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York Indian Legend Might be Real

Abinquid legend & history

According to MicMac legend, Abinquid was among the Indians who came with Thury to Maine. But Abinquid had a vision. He came to believe that it was wrong to attack the white settlers and he refused to accompany the raiding party. Awalt says this vision occurred while Abenquid was at a small mountain near an English village by the sea. He believes the mountain -- known in MicMac tradition as "brother stands along with little sisters" -- was Mt. Agamenticus and the town below was York, Maine. Canadian oral history matches local legends of the attacking Indians arriving on snowshoes.

"To me, in my mind, I’m convinced they are describing the same event," Awalt says.

The 1692 raid on York did take place. Approximately 130 settlers were either killed or taken hostage by Abenaki-speaking warriors. During the famous Candlemas raid most of the roughly four-dozen houses in town were destroyed. But Abinquid, a converted Catholic, would not participate. The following summer Abinquid stepped briefly into the history books. In August 1693 Abinquid and his brother Edgeremet and a dozen other Indian leaders signed their marks on a peace treaty with the English at Pemaquid, Maine.

Then came treachery. Three summers later in 1696, Abinquid and his brother were invited back to Fort William Henry at Pemaquid. Father Thury warned them that this might be an English trap, but they went all the same. Captain Pasco Chubb who was in command of the fort ordered the brothers killed. Again, this is a matter of public record. White history books tell us it was "a horrid and cold-blooded act." Years later, according to record, "the savage followers" of Egeremet and Abinquid murdered Chubb in revenge.

Here MicMac legend offers us more astonishing details than we find in standard history. According to Don Awalt’s research, Abinquid was nailed to a cross and brutally whipped. The English poured turpentine into his wounds and left him outside the fort to die. It seems possible that, seizing on this horrific event, Father Thury, both out of respect and for propaganda, may have elevated the martyred holy man to his sainted position. It is also easy to imagine that some of the 70 to 80 captives from York carried the Abinquid story back. At least one York survivor, raised Catholic in Montreal, returned home decades later.

Like modern day Marines, MicMac warriors were honor bound to retrieve their fallen comrades. Abinquid’s body, legend says, was then transported from Pemaquid to the place of his vision – possibly Mt. Agamenticus – and buried beneath stones. Awalt notes that all of these details are consistent with regional Indian traditions. Many MicMacs believed in reincarnation, but a warrior who returned to life too quickly, would come back as the opposite of himself. Since the holy Saint Aspinquid might return as evil, he was buried beneath heavy stones.

A thrilling new perspective

Don Awalt calls his study on the roots of the St. Aspinquid legend "an historical essay in progress." The 45-page article, richly documented, has never been published. Awalt emailed a copy to me, and I forwarded it to three local history professors with expertise in the 17th century or in Native American history. All of them found it fascinating.

There are still holes in the research, of course. We have no way of knowing, for certain, whether Abinquid’s vision took place on Mt. Agamenticus, or whether his body was carried there from Pemaquid for burial. Awalt suggests that, after declaring Aspinquid (Abinquid) a Catholic saint, Father Thury then renamed the rock formation and the Halifax Indian festival in his honor. It is pure supposition. We do not know when the Nova Scotian legend became attached to Mt. Agaementicus. Scholars still have a long way to go.

What we do know is that Awalt’s theory is far superior to our own. For at least 150 years, local white historians have conflated St. Aspinquid with Passaconaway of New Hampshire. Little in that comparison has ever made sense. Passaconaway lived half a century too early and stayed largely in the White Mountains and Amoskeag areas. If he was converted to Christianity, as some claim, it was by a Protestant missionary, not Catholic. Passaconaway also had a vision decades earlier that Indians and whites should not make war on each other, but nothing else seems to match.

CONTINUED

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