To the editor:
In marking Indigenous Peoples’ Day this month, we who live in the Merrimack Valley should remember a forgotten part of our history.
A team from the North Parish of North Andover, a Unitarian Universalist congregation, worked on filling in unexamined parts of congregational history, which is intertwined with the town’s history.
The story of the Pennacook is one chapter.
In the early 1600s, the Pennacook Confederacy included 12,000 members living in 30 villages along the Merrimack River.
English explorers brought European diseases. Between 1616 and 1619, these diseases killed all but 2,500 of the people, leaving shattered families and disrupted cultural and religious practices.
The Doctrine of Discovery, a European framework, provided a “legal” justification for colonization. As the number of English settlers grew in what is now Massachusetts, they coveted more land, including the resource-rich Merrimack River valley, the territory of the Pennacook.
In 1645, the Massachusetts General Court made provision for a group of settlers to form a plantation. A series of forced concessions and misunderstood transactions allowed English to occupy more and more land, building roads, fencing in hunting grounds and disrupting longstanding indigenous ways of life.
King Phillip’s War (1675-1676), King William’s War (1688-1699), and continuing epidemics led many of the remaining Pennacook to withdraw north and join their Abenaki cousins. Today Pennacook descendants still live in New Hampshire, Quebec, Vermont and other places.
Find out more in the booklet, “Hidden in Plain Sight: The Unexamined History of a New England Town and Parish.” The publication is online at www.flipsnack.com/flowcg/hidden-in-plain-sight.html