Unit Frame  

Topic/Title Abenaki History and Culture Unit Frame
Overview The purpose of this unit is to study the history and culture of the first people who inhabited and continue to live in Vermont and New Hampshire, the Abenaki.
Enduring Understandings
  • The Abenaki have lived in the area we now call Vermont and New Hampshire for at least 12,000 years.
  • This area is the Abenaki homeland.
  • There are many Abenaki place names in Vermont and New Hampshire.
  • From first contact to the American Revolution, Abenakis and Europeans sometimes cooperated with each other and sometimes
  • fought.
  • European settlement of Vermont and New Hampshire increased continually and the Abenaki tried to maintain control of their
  • lands.
  • Europeans eventually prevailed over the Abenaki and took control of their lands.
  • Today, the Abenaki have reasserted their identity as the longstanding inhabitants of Vermont and New Hampshire.
Essential Questions
  • Why do groups of people come into conflict with each other?
  • How are Native American and Euro-American cultures different?
Focusing Questions
  • How was traditional Abenaki society organized and how did the Abenaki live?
  • How is the landscape central to Abenaki culture, stories, and history?
  • Why did the Abenaki and European and American settlers come into conflict?
  • Why did Americans in Vermont and New Hampshire come to believe that the Abenaki had disappeared from these states?
  • How do Abenaki people live today?
Background Information
  • Why do groups of people come into conflict with each other?
  • How are Native American and Euro-American cultures different?
Bibliography Bibliography on Abenaki History and Culture
Content Grade Expectations for Vermont
H&SS3-4:8 Students connect the past with the present by…
  • Explaining differences between historic and present day objects in Vermont, and identifying how the use of the object and the object itself changed over time.
  • Describing ways that life in the community and Vermont has both changed and stayed the same over time
  • Examining how events, people, problems and ideas have shaped the community and Vermont.
H&SS3-4:11 Students interpret geography and solve geographic problems by…
  • Observing, comparing, and analyzing patters of local and state land use to understand why particularlocations are used for certain human activities.
H&SS3-4:12 Students show understanding of human interaction with the environment over time by…
  • Describing how people have changed the environment in Vermont for specific purposes.
  • Recognizing patterns of voluntary and involuntary migration in Vermont.
H&SS3-4:13 Students analyze how and why cultures continue and change over time by…
  • Identifying expressions of culture in Vermont by discovering how Abenaki oral tradition reflects and influences their society.
Inquiry Grade Expectations for Vermont
Students initiate an inquiry by:
Asking relevant and focusing questions based on what they have seen, what they have read, what they have listened to, and/or what they have researched.
New Hampshire Curriculum Framework: Social Studies
SS:GE:4:4.2: Describe the types and historical patterns of human migration
SS:HI:4:5.1: Explain the unique contributions of different ethnic and religious groups to New Hampshire history and culture

Thanks to Steve Glazer of Poetics of Place, classroom teachers Marguerite Ames and Bridget Fariel, and Beth Hughes of Broadwing Design for assistance in designing this toolkit.


Title Eras Topic Theme
The Abenaki in the Connecticut River in New Hampshire, Vermont, and Southern Quebec: A Short Chronology The gathering and interactions of peoples, cultures, and ideas Colonization, settlement, and communities (1607 to 1763) Abenaki History and Culture

Online Interactives

Who first lived in this area we now call Vermont and New Hampshire?

Exploring Wôbanakik, the Abenaki Homeland
Make your own Wôbanakik Map

Freedom & Unity Exhibit

The First People

Freedome & Unity


Teacher Resources

Abenaki in Vermont: A History Kit for Students and Their Teachers, Sarah Rooker, ed, (Vermont Historical Society, 1988). Artifact kit and Teachers Guide, available through the Vermont Historical Society.

The Abenaki of Vermont: A Living Culture: Teacher’s Guide, Gregory Sharrow. ed. (Vermont Folklife Center, 2002). Designed to accompany the Vermont Folklife Center’s video of the same title, the book is a valuable tool for teachers. The Abenaki of Vermont: A Living Culture

1609: Quadricentennial Curriculum (Lake Champlain Maritime Museum). An up-to-date curriculum for Vermont schools, with a good focus on the Native American experience. Good for all grade levels.

