Dispersal from Schaghticoke

Though many Native people from the Connecticut River valley made their way to Schaghticoke in the years following King Phillip’s war, the village was by no means a permanent safe haven. Indeed, the same forces that drove peoples to the north and west– war, pestilence and persecution – continued to affect those gathered at Schaghticoke, influencing their movements well into the middle of the 18th century. Native people’s knowledge of the trails and rivers that crisscrossed Wabanaki territory made their movement throughout that northern region relatively easy. Use of these highways also meant that people rarely had to stay in one place for long; as there were many places accessible to them, Native people could make choices, dependent on their specific needs, or the specific threats facing them.

While some made their way all the way north to the mission towns in French Canada, others joined with the sovereign Wabanakis living near Lake Champlain. From places like Missisquoi and Winooski, warriors, many of whom had been for a time at Schaghticoke, raided colonial towns along the Connecticut River throughout the late 17th and early 18th centuries.

The English worried much about Native dispersals from Schaghticoke, and were particularly concerned over the prospect of Natives coming under the influence of the French. Beginning in the 1670s, Governor Andros of New York tried hard not only to maintain peace among Indian groups near Schaghticoke and Albany, but tried also to encourage natives not to head north. Better to maintain the Schatightoke Indians as allies, thought Andros, then to allow them to become agents of the French. Of course, such a view ignored much of Native people’s own sovereignty – indeed, many who left New York allied themselves neither with the French nor the British, seeking to make livings for themselves within the Wabanaki heartland to the east. Some even headed far west, all the way to the Great Lakes region.

Regardless of his view’s legitimacy, Andros set a precedent for enacting policies aimed at keeping Natives in and around Schaghticoke, including banning the enslavement of Indians, as the following excerpt from New York’s Colonial documents shows. This declaration was made in 1679, right after King Phillip’s War.

Councill Minutes; Indians Declared Free and Not Slaves

At the Councell held in New York December 5th 1679

“Resolved, That all Indyans here, are free & not slaves, nor can bee forct to bee servants, Except such as been formerly brought from the Bay of Campechio & other foreign parts, but if any shall bee brought hereafter within the space of six months, they are to bee dispose as soone as may bee out of the Government, but after the Exparacoon of six months, all that shall bee brought here from those parts shall bee free…

…All Christian Servants that shall be brought into this government shall bee recorded att ye Secretarys office att importation by the Masters of Vessels or others that shall bring them, & they have liberty to assigne them to another, for the time specifyde in their Indentures, & no such servant be reassigned or transferred over to serve his time with another, without the Consent or Approbacon of the next Court of Sessions or Juresdiction, at the great distance of the time of Fourts, by the Appropacon of two Justices of peace, one being president or first Justice of said Riding or Corporacon to bee recorded in ye respective place & transmitted to the office of Records.” [1]

In 1691, The New York colony commissioned the construction of Fort Half Moon at the mouth of the Mohawk River, building it specifically for the Natives of Schaghticoke, in exchange for their promised residence. 

Not all were convinced to stay, however, and not all made their way north. Some were drawn from Schaghticoke to the safe and exceptionally fertile lands to the east, as far as the Wabanaki homelands of Norridgewock, on the Kennebec River, and Namaskonti, on the Sandy River, where alluvial valleys provided rich soil, in which crops of corn, bean and squash (known collectively as “The Three Sisters”) could be grown with great reliability.

It may seem counter-intuitive that Native people fleeing the violence and persecution of the English should settle fairly close to the English settlements of eastern Maine. However, in this region, near the Kennebec and the Penobscot rivers, political and military power was still largely in the hands of Wabanaki people. From the 1670s to the 1740s, the English attempted, only sometimes successfully, to ratify treaties with Wabanaki leaders. Tensions often arose, however, when the wording of those treaties framed Natives as the submissive actors. Supported by an extensive network of intertribal alliances, and often reinforced and supplied by New France, the Wabanakis on the coast and in the northern interior knew well that they held positions of strength. In 1677, toward the end of King Philip’s War, one Wabanaki leader, Mogg, sent a message to Massachusetts via the captive Francis Card, saying, “we [the Wabanaki] are owners of the country and it is wide and full of [Indians] and we can drive you out.”[2] Forty years later, during a 1717 treaty council, Wiwurna, the Wabanaki speaker from Norridgewock told Massachusetts Governor Samuel Shute:

We now return Thanks that the English are come to Settle here, and will Imbrace them in our Bosoms that come to Settle on our Lands . . . [but] we desire there may be no further Settlements made. We shan’t be able to hold them all in our Bosoms. [3]


[1] Berthold Fernow, ed., Documents Relative to the Colonial History of the State of New York (Albany, NY: Weed, Parsons & Co., 1881), 13:537.

[2] “Declaration of Francis Card,” Documentary History of the State of Maine (Baxter Manuscripts), James Phinney Baxter, ed., (Portland: Maine Historical Society, 1900), 2nd series, 6: 150-1.

