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Origins of New Hampshire


Merrimack River Valley
Merrimack River Valley

Four principal groups of Algonquian-speaking native peoples inhabited New Hampshire just before European settlement. By far the largest was the Pennacook, the name given both to the tribe centered in the Merrimack River Valley near the present site of Concord and to a larger association consisting of the central tribe and several smaller bands stretching north and south in the Merrimack Valley. The Pennacook lived in villages surrounded by cultivated fields, living by agriculture and hunting during much of the year but moving to the seacoast for fishing and gathering shellfish during the summer.

Other groups, also of the Algonquian culture, included the Sokokis north of the White Mountains, whose hunting grounds extended into what is now western Maine; a westward extension of the Maine-based Abenaki, known as the Pigwackets, in the upper Saco Valley on the southeastern edge of the White Mountains; and the Pocumtucks of western Massachusetts, whose hunting grounds extended into the lower Connecticut Valley of New Hampshire.

Because the native peoples had no written language and early contact with Europeans was limited, information about the native inhabitants is scarce and sometimes confusing.

The total native population of the New Hampshire area was estimated at more than 12,000, but their numbers were sharply reduced in the early 1600s by warfare with the Mohawk people to the west and by epidemics that swept New England.

The native people lived cooperatively with the early European settlers, whose numbers were too small to pose a threat. The native groups taught the whites many skills that were essential to their survival: how to cultivate corn, tap maple trees for syrup, make canoes and many kinds of garments, and to locate the best trails. The Native Americans, in turn, sought to trade with the settlers for metal tools and utensils, blankets, and weapons, both for hunting and for resisting Mohawk attacks. "New Hampshire" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia

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