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.

Upcoming Presentations

Pouliots

Join the Dover Public Library on Monday, Nov. 28, at 6:30 p.m. for a lecture on indigenous land stewardship. This event is made possible by a grant from New Hampshire Humanities.

Around 12,000 years ago, indigenous tribes began to make their home along the Cochecho River. Collectively these tribes were known as the Abenaki or “People of the Dawnland.” Throughout the month of November, the City of Dover is recognizing and celebrating the indigenous peoples and tribes of what is now Dover.

The Nov. 28 presentation will be held in-person, with the option to view virtually. Speakers include Paul Pouliot, Denise Pouliot and Kathleen Blake, affiliate faculty of the University of New Hampshire Native American and Indigenous Studies Minor, as well as members of the Indigenous New Hampshire Collective Collaborative.

The lecture will feature a short history of indigenous foodways, and the traditional use of waterways and land along the Cochecho. The presentation will also focus on contemporary efforts being made by indigenous groups to care for the ancestral homelands, and how attendees can support these programs.

Attendees are invited to meet before the lecture at 6 p.m. for a special ceremony as the library unveils a new land acknowledgement plaque, a citywide initiative funded by a generous grant through New Hampshire Humanities, in partnership with the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Paul and Denise Pouliot are the Sag8mo and Sag8moskwa (Male and Female Head Speakers) of the Cowasuck Band of the Pennacook Abenaki People. Paul is an indigenous historian, lecturer, and a founding member of the New Hampshire Commission on Native American Affairs where Denise currently serves as Vice Chair. In her spare time Denise creates coil, bark or woven baskets and produces traditional ceremonial clothing. Together they serve as Federal Religious Advisors and are recipients of the UNH Platinum Sustainability Award for community building. They were also named as one of The Nature Conservancy’s 60 individuals and organizations that have positively impacted the natural world in honor of TNC’s 60 years of conservation in New Hampshire.

Kathleen Blake is a retired teacher of biology, ecology and earth science. She spent several years as a science curriculum and assessment specialist. She is of mixed heritage, whose indigenous descendancy is from the Wendat (Huron), Algonquin, Anishinabe, and Mi’kmaq peoples. Blake served as chair for the New Hampshire Commission on Native American Affairs for several years. She is currently serving as a board member of the Racial Unity Team, a member of the Dover Racial Equity and Inclusion Committee, and the Dover School Department Vision Keepers. She is dedicated to supporting and serving the first peoples of this land.

The program is free and open to the public. Sign up is needed to get a link to view the program virtually. For more information or to register, visit the library’s website at library.dover.nh.gov or call (603) 516-6050.

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.

Source: https://www.nh.gov/folklife/learning-center/traditions/native-american.htm


Recent Presentations


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.