the Mohicans (1826), which was made into a film in 1992 starring Russell Means as the Mohican Chingachgook. Wes Studio (Cherokee) played Magua in one of the first Hollywood movies to feature “real” Indians. (It is said the Indians had to use separate bathroom facilities on set.)

Beulah Dark Cloud, Abenaki Indian actress, about 1915.

This sample is based on 19 anonymous Abenaki tribal members who participated in a study concluded in December 2022. Most had deep family history of Abenaki, Mi’kmaq, Metis and other indigenous people of the northeastern U.S. and southeast Canada.

[Pop. 526]