Abenaki Warrior - Migakawinno Aln8ba



The way of the Warrior was a hard way to go.  It is generally assumed 
by many commentators that the life of the Indian man was one of 
leisure, with the bulk of the heavy work done by the woman.  The man 
was responsible for hunting, fishing, clearing trees, building the 
wigw8m or long house, making the canoe, carving the household cooking 
and eating items, instructing the young boys, caring for his in-laws 
in their old age, etc.  While he took little part in the day-to-day 
affairs of his wife's household, he was also responsible for ensuring 
the safety of his Family, Clan, and Band.
  
There could be no sustenance farming of the "Three Sisters" if there 
existed danger of enemy raids against the villages.  Therefore, 
defense was an important aspect of a man's life.  In the historic 
period, it became necessary to erect perimeters of palisades around 
the village.  Long trees, most likely pine, were cut down, sharpened 
on both ends and embedded several feet into the earth around the main 
village dwellings.  Look-out towers stood high above, so that there 
would be a chance of early warning should danger threaten.
  
To be a warrior meant that one could endure without complaint, all 
hardships of cold, hunger, pain, and weariness.  This was what the 
young boys aspired to, and with the help of their maternal uncles, 
they were trained from an early age to shoot the longbow and wield 
the tomahawk, and knife.  They learned to walk swiftly and silently 
through the forest, tracking animals or people with deadly skill.  
The French complained that their Abenaki allies came and went as 
they pleased, with no notice.  That is to say, if you were an enemy, you 
would not hear or see us until it was too late!
  
With the advent of the acquisition of European firearms in the mid-
1600's, the Aln8bak quickly mastered the use of powder and ball.  
The accouterments of war changed as metal knives and iron-bladed 
hatchets were traded to us.  The warrior's kit changed accordingly.  
The long-bow was largely replaced by the musket, as the skills of 
arrow-making fell into disuse by the mission villages along the 
northern rivers.  Dawnland People mainly allied themselves (as it 
suited them) with the French, and received military aid as well as 
trade goods and food-stuffs.

An aide-de-campe under Marquis de Montcalm described the appearance 
and equipment of the Abenakis in the mid-1700's.  Heads were shaved 
except for the crown, with scalp locks plaited and adorned with deer-
hair roaches, feathers, and wampum.  Their noses and ears were bored 
to be hung with silver pendants, wheels, and "ball-and-cones."  Their 
faces and exposed skin were painted with cunning and terrifying 
designs with pigments of red, black, and white mixed with bear fat.
  
 In cooler weather, trade shirts (W8baksak) with ruffles were prized, 
and worn until it fell off.   The shoulders were painted with ochre, 
and the shirts were supposedly never washed, hence they always 
requested more.  Finger-woven sashes of brightly colored hues and 
cunning designs were worn about waist, with the knots tied in back.  
Into these sashes, the warriors stuffed knives, hatchets, and the 
ever-present tobacco pouches, sometimes small hand-held mirrors, as 
well.  Leggings of deer skin, or woolen trade material fitted to 
about mid-thigh, held by thongs to the waist and gartered with finger-
woven or wampum bands.  Their moccasins were worn flaps down or laced 
up around the ankle, depending upon need.

The warrior wore his scalping knife suspended from his neck to get at 
quickly, in a quilled leather sheath.  The knife in question was a 
short, cheaply made steel blade with wooden handle that was a 
commonly requested trade item from both the French and English.  It 
was a utilitarian tool, being used to eat with skin animals, as well 
(Jajagw).    
  
A shoulder slung bag of brain tan ornamented with quills and trade 
beads (Baskhigan) of French, English, Dutch, or Spanish manufacture 
was the main weapon of choice.  Its large caliber (20+ gauge) was 
smooth bore, and equally suited fro ball, buck, or bird shot, or a 
combination of both to ensure stopping power.  Flintlock "fowlers" 
were a trade-staple in North America well into the 1800's among 
Natives.
  
A woolen blanket (Maska) was worn wrapped around the torso, with the 
end draped over the left shoulder, leaving this arm free.  It could 
also be worn as a pack-sack, tied with trump line or leather strap, 
with additional moccasins, rations and personal items.  Examples are 
described as dark trade colors with rows od colored silk ribbons sewn 
on the length of the hem.
  
The equipment of the warrior was designed for ease of motion to 
maneuver most quickly in the woodlands of the Northeast.  The 
heaviest of items carried was the musket, and often was slung over 
the back with a sling or strap.  A warrior carried a spoon and 
sometimes a small metal pot resembling a coffee or tea pot in which 
to boil corn meal for his mess.  Warriors were far more adept at 
living off of the land, and again the French complained that their 
savage allies would disappear to hunt for fresh game at the most 
inopportune times...but the officers of the French  King Louis were 
only too happy to be the beneficiaries of meat supplied by the 
hunters!
  
The Native warriors could travel huge distances without rest; they 
were raised from childhood with the rigors of seasonal migration for 
hunting, fishing, and gathering of edibles on the trail.  When 
possible, travel was accomplished by birch-bark canoes (Wigwaol) for 
military means.  Most warriors were familiar enough with their 
construction and maintenance, that they could construct them from 
scratch, if need be.  In the more southerly locations, where birch 
was not abundant, elm bark was substituted.  But elm bark did not 
hold up nearly as well as the canoe birch, and the resulting crafts 
were temporary at best.
  
 The rations for the warrior were generally comprised for ground corn 
meal or parched corn, with strips of dried, smoked meat or fish.  As 
mentioned before, these were supplemented at every opportunity with 
fresh foodstuffs, gotten by military issue, hunting, fishing, or 
booty taken in raids.  It is said that an army marches on its 
stomach, and the French were certainly no exception.  Along with the 
Compagnies dela Marines et Franches, marched the wagons containing 
provisions for His Most Royal Majesties' troops.  The Abeankis got 
their first tastes of pork, peas, and wheat bread from the 
commissary.  Frequently, oxen were slaughtered to feed them, which 
they cut into pieces and boiled in their kettles.  Wine and brandy 
found their way into our hands, with shocking results!
   
 Our warriors were utilized as scouts and shock troops by the French, 
and as a buffer between the Colonies of New England and New France.  
The Jesuits had a two-fold mission among us; not only to Christianize 
the Abenaki, but to use us as a constant threat and source of 
irritation to the english on their northern border.
  
In the field, Abenaki warriors distinguished themselves in ferocity 
and tenacity against the English.  Scalps and captives found their 
way north to our villages and the settlements of the French.  In 
historic accounts, we are called by a variety of names - St. Francis 
Indians, French Indians, Abenaquiois, Loups, Openangoes, Soriquois, 
Missiasiks, ect.  Led by many war leaders, the warrior was still 
capable of making split-second decisions in the field.  War Chiefs 
led by example, not absolute authority.  The French observed that of 
all their Native allies, the Abenakis were the least to conform to 
the orders of French Commanders.  They obeyed when and if its suited 
them, and the French could do nothing but try to keep them in their 
good graces, lest the Sauvages turn on them! 		               

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