Penobscot Indian Nation

Mailing Address




Cultural History

The Penobscot Indian Nation is the original inhabitants of the Penobscot watershed. The tribe is incorporated in the term Wabanaki, a term used to indicate the sovereign nations of Maine and the Maritimes who are exclusively in the European boundaries of Maine, New Brunswick and the Nova Scotia. The untimely European explorers found a powerful alliance upon their arrival at the tribal territories. One of the first few recorded leaders of the tribe is known as Chief Bessabez, governed the tribal community which was at almost twenty villages, where the confederacy dominated. He was also known as Bashaba to the Englishmen. It was during the years 1606 up to 1616 when their region was caught in between the inter-tribal conflict and invasion. It was during this time that the powerful leader was killed. After some time, the tribe was soon subject to an apocalyptic time of pestilence. It was right after his death when the Europeans were believed to have introduced the smallpox virus, killing thousands of the indigenous people. Soon after, the epidemic was followed by long wars which lasted for almost forty years from 1630 up to 1678. The war was against the Mohawks. Soon enough, the Penobscot tribe found themselves losing more and more men that in 1803, their former population which was in about 10,000 diminished to only 347 tribal members.

The Penobscot Indian Nation engaged in more wars against the English settlers. The warfare took place in the years between 1675 and 1760. The primary reason for the warfare was the need for control by the French and the English. It was also during this period when the Wabanaki Confederacy started their alliance with the French. Their alliance with the French resulted in a friendly trading relationship and alliance while the English also formed an alliance, which was a strong military alliance with the Iroquois Confederacy. Years later, the French and their other native allies made peace with the Englishmen after the 1760 war. However, after the war, the Wabanaki Nations were almost weakened and they have lost many people and their resources so the peace agreement seemed to be worthless.

The Penobscot tribe was together with the American colonists during the Revolutionary War upon the request of George Washington. Their help to the United States Army, however, was still taken for granted. Treaties after treaties exhausted the tribe, and their lands were put at stake. After several years, the tribe signed a settlement and a land area was provided for them to use. Their rights were recognized and so was their community. 

Today, the tribe is into several business ventures like the Penobscot High Stakes Bingo established in 1973. It was one of the first Indian Gaming Operations in the country. The High Stakes Bingo is located in the Indian Island, Old Town, Maine. The tribe also has its Indigenous Voices Radio Show which is a monthly talk show that discusses the tribal issues as well as those issues that are relevant to the lives of the people.

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