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Pennacook Indian Fact Sheet

Native American Facts For Kids was written for young people learning about the Pennacooks for school or home-schooling reports. We encourage students and teachers to look through our main Pennacook page for in-depth information about the tribe, but here are our answers to the questions we are most often asked by children, with Pennacook pictures and links we believe are suitable for all ages.

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   Pennacook Tribe

How do you pronounce "Pennacook?" What does it mean?
Pennacook is pronounced "PENN-nuh-cook." It comes from an Algonquian Indian place name, which probably meant "falling hill place."

Where did the Pennacook Indians live?
The Pennacooks are original people of New Hampshire and Massachusetts.

How is the Pennacook Indian nation organized?
The Pennacook people originally had their own government and leadership, separate from those of their neighbors. However, after European diseases and warfare affected the New England tribes, many of them merged and banded together to survive. There is no separate Pennacook tribe today, but there are people of Pennacook ancestry among many tribes of New Hampshire and Massachusetts. Here is the website of one community of Abenaki and Pennacook people in New Hampshire: Cowasuck Band of the Pennacook-Abenaki.

What language do the Pennacooks speak?
Pennacook Indians all speak English today. In the past, they spoke an Algonquian Indian language. Their language was never well recorded, but it was probably most closely related to Abenaki or Wampanoag.

What was Pennacook culture like in the past? What is it like now?
Here is a link to an article called Penacook way of life with information and illustrations about the traditional lifestyle of the Pennacook people.

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How do Pennacook Indian children live, and what did they do in the past?
They do the same things any children do--play with each other, go to school and help around the house. In the past, Indian kids had more chores and less time to play, just like early colonial children. But they did have corn husk dolls, ball games, and toys such as kid-size bows and arrows. Pennacook mothers, like many Native Americans, traditionally carried their babies in cradle boards on their backs--a custom which many American parents have adopted now.

What were men and women's roles in the Pennacook tribe?
Pennacook men were hunters and sometimes went to war to protect their families. Pennacook women were farmers and also did most of the child care and cooking. Both genders took part in storytelling, artwork and music, and traditional medicine. In the past, Pennacook chiefs were always men, but today a Pennacook Indian woman could be chief too.

What were Pennacook homes like in the past?
The Pennacooks didn't live in tepees. They lived in small round houses called wigwams. Here are some pictures of Native American wigwams like the ones Pennacook Indians used. Today, Native Americans only build a wigwam for fun or to connect with their heritage, not for shelter. Most Pennacooks live in modern houses and apartment buildings, just like you.

What was Pennacook clothing like? Did they wear feather headdresses and face paint?
Pennacook women wore knee-length skirts and the men wore loincloths and leggings. Shirts were not necessary in the Pennacook culture, but Pennacook people did wear deerskin mantles in cool weather. Pennacook men and women both wore earrings and moccasins on their feet. Here is a picture of Pennacook clothes and some photographs and links about Indian dress in general.

The Pennacooks didn't wear long headdresses like the Sioux. Usually they wore a beaded Indian headband with a feather or two in it. Sometimes a Pennacook chief wore a headdress of feathers pointing straight up from a headband, like this. Pennacook men, especially warriors, often wore a Mohawk hairstyle or shaved their heads completely except for a scalplock (one long lock of hair on top of their heads.) Pennacook women usually had long hair.

Today, some Pennacook people still have a traditional headband or moccasins, but they wear modern clothes like jeans instead of breechcloths... and they only wear feathers in their hair on special occasions like a dance.

What was Pennacook transportation like in the days before cars? Did they paddle canoes?
Yes--the Pennacooks and other New England tribes were well-known for their birchbark canoes . Over land, the Pennacooks used dogs as pack animals. (There were no horses in North America until colonists brought them over from Europe.) Pennacook Indians used sleds and snowshoes to help them travel in the winter. Today, of course, Pennacook people also use cars... and non-native people also use canoes.

What was Pennacook food like in the days before supermarkets?
The Pennacooks were farmers and fishermen. Pennacook women harvested corn, squash and beans. Pennacook men hunted deer and other animals and went fishing in the rivers. Here is a website with more information about American Indian foods.

What kinds of weapons did the Pennacooks use?
Pennacook hunters and warriors used bows and arrows, spears, and clubs. Fishermen used pronged spears, nets, and bone hooks. Here is a website of pictures and information about Native American weapons.

What are Pennacook art and crafts like?
The Pennacook tribe was known for their beadwork and Indian baskets. Like other eastern American Indians, Pennacooks also crafted wampum out of white and purple shell beads. Wampum beads were traded as a kind of currency, but they were more culturally important as an art material. The designs and pictures on wampum belts often told a story or represented a person's family.

What other Native Americans did the Pennacook tribe interact with?
The Pennacook traded regularly with all the other New England Indians, particularly their Abenaki and Wampanoag neighbors. Sometimes these tribes allied with each other to fight wars against the powerful Iroquois Confederacy.

What kinds of stories do the Pennacooks tell?
There are many traditional Pennacook legends and fairy tales. Storytelling is very important to the Pennacook Indian culture. However, because of the Pennacook tribe's history, Pennacook folklore has largely merged with the folklore of their Abenaki neighbors. Here is one Abenaki legend about the origin of corn that is also widely told among Pennacook people.

What about Pennacook religion?
Religions are too complicated and culturally sensitive to describe appropriately in only a few simple sentences, and we strongly want to avoid misleading anybody. You can visit this site to learn more about New England Algonquian traditions and beliefs or this site about Native American spirituality in general.

Can you recommend a good book for me to read?
There are not many books specifically about the Pennacook tribe. One good book about the New England Algonquian tribes in general is The New England Indians. This book only briefly mentions the Pennacooks, but many of the pictures illustrate lifeways that relate to all the Algonquian tribes of this area. Similarly, Algonquian Spirit is a very good book about the folklore and traditional ways of many different Algonquian tribes, including the Pennacooks. You can also browse through our recommendations of American Indian books in general.

How do I cite your website in my bibliography?
You will need to ask your teacher for the format he or she wants you to use. The authors' names are Laura Redish and Orrin Lewis and the title of our site is Native Languages of the Americas. We are a nonprofit educational organization working to preserve and protect Native American languages and culture. You can learn more about our organization here. Our website was first created in 1998 and last updated in 2015.

Thanks for your interest in the Pennacook Indian people and their language!

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