Who were the Sokoki?

The Sokoki are the Native American Tribe that inhabited Keene, NH before the English expanded to the Ashuelot watershed and violently pushed away any Native Tribes. There is also evidence that the Mohawk Indians, who inhabited the Hudson River Watershed, a territory west of the Connecticut watershed, slayed Sokoki Indians inhabiting the area known today as Hinsdale, NH. The Mohawks have been also been known to have aligned themselves with the English. Expansion of the English and attacks by the Mohawks pressured the Sokoki near the Ashuelot Valley to travel Northwards towards Mohegan Territory of Vermont, and also towards Odanak, Quebec in Canada.

Map courtesy of Welcome | NH Department of Environmental Services, 2012, See About Keene for an interactive map of the watershed.

Constructing the Tribal Lineage of the Sokoki Band

If we are to understand the lineage of the Sokoki band then we need to be conscious of Wabanaki Confederacy. The Wabanaki Confederacy are members of the 7 Nations. Within the Confederacy are the Abenaki Indians. From the Abenaki Indians we see the separation of the Abenaki into two tribal groups: the Eastern and Western Abenaki.

During our research we discovered that the early settlers referred to the Western Abenaki as the Ashuelot Indians because they made homestead along the Ashuelot Rivers bed. It is our understanding that the Sokoki derive from the Western Abenaki.

The Sokoki are very unique in classification because their origins were skewed by many early ethnography and historians alike. Properly identifying who the Sokoki  are and their origins during the early colonial times is vital to the Western Abenaki story as they were the founding group at Saint Francis.

Our Comprehension of Who the Sokoki were Using Gordon Day literature

The assumption is that the Sokoki migrated to Quebec from the Saco River in Maine, partly because of the generalized similarity of the names. None could be more false according to Gordon M. Day, whose book “In Search of New England’s Native Past” pieces together the many mispronounced and various spellings of the Sokoki name. In doing so, he asserts that his research and study would place the Sokoki in the middle of the Connecticut River valley rather than Maine.

In his book “The Town History of Keene New Hampshire”, Author Griffin describes some of the habits and characteristics of the Natives that inhabited the Upper Ashuelot Watershed (where Keene is located) when colonists arrived in the area(~1660). Griffin says that the natives who were here were the “Ashuelot Indians. However, we believe that these were actually the Sokoki Natives. There is evidence of a Native village just south of Keene in Swanzey. Griffin says there natives grew corn, squash, and tobacco. The Ashuelot River provided many nutrients to the soil in the valley. They caught and preserved fish to eat throughout the year. The Sokoki buried their dead in a particular fashion of sitting cross-legged facing the east. Griffin explains that the Sokoki were friendly with the French and the Dutch, but ultimately learned to distrust any white colonists. One paragraph from Chapter V in Griffin explains a motive of attack on a fort in Charlestown, NH during the French and Indian Wars.

The motive for the attack on No.4, in August, 1754,
was, as stated by the Indians to their captive, James
Johnson, “because the-English had settled down upon lands
there which they had not purchased; and that they
intended next spring to drive the English on Connecticut
river so far as Deerfield.” (johnson’s Declaration, Provincial
Papers, vol. 6, page 330.)

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