[3] See Emerson Baker and John Reid, “Amerindian Power in the Early Modern Northeast: A Reappraisal,” The William and Mary Quarterly 61:1 (2004), 89. For interpretation of this statement in relation to traditional ecological knowledge and resource management see Lisa T. Brooks and Cassandra M. Brooks, “The Reciprocity Principle and Traditional Ecological Knowledge.”


The Queen of Caskoak

In A Voyage to New England, Christopher Levett described witnessing, and participating in, a Council among Indigenous leaders at the traditional meeting place of Caskoak, the place of herons, which he called “Quack.” He remarked that a woman, whom he only called “the Queen of Quack,” was the saunkskwa of this place. She formally welcomed Levett and the other visitors to her territory. There, he observed many places for fishing, including cod in Casco Bay, salmon on the Presumpscot River (pictured above), wild “fowl,” and “as much good ground as any can desire,” referring to the fertile planting grounds along the river. Caskoak was an ideal place for planting, fresh and saltwater fishing, and hunting, but it was also at the center of trade, facilitating distribution between communities to the south and northeast, as well as into the interior mountains. Even from the coast, Levett could see the “Christall hill,” or Wawôbadenik (White Mountains) to which the Queen’s territory was connected by waterways and paths.

This place, which the English later called “Falmouth” then Portland (Maine), has multiple names. Caskoak evokes its identity as a meeting place, a confluence, a site of exchange and diplomacy. Recalling its other name, Machigonne (“it is bad” or “it does bad”) Maliseet author Mihku Paul evokes its history of colonization and war, including the violence against its other-than-human inhabitants in her poem, “A Song for Machigonne.”


Follow this link to the legend

A Song for Machigonne


Machigonne your truest name

before the French and English came to raid 

the land of her tallest trees and pull the fish from 

her blue knee.

The fur they took in trade for pots and drink and 

rusty blades, could not sate their endless hunger or abate

their supernatural greed.

Oh, Machigonne, your name is dust.

You have begun to bleed.


Casco, now, is how they call the great neck as the mighty trees fall.

Land divided among men is stolen once again.

Waymouth kidnaps five of us before Gorges and John Mason arrive

to claim the eastern lands, and now we die and die.

The treaties cannot last when traders block the fish from 

moving past, cows trample our corn, yet you say

we are a thorn in your side.

You are the ones who cannot abide by your own laws.


When we fight, we have just cause to grieve for Machigonne

and those who now walk beyond this world.

French or English, we must choose or so you say, if not

to lose the land we hold most dear.

We come away only to starve anew and now 

our hearts are hard.


In spring of 1690, we gathered with Castine, our anger risen like the

streams you choked with nets to starve our kin, we followed one

trusted chief whose child the Baron sought to keep.

Madockawando leads the men and killing will begin.

Just for today we are many and will break our anger on your flesh,

burn your walls to nothingness.

Four hundred fighting men and more, with French to batter down 

the door, we come to Machigonne to prove 

Fort Loyal cannot stand

against our warring hand.


An English is a worse brigand than any Frenchman, so they tell us

when we fight and burn your forts down in the night.

We aren’t the ones you trusted to survive with white flag

waving before your eyes.

That was Burneiffe, who was in charge of 

keeping order and giving quarter.

To trust is almost always wise but not to trust your English lies.

Thus you learn the bitter price you pay for our forgiveness.


Six wars were fought here, laying claim to land that 

many tried to tame until we finally surrendered,

Penobscots, Micmacs, Malecite, Abenaki with little left 

you had not plundered from our dawnland home.

The “Beaver Wars” were fought for pelts,

King Philip’s War, abuse of trade, and Squando’s child, 

drowned just to see if he could swim, like some wild river otter.

Then scalp hunters seeking bounty came to Machigonne again.

King William’s War was fought for land, Fort William Henry could not stand against

Abenaki and French, who drove the English from the lower Kennebec.

In 1701 Queen Anne’s War came to our shores, when,

once again French and English wanted more and more and more.

Greedy bullets, dripping blades, smoking battlements laid waste and always

we must take a side, knowing we can no longer hide from settlers 

thick as leaves on trees, coveting everything they see.

Dummer’s War for William Dummer, who sent Colonel Westbrook to

burn our homes and fields and starve us out.

Norridgewock fell, one hundred dead.

Pigwacket too, and if you wore the other shoe it would be dipped in red.

At last your war with France burned high, for seven years, and we had

nothing left to lose when forced to choose between 

the evils that befell our people.


One in four of us was dead, gone to the wind and finally you said the line was 

drawn in seventeen and fifty-nine, the words you give to white man’s time.

You name our demise victorious, so-called history and glory

fought for land paid in blood and bone.

Machigonne was just one, first become Casco, then Old Falmouth,

finally as the years wore on, Portland, Maine was born.

The massacre you blame us for is but the story of your shame,

and those sins for which you must atone.

Machigonne was not your own.