In partnership with the Maine Memory Network Maine Memory Network

Wabanaki Agency in the Proprietor Records

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In the twenty-first century, historians and tribal scholars have turned to these documents for different kinds of evidence, including evidence of Wabanaki agency, kinship, leadership and placenames.

In 1670, according to one deed in the Pejepscot Proprietors Collection, Thomas and Samuel York, “Planters,” agreed to give annual “acknowledgement” to Wabanaki leaders on the Androscoggin River: “Derumkin, or Daniel or Robin [ramegin]…shall come and lawfully demand and receive one Peck of Corn on every five and twentieth day of December for a due Acknowledgment forever.”

These recorded “acknowledgments” are important symbolic recognitions of Wabanaki leadership and representations of the annual contributions pledged by settlers who sought to reside, plant or trade on Wabanaki lands. These acts incorporated settlers into existing Indigenous economic and social systems. In a similar deed, the Wabanaki leader Warrabitta, known also as Jane or Joan, secured an annual “acknowledgment” of “a bushel of corn,” alongside her mother, from the Alger brothers in Owascoag, or Scarborough. (3) Wabanaki leaders also required an annual acknowledgment of corn, at the end of King Philip’s War (1675-1678), from settlers who wished to return to Wabanaki coastal territories.

English guests all too often misinterpreted such hospitality, misunderstanding the obligations that accompanied the privilege of sharing space. The written language of the English as compared with wampum protocols and verbal agreements of the Wabanaki led to confusion and to deliberate dispossession. Even as Wabanaki people strove to incorporate settlers into their Indigenous cultural and economic systems, the settlers sought their signatures and consent of land ownership on finite political documents.