Indigenous Dover

Indigenous Dover

As Dover prepares to celebrate the 400th anniversary of its settlement by European colonists, this page will serve as a guide to the indigenous people who lived here and throughout the region for thousands of years.

Last year, the City Council passed a resolution that acknowledges the people who tended to what is now called Dover, long before it was called Dover. The land acknowledgment reads:

"This (event/meeting) takes place at Cocheco (CO-chi-co) within N’dakinna (n-DA-ki-na), now called Dover, New Hampshire, which is the unceded traditional ancestral homeland of the Abenaki (a-BEN-a-ki), Pennacook and Wabanaki Peoples, past and present. We acknowledge and honor with gratitude the land, waterways, living beings, and the Aln8bak (Al-nuh-bak), the people who have stewarded N’dakinna (n-DA-ki-na) for many millennia."

The land acknowledgement will soon appear on plaques at several city facilities.

New Hampshire HumanitiesThis page, made possible with the support of the New Hampshire Humanities Council, will continue to be updated with resources that aim to shed more light and foster a deeper understanding of Dover's indigenous history.

New Hampshire's first settlers

We will never know the names or the languages of the first people who came to what is now New Hampshire.

They arrived about 12,000 years ago and the passage of time and movements of people have obscured their origins. The descendants of these people divided into bands-often called tribes. Among them were the Penacook, Winnipesaukee, Pigwacket, Sokoki, Cowasuck and Ossipee. All spoke related dialects of the Abenaki language.

Today these people are known collectively as the Abenaki, which is often translated as "People of the Dawnland." (woban means day-break and ski means earth or land).

Abenaki life was observed and recorded by European explorers of the early 1500s. Land was not owned, but used according to custom, season, and need. Abenaki set up villages along rivers and lakes where they had access to water and could hunt, farm and fish using traps called weirs. Favorite fishing spots were near waterfalls along the Merrimack, Connecticut, Saco, and Androsoggin Rivers. Places like Amoskeag Falls in Manchester and the Weirs at the mouth of Lake Winnepausakee drew thousands of people for the yearly spawning of shad, salmon and alewife.

By the late 1600s the Native American population in New Hampshire was declining. They had no natural immunities against diseases such as small pox and influenza that were introduced by European settlers and major epidemics broke out between 1615-1620 that decimated populations. Conflicts with invading Mohawks and tensions with European settlers claiming ownership of Abenaki ancestral lands made the situation even worse. By the end of the century many of the remaining Abenaki had either married Europeans, melted into the rural population, or decided to leave and settle in Canada. Many settled in the village of St. Francis in Quebec, also known as Odanak.

The native Americans of the northeast all spoke related dialects of a language known as Aglonquian. Today there are less than a 1,000 Abenaki in New Hampshire and only a few who speak the language. In 1995 Joseph Laurent, an Abenaki born in Odanak and then moved to ancestral lands in Intervale NH, completed a 30-year project to translate "Father Aubery's French Abenaki Dictionary." This important work will help ensure an understanding of the beauty of the language.


Recent Presentations

Paul and Denise Pouliot of the Cowasuck Band of the Penacook-Abenaki People recently presented a short history of indigenous foodways, and the traditional use of waterways and land along the Cochecho. The presentation also addressed contemporary efforts by indigenous groups to care for their ancestral homelands.

The presentation can be viewed below:

Dover400 began a yearlong lecture series in 2021 with two presentations on the history of Dover and the region's indigenous peoples. The presentations can be viewed below.