Champlain: The Lake Between (Vermont Public Television, 2009). This video about the history of the lake region from Champlain’s visit through the French and Indian War features Abenakis and Iroquois. The accompanying curriculum guide has good content and lessons.


Calloway, Colin G., The Abenaki (Chelsea House, 1989). Calloway is the premier non-native scholar of the Abenaki. This is a good first book for grades 4-8, and a resource for 9-12 and teachers. For a more comprehensive history, read Calloway’s The Western Abenakis of Vermont, 1600-1800 (University of Oklahoma Press, 1990).

———, ed., North Country Captives (University Press of New England, 1992). These captivity narratives are interesting primary sources that reveal much about the Abenaki during the eras of contact and early European settlement.

Cherry, Lynne. A River Ran Wild (Harcourt, Brace, 1992). This excellent picture book portrays the historical evolution of the Nashua River from Native American use up to present-day clean-up; timeline included.

Gallagher, Nancy, Breeding Better Vermonters: The Eugenics Project in the Green Mountain State (University Press of New England, 1999). The stunning story of the eugenics movement in Vermont from the 1920s to 1940s reveals the ways that Abenaki people were targeted for persecution and sterilization. It’s critical to understanding recent Abenaki history.

Haviland, William, and Marjory Power, The Original Vermonters (University Press of New England, 1994). This is the standard anthropological/archaeological work on the Western Abenaki area; makes a strong case for the presence and persistence of the people. It’s a good resource for upper grade teachers and could be used with high school students.

Wiseman, Frederick M., The Voice of the Dawn, an Autohistory of the Abenaki Nation (University Press of New England, 2001). Designed as a resource book for teachers (middle school and up) and professionals, this book combines personal experience and philosophy with historical data, and discusses the important political events of the 1990s.

Stories and Tales

Bruchac, Jesse, Mosbas and the Magic Flute (Bowman Books, 2010). This wonderful book includes an Abenaki dictionary and pronunciation guide along with a great story.

Bruchac, Joseph, The Wind Eagle (Bowman Books, 1985); The Faithful Hunter (1988). Excellent collections of Abenaki stories.

Joseph Bruchac has written several young adult novels about Abenaki history and experience, covering various time periods. Ones especially recommended by teachers include The Winter People (Puffin, 2002), about Rogers’ Raid of 1759; The Arrow Over the Door (Puffin, 2002), which takes place during the American Revolution; and Hidden Roots (Scholastic, 2004), about a teenage boy who struggles with his Abenaki identity as his family copes with the aftermath of the eugenics project in Vermont.

Bruchac, Marge, Malian’s Song (Vermont Folklife Center, 2005). Based on oral history, this wonderful picture book tells the Abenaki side of the story of Rogers Raid, which destroyed the village of Odanak in 1759, during the French and Indian/Seven Years War.

Caduto, Michael, and Joseph Bruchac, Keepers of the Earth (1988). Native American stories with environmental lessons; contains Abenaki stories as well as those of other tribes. Excellent resource for teachers wishing to integrate science, literature, and social studies.

Speare, Elizabeth George, Calico Captive (Sandpiper, 2001). A well-regarded young adult novel inspired by Susannah Johnson’s famous narrative about her capture at Fort Number Four in 1754 and subsequent three years living with the Abenaki.

Online Resources

Flow of History: The Gathering and Interactions of Peoples, Cultures, and Ideas This section of the website includes background essays and timelines focused on early settlement in the Connecticut River Valley.

Freedom and Unity This exhibit provides good contextual information.

Native Americans of New Hampshire (New Hampshire Historical Society) Information, lesson plans, and activities inform students about life among the Woodland Indians who lived in this area and prepare them for the museum traveling program On the Abenaki Trail.



Links are available at the Bibliography on Abenaki History and Culture

Flow of History
c/o Southeast Vermont Community Learning Collaborative
P.O. Box 300
Brattleboro, VT 05302