The Cowasuck even Cowass are an Algonquian -speaking Native American tribe in northeastern North America , the language and culture of the Western Abenaki heard and members of the Abenaki - Confederation were. Their descendants can be found today in the Cowasuck Band of the Pennacook-Abenaki People and live in the states of Vermont , New Hampshire and Massachusetts , USA .
Cowasuck comes from the Abenaki word Goasek , meaning place of the white pines , the name of an area near Newbury , New Hampshire. The members of the tribe were called Goasi , plural Goasiak , which means the people of the white pines . Variants for the place name are in French Koés and in English Cohass , Cohoss or Coos and for the people Cohassiac .
Their former residential area was on the upper Connecticut River with the main village Cowasuck, today's Newbury, in the states of New Hampshire and Vermont. The forest of the river valley consisted of a mixture of deciduous trees, hemlocks and white pines, which were occasionally towered over by large individual specimens and which grew in light soils or old fields. Northern hardwoods and hemlocks grew preferentially on the hills and lower mountain slopes, and red firs and northern deciduous trees were predominantly found on the upper mountain slopes. The villages were typically built on the edge of a cliff, both near the alluvial land suitable for growing maize, and with an adequate water supply. All villages were close to a river or lake, which was used for fishing and as a travel route. Their wigwams were square, covered with bark, had arched roofs with a hole to ventilate each fire, and provided space for several families.
The best early accounts of the Western Abenaki are from the French, whom they knew as converts and friends, but the main French occupation was missionary work and fighting the English. However, the French practice of referring to the Cowasuck, Penacook and Sokoki as Loup - originally the French name for the Mahican - led to misunderstandings in their accounts. As a result, the Western Abenaki tribes were referred to only by their respective village names, which were considered to be tribal names.
In 1608, Samuel de Champlain founded Québec, the first settlement in New France on the Saint Lawrence River . Shortly afterwards he became the first governor of the newly created colony. He was soon followed by fur traders and missionaries. The first French priests of the Jesuit order came to New France around 1611. In contrast to the gray-clad Puritans in New England , the Jesuits in the black robes did not insist on making French out of the Indians, but rather Christians first. Oral traditions of the Abenaki know that the French missionaries had been working in Abenaki villages on the shores of Lake Champlain since 1615 .
Jesuit priests often acted as both military and political agents of the French crown and as servants of God. They themselves made great sacrifices in their task of saving souls and spreading Christianity. They traveled alone in Indian country, visited the Abenaki villages and took part in the life of the indigenous people. Some of them, like Father Sébastien Rasles , became intimate connoisseurs of Indian culture. An excellent, extensive dictionary of the Abenaki language comes from him. They lived in wigwams, ate like their hosts and took part in the seasonal cycle - by canoe and on snowshoes. They learned the language of the indigenous people, adopted their speaking style and tried as much as possible to follow their customs and traditions. They were not interested in Indian land, their wives, or the fur trade. Their poverty and devotion were respected, and their courage, as well as their apparent immunity against the dire diseases that the shamans faced helplessly, were admired by the Indians. They shared the life of the indigenous people and earned their trust, although their missionary calling required them to abandon Indian culture, disempower religious leaders, and initiate a spiritual and social revolution. Father Jacques Bigot once said that he assumed the role of a shaman with the Abenaki. The missionaries were the advocates of the Abenaki and helped them to overcome the differences between the Indian and European cultures. Sometimes they also represented the Indians in negotiations with the English. Men like Sébastien Rasles became central figures in Abenaki history. The Abenaki soon gained a reputation for being the most devout Catholics and among the most loyal Indian friends of New France.
The descendants of the Cowasuck now live in small groups, mostly in the states of New Hampshire and Vermont. However, neither New Hampshire, Vermont, nor the United States has ever recognized land claims or the tribal status of the Abenakis living there. The Cowasuck, today organized in the Cowasuck Band of the Pennacook-Abenaki People , filed numerous claims for ownership of parts of their old residential area, but all of them have so far been rejected.
- Bruce G. Trigger (Ed.): Handbook of North American Indians . Volume 15: Northeast . Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington DC 1978, ISBN 0-16004-575-4 .