Passamaquoddy at Sipayik

Pleasant Point Tribal Government


Peskotom = Pollock


The following was taken from the Wampum Chronicles at

The Great Council Fire
An Abenaki Perspective

Historians who have taken up the trail of the Seven Nations of Canada are often startled to find that this alliance is largely forgotten among the Mohawk communities who were once members. Even in Kahnawake, which was the site of the "Great Council Fire," inquiries into oral traditions about the Seven Nations of Canada often draw puzzled looks from the average Mohawk citizen and confusing answers from local historians and leaders. (These same people will speak at length about the Six Nations, however.) At Akwesasne, a number of interested community members have banded together as an informal historical society to find more information about this seemingly forgotten aspect of Mohawk history. Others at Akwesasne share Kahnawake's "amnesia" about the Seven Nations. Perhaps the majority of people in these Mohawk communities identify more strongly with the Iroquois Confederacy because it is more well-known and predates European contact. Discussions with Akwesasne elders, however, reveals that the Seven Nations of Canada and its system of "life chiefs" continued up until the 20th century and was even informally "revived" for a time within recent memory.

Unencumbered, as the Iroquois were, by what I call the "six or seven dilemna," the Abenaki (or Wobanakik) maintained their own perspective on the history of the "Great Council Fire" and the Seven Nations of Canada. Researchers such as Frank Speck, Gordon M. Day, Colin G. Calloway, and Fred Wiseman have shed much light on the Abenaki Confederacy and its relationship to the Seven Nations. Their work reveals a much more elaborate system of aboriginal protocol in operation. This diminishes the claims made by some that the Jesuits were the biggest influence on its inception.

The following document offers a rare glimpse at a Penobscott tradition about the founding of the "Great Council Fire." It is based on a speech given by "Captain Sopiel Selma." This may be a reference to Sapiel Selmore, who was one of the Passamaquoddy's last delegates to "Great Council Fire" in 1870. (Speck 1915: 492-508) The document itself bears no date and was found on the Early Canadiana Online website. It is quoted verbatim herein with the handwritten annotation at the top of the page in italics.

in Maine legislature, was circulated as a translation of Sopiel's speech at
the "reading of the wampum".

History of the Indian Wampum and Peace Treaty
..... BETWEEN THE .....
Six and Seven Nations of Indians,
..... AND THE .....
Abnakies, the People of the Northern Lights,

Before the treaty of peace, these Indians, Abnakies and Six Nations are bitter enemies; they fight every time they meet; many cruel battles are fought, and many prisoners tortured; when they fought their last battle, some of the wise men of both parties viewed the battle field and saw the number of killed and wounded, and said among themselves, this work of cruelties must be stopped at once, and something must be done. So they notify the head chiefs of the tribes and the great chief of the Iroquois call for a general meeting (this meeting took place some where near what is called the St. Lawrence River), and every tribe mentioned send their smartest and wisest men to attend the general Indian Conference, and when they all reached their destination, the meeting was called, choosing seven of the smartest and wisest Indians to make the treaty of peace; the wigwam they entered called "Wigwam of Silence," they going in at early morn when the sun rises and not leaving it until the sun sets. During all these long hours not a word was spoken or even whispered, but they formed their ideas in their hearts. This "Wigwam of Silence" lasted seven days, and on the eighth day they going again, not only seven, but many other representatives of the various tribes, and each of the seven wisest men made speeches, saying "This work of cruelties and tortures shall no longer continue, because its going to destroy our people, and if the white people begin to come, if we continue to fight amongst ourselves, they can destroy us much easier." About this time the Indians began to know the Great Spirit, their Creator; they knew him by the teachings of the white men, then they knew they were doing wrong; they heard the Great Spirit made great light that enlightens the whole world—religion. So the Indians guided by this light can see their way and when they meet, they know each other and make friends; the war hatchet shall be forever buried as long as they see the rising and the setting of the sun.

This treaty of peace and Indian Laws inscribed on the Wampum: First.—The Salutation wampum; when the tribe visited another tribe as soon as they are in sight of the Indian Village, they display a white flag with a red cross in the middle; the Indians of the village knowing at once what is coming, the captains of the tribe make preparations to receive the strangers according to the law inscribed on the wampum; as soon as the village is reached the Captain or Chief of the tribe sang his saluting song, answered by a yell (or war whoop) by the other tribe; after this ceremony is finished, the entire party enter a wigwam of Prayer (Church), to say their prayer together. After the religious ceremonies are over, they all going to Gwandowan or dance hall; there dancing commences, performed by men, woman and children, old and young. Every village of each tribe has one of the Lights (religion), and they establish the GREAT COUNCIL FIRE or the greater light, in this place, where they meet every seven years; this place in situated on the River St. Lawrence, now called Cognowaga; Capt. Sopiel Selma of the Passamaguoddies, has been representative three terms at this Indian Conference.

Second—Wampum of Punishment; all the Indian tribes inscribed on the wampum are threatened with death, if they violate the treaty. All these tribes represented in the wampum are strongly united together in a wigwam, strongly protected by larkalosnihigan or strong fence; this wigwam of protection is situated in Conowaga, and the Chief of that wigwam is called by the Indians (Knikigan), our Parent or Master. He is the authorized Chief to use (ebiss) the rod to punish his children if they do not mind him; only a few years ago, a tribe of Indians violated the wampum or treaty rules and are exterminated, and a number of skulls distributed to the head of each Nation. One of the skulls was sent to the Micmac Tribe and the Abnakies are threatened, and will share the same fate if they also violate the treaty of peace. Since the Indians made the treaty of peace, not a single battle has been fought, but remain good friends to this day.

Wampum of choosing Chief of the Passamaquoddies—When the Chief dies, the tribe will mourn for him for a whole year; they suppose they are in darkness during that time. When the time expires, if the dead Chief left a widow, the Indian women make bright clothes for the widow and paint her cheeks with bright red; and then all going to the dance hall, they dance for two nights, and everybody is happy again; and the second Chief called by the Indians, Steerer, who guides his people, send his captains to different parts of the country, Micmac, Penobscot, Norridgewock and Lisigontogook, to notify them of the death of their Chief, and that they want their assistance to make another (according to the Wampum law no tribe can make their Chief). The captains are received according to the regulations and rules, and are taken to the Wigwam of Prayer (or church) and from there to the dance hall, and when the usual ceremonies are over, the captains tell the Indians of their mission, and are answered by the Chief who was willing to help them. So he sent his men, sometimes women, to attend the ceremony of choosing the Chief; the Abnakies always requiring four or five different tribes to make a Chief.

After they all got together, the first thing they do is to erect a flag pole, raised by five tribes, then the usual ceremonies began: Ceremony of inaugurating Chief.—The visiting Chiefs, placed the medal on the neck of the new Chief, and they put on his new hat on his head with the usual speech, then the new Chief is raised from the ground and carried by the Chiefs and taken to the hall, and they dance what they called Moyowagan, and they placed a new robe on his back; his captains are also chosen the same way; they dance behind him and four women from other tribes also dance behind him; new robes are also placed on them. After the dance Moyowagarn is over, then they dance other dances, such as Micmac, Penobscot and Passamaquoddy.