The Abenaki (also Wabanaki), meaning people of the dawn, are a tribe of Native Americans/First Nations belonging to the Algonquian peoples of the Northeast portion of North America.
The Abenakis inhabited the area that includes parts of Quebec and the Maritime Provinces in Canada, and portions of the states of Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine in the United States. The language of the Abenakis shared common roots with neighboring tribes such as the Mi'kmaq, Maliseet, Norridgewock, Passamaquoddy, Penawapskewi, (otherwise known asPenobscot), and other New England tribes. There were significant cultural differences between the Algonquian tribes and those of the Five Nations with spiritual differences being the most noticeable. Interestingly, the language of the Cree bears striking similarity in grammar construct as well as word, possible due to early trade routes.
There are very few native speakers of the original Abenaki language still alive, and they are all in Canada. While there are members of the tribe living in close proximity to each other in Quebec and Vermont, most other Abenakis have dispersed into the general population.
Abenakis are not a federally recognized tribe in the United States, unlike almost all of the other eastern tribes. This is due to the decimation or assimilation of the Abenaki and subsequent isolation of each small remnant of the greater whole onto reservations during and after the French and Indian War, well before the US government began acknowledging the sovereignty of native tribes in the late twentieth century.
Facing decimation, the Abenakis began immigrating to Canada, then under French control, around 1669 where they were granted two seigneuries. The first seigneurie was established on the Saint-François river and is now known as the Odanak Indian Reserve, the second was established on the river Bécancour and is now known as the Wôlinak Indian Reserve.
The Abenaki were ruled by elected chiefs called Sagamores, who usually served for life but could be impeached. They had little actual power, but European colonizers still treated them like monarchs, resulting in many miscommunications and oversimplifications.