The Passamaquoddy (Peskotomuhkati or Pestomuhkati in the Passamaquoddy language) are an American Indian/First Nations people who live in northeastern North America, primarily in Maine, United States, and New Brunswick, Canada.

Passamaquoddy men in a canoe
Total population
3,576 enrolled tribal members
Sipayik: 2,005, Motahkomikuk: 1,364, Qonasqamkuk: 206
Regions with significant populations
 United States

3,369 (0.3%)
 New Brunswick

206 (0.03%)
Passamaquoddy, English
Traditional Beliefs, Christianity,

The Passamaquoddy people in Canada have an organized government, but do not have official First Nations status.


The name "Passamaquoddy" is an anglicization of the Passamaquoddy word peskotomuhkati, the prenoun form (prenouns being a linguistic feature of Algonquian languages) of Peskotomuhkat (pestəmohkat), their autonym or name they used for themselves. Peskotomuhkat literally means "pollock-spearer" or "those of the place where pollock are plentiful",[1] reflecting the importance of this fish in their culture.[2] Their method of fishing was spear-fishing rather than angling or using nets. Passamaquoddy Bay is shared by both New Brunswick and Maine; its name was derived by English settlers from the Passamaquoddy people.


The Passamaquoddy had a purely oral history before the arrival of Europeans. Among the Algonquian-speaking tribes of the loose Wabanaki Confederacy, they occupied coastal regions along the Bay of Fundy, Passamaquoddy Bay, and Gulf of Maine, and along the St. Croix River and its tributaries. They had seasonal patterns of settlement. In the winter, they dispersed and hunted inland. In the summer, they gathered more closely together on the coast and islands, and primarily harvested seafood, including marine mammals, mollusks, crustaceans, and fish.[3]

The Passamaquoddy were pushed off their original lands repeatedly by European settlers from the 1800s. After the United States achieved independence from Great Britain, these people were eventually officially limited to the current Indian Township Reservation, at 45°15′57″N 67°36′43″W, in eastern Washington County, Maine. It has a land area of 96.994 km² (37.450 sq mi) and a 2000 census resident population of 676 persons. They also control the small Passamaquoddy Pleasant Point Reservation in eastern Washington County, which has 0.5 mi2 (1.2 km2), all land. The population was 749 at the 2010 census.[4]

Passamaquoddy have also lived on off-reservation trust lands in five Maine counties; these lands total almost four times the size of the reservations proper. They are located in northern and western Somerset County, northern Franklin County, northeastern Hancock County, western Washington County, and several locations in eastern and western Penobscot County. The total land area of these areas is 373.888 km2 (144.359 sq mi). As of the 2000 census, no residents were on these trust lands.

The Passamaquoddy also live in Charlotte County, New Brunswick, Canada, where they have a chief and organized government. They maintain active land claims in Canada, but do not have legal status there as a First Nation. Some Passamaquoddy continue to seek the return of territory now within present-day St. Andrews, New Brunswick, which they claim as Qonasqamkuk, a Passamaquoddy ancestral capital and burial ground.

Populations and languages

The total Passamaquoddy population is around 3,576 people. About 500 people, most if not all over the age of 50, speak the Malecite-Passamaquoddy language, shared (other than minor differences in dialect) with the neighboring and related Maliseet people. It belongs to the Algonquian branch of the Algic language family. The University of Maine published a comprehensive Passamaquoddy Dictionary in 2008. Another resource for the language is the online Passamaquoddy-Maliseet Language Portal, which includes many videos, subtitled in English and Passamaquoddy, of native speakers conversing in the language. Most of the people speak English as their first language.

While the Passamaquoddy population in Canada is much smaller than that in Maine, it has a formal structure and a chief, Hugh Akagi. Most of its people speak French and English. It is not recognized by the Canadian government as constituting a First Nation. In 2004, Chief Akagi was authorized to represent the Passamaquoddy at events marking the 400th anniversary of French settlement of St Croix Island (the first French effort at permanent settlement in the New World). This indicates that the government had acknowledged the tribe to some extent, and progress is being made in formal recognition.[5]

Special political status in Maine

The Passamaquoddy, along with the neighboring Penobscot, are given special political status in the U.S. state of Maine. Both groups are allowed to send a nonvoting representative to the Maine House of Representatives. Although these representatives cannot vote, they may sponsor any legislation regarding American Indian affairs, and may co-sponsor any other legislation.

Notable Passamaquoddy


Maps showing the approximate locations of areas occupied by members of the Wabanaki Confederacy (from north to south):

See also



  1. Erickson, Vincent O. 1978. "Maliseet-Passamaquoddy". In Northeast, ed. Bruce G. Trigger. Vol. 15 of Handbook of North American Indians, ed. William C. Sturtevant. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution, pg. 135. Cited in Campbell, Lyle (1997). American Indian Languages: The Historical Linguistics of Native America. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pg. 401.
  2. "Maliseet" - Passamaquoddy Dictionary
  3. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2008-08-29. Retrieved 2008-08-31.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  4. "Profile of General Population and Housing Characteristics: 2010 Demographic Profile Data (DP-1): Passamaquoddy Pleasant Point Reservation, Washington County, Maine". U.S. Census Bureau, American Factfinder. Retrieved July 20, 2012.
  5. Rudin, Ronald. Remembering and Forgetting in Acadie: A Historian's Journey through Public Memory (Toronto: University of Toronto Press. 2009).
  6. "Native heritage source of strength for world-class athlete". Indian Country Today Media Network. 13 February 2009. Retrieved 8 April 2014.
  7. Daