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Wannalancet and the Kwinitekw Headwaters
The Penacook sachem Passaconaway was renowned for his power and diplomacy in the wake of the first waves of colonization. He joined with other leaders in the region, including the Saunkskwa of Massachusett and her husband Nanapashemet, to gather families together, after devastating epidemics ravaged Indigenous communities, especially along the Massachusett coast, as both colonial captivities and intertribal conflict fostered further ruptures. Passaconaway’s children intermarried with other leadership families, repairing the binds within the network of relations and creating a safety net for survivors. The Penacook network or “sphere of influence” centered on Molôdomak, the deep river, but extended through waterways to the inland and coast. These were among the leaders who signed an important agreement with Massachusetts colony in 1644, creating binding relationships with the newcomers. This agreement is among the most significant documents that the Massachusetts State Archives holds today. 
During King Philip’s War, many Native people sought protection, as they had done earlier, within these networks of waterways and kinship, and this strong web enabled travel into northern sanctuaries. Passaconaway’s son, Wannalancet, pursued a strategy of neutrality early on, leading families from Penacook north to avoid the burgeoning conflict to the south, one of many paths to peace. As the Massachusetts missionary and magistrate Daniel Gookin observed, the Penacook sagamore took shelter with his kin at
This was a densely forested region above the White Mountains, well known to Wabanaki people, but well beyond the knowledge and reach of English magistrates or military leaders.
“the head of Connecticut River all winter where was a place of good hunting for moose, deer, bear, and other such wild beasts; and came not near either to the English, or his own countrymen, our enemies.”
Wanalancet and the families who went with him may also have traveled, during the fall and winter of 1675 the spring of 1676, to other key locations within these vast kin networks, including the French missions at Sillery, Sorel and Odanak (St. Francis), in Quebec, or to other Wabanaki towns and territories in the interior, on vital waterways like the Kennebec, Androscoggin and Saco Rivers, Lake Memphremagog and Lac Megantic. Wanalancet’s wife reportedly was tied to the mission villages, while his brother Nanamocumuck had found refuge, decades earlier, in the Wabanaki communities on the Androscoggin River. Penacook people were mobile and often traveled in smaller groups of extended families, particularly in the fall and winter hunting season. Thus, it would not be surprising to find them among several communities or multiple locations during the war. Wanalancet was also among those who cultivated a peace treaty in the summer of 1676, traveling to the Wabanaki coast with other leaders, including Samuel Numphow and the Saco River leader known as Squando, to participate in councils that led to the Cocheco Treaty of July 1676. 
The spruce and fir forests of the Connecticut River headwaters remain a vital sanctuary for many Indigenous animals, including moose, deer and bear, as well as vital medicinal plants. It is a place to which many Wabanaki families, as well as other Native people, regularly return to hunt, fish, camp and gather, or simply to remember, along old paths. Wabanaki basketmakers used those same trails to travel back and forth between northern New England and Quebec in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The “North Country” also appears in contemporary literature. Mohegan author Melissa Tantaquidgeon Zobel’s young adult novel Wabanaki Blues features an Abenaki-Mohegan protagonist who returns to her mother’s North Country roots. Abenaki author Cheryl Savageau has published several poems that reflect the tradition of return to the North Country, as sanctuary, for both the living and the dead. [Link to Northeastern Naturalist article] Savageau lovingly describes her own father’s relationship to this northern land in her poem, “To Human Skin” from Dirt Road Home:
Over the last meal
we’ll ever eat together
he tells me, I’m going up north,
up to the old home country,
Abenaki country. He smiles
in anticipation, his feet
already feeling the forest floor,
while my stomach tightens
with the knowledge that he
is going home. I push
the feeling away. But when spirit
talks to spirit, there is no denying.
Through the long days of mourning,
I see my father’s spirit
walk into the bright autumn woods.
Red, gold, and evergreen,
they welcome him back,
his relatives, green of heart,
and rooted, like him,
in the soil of this land
called Ndakinna. David Stewart-Smith, “The Penacook Indians and the New England Frontier, 1604–1733,” (PhD diss., Union Institute, 1998), 1-33, 52-91. See also Neal Salisbury, Manitou and Providence: Indians, Europeans, and the Making of New England, 1500–1643 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1982), 42, 48, 54-72. John Pendergast, The Bend in the River (Tyngsborough, MA: Merrimac River Press, 1992). Solon B. Colby, Colby’s Indian History: Antiquities of the New Hampshire Indians and Their Neighbors (Conway, NH: Walkers Pond Press, 1975). Daniel Gookin, “An Historical Account of the Doings and Sufferings of the Christian Indians in New England” in Transactions and Collections of the American Antiquarian Society 2 (Cambridge: American Antiquarian Society, 1836), 462.Colin Calloway, The Western Abenakis of Vermont (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1990), 274-5. Gordon Day, Identity of the Saint Francis Indians (Ottawa: National Museums of Canada, 1981), 16-18. Evan Haefeli and Kevin Sweeney, “Watanummon’s World: Personal and Tribal Identity in the Algonquian Diaspora c. 1660-1712” in Papers of the Twenty-fifth Algonquian Conference, ed., William Cowan (Ottawa: Carlton University, 1994), 212-5. Dennis Connole, Indians of the Nipmuck Country in Southern New England, 1630–1750 (Jefferson, NC: McFarland and Company, 2001), 53-4. George Bodge, Soldiers in King Philip’s War (Boston: George Madison Bodge, 1906), 304.
Sarah of Wamesit
Like Samuel Numphow, Sara of Wamesit lived at the mission community of Wamesit, in Patucket. Sara lost a young son to vigilante violence and was herself injured. She was among the people of Wamesit who sought shelter, with Wanalancet, to the north, when it was no longer safe to remain in their town on the lower Molôdemak.
In November 1675, the Wamesit leaders Numphow and John Line composed a letter en route to Penacook, when they received word that their Chelmsford neighbor, Thomas Henchman, had sent a local Native servant, Wepocositt, to persuade them to return, by order of the Massachusetts Governor and Council:
Numphow and John Line expressed their desire to go toward the north, “where Wannalancet” was, where they might find the protection they did not receive from their neighbors or the colony. They spoke specifically of a particular incident, in which they were wrongly blamed for burning a barn “full of hay and corn” in Chelmsford. Although the people of Wamesit had remained “peaceable,” on November 15, according to Daniel Gookin, “about fourteen armed men from Chelmsford,” under pretense of going upon a scout, sought to “go to the wigwams of the Wamesit Indians, their neighbors, and kill them all.” As he reported,
I, Numphow, and John a Line, we send a messenger to you again (Wepocositt) with this answer, we cannot come home again, we go towards the French, we go where Wannalancet is; the reason is, we went away from our home, we had help from the Council, but that did not do us good, but we had wrong by the English. 2dly. The reason is we went away from the English, for when there was any harm done in Chelmsford, they laid it to us, and said we did it, but we know ourselves we never did any harm to the English, but we go away peaceably and quietly. 3dly. As for the Island, we say there is no safety for us, because many English be not good, and may be they come to us and kill us, as in the other case. We are not sorry for what we leave behind, but we are sorry the English have driven us from our praying to God and from our teacher. We did begin to understand a little of praying to God. We thank humbly the Council. We remember our love to Mr. Henchman and James Richardson.
Sarah’s father, John, was, as Gookin noted, a leader at Wamesit, and she had married Native men from neighboring towns, part of the marriage alliances that helped to rebuild regional networks in the wake of epidemics. She had first married John Tahattawants, who came from a leadership family on the Musketaquid River, then, after his death, had married Oonamog of Okkanamesit, who died in 1674, just before Gookin’s tour of the mission communities. As Gookin noted, the “youth slain was” the “only son” of Sara’s “first husband; his grandfather, old Tahattawan, was a Sachem, and a pious man” of Musketaquid and Nashobah (Concord and Littleton).
…they came to the wigwams, and called to the poor Indians to come out of doors, which most of them readily did, both men, women, and children, and slew outright a lad of about twelve years old, which child’s mother was also one of the wounded; she was a widow, her name Sarah, a woman of good report for religion. She was daughter to a Sagamore, named Sagamor[e] John, who was a great friend to the English, who lived and died at the same place. Her two husbands, both deceased were principal Sagamores, the one named John Tahattawan, and the other Oonamog, both pious men, and rulers for the praying Indians, one at Marlborough, the other at Nashobah.
The “murderers” of Sara’s son, whose “names were Lorgin and Robins,” were “seized and committed to prison,” but when tried, “were cleared by the jury,” which Gookin attributed to their “prejudice,” rather than “want of evidence,” as they claimed. This “cruel murder and fight” Gookin noted, “occasioned most of those poor Christian Indians to fly away from their wigwams not long after.”
In their November letter, Numphow and John Line also spoke of their unwillingness to go to Deer Island, where the people of Natick were already contained. Indeed, after they wrote their letter, and some of their party returned to Wamesit, an order arrived from the Massachusetts council to “secure” the Indians at both Concord and Wamesit, “either at Deare Iland or in the places where they live” and to ensure “they be all disarmed.”
These documents reveal how few options were available for women like Sarah. Although she was from a leadership family, and had married into leadership families, which were ostensibly under the protection of Massachusetts colony, both she and her child proved vulnerable, with few avenues for security. She could remain in her town, under the “protection” of local settlers, which put her and her kin at risk of further vigilante violence, as well as being caught in the crossfire of war. Indeed, in a letter written in December, Numhpow, John Line, the teacher Simon Betomkom, and Samuel Numphow, expressed their concern for what would happen to them should “the Indians….come” and do “mischief” now that “snow” was “on the ground.” Alternatively, Sarah could either willingly go, or be forcibly taken, to Deer Island, where she might face the worst of winter, with little to no options for shelter and subsistence. Or she could head toward the north country, where she might find shelter from the storm. However, as further correspondence showed, even remaining at Wamesit, or traveling north late in the season, could potentially lead to dire circumstances, with not enough food to subsist, and winter coming on. Many Native people in the mission communities, realized, as winter arrived, that their routes to survival and subsistence were severely curtailed, even as they still sought to remain “peaceable” in their places. Daniel Gookin, “An Historical Account of the Doings and Sufferings of the Christian Indians in New England,” in Transactions and Collections of the American Antiquarian Society (Cambridge, MA: American Antiquarian Society, 1836), 2: 483-4. Gookin, “Historical Account,” 482–5. Gookin, “Historical Account,” 482–5; Daniel Gookin, Historical Collections of the Indians of New England (1674) (North Stratford, NH: Ayer, 2000), 185-8; John Daly, “No Middle Ground: Pennacook-New England Relations in the Seventeenth Century” (masters thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland, 1997), 53; David Stewart-Smith, “The Pennacook Indians and the New England Frontier, 1604–1733,” (PhD diss., Union Institute, 1998), 86, 134, 175; Proceedings of the Littleton Historical Society, no. 1, 97-101; Concord book Wilson Waters, History of Chelmsford (Lowell, MA: Printed for the Town of Chelmsford by the Courier-Citizen Company, 1917), 109; Massachusetts Archives 30:190, December 9, 1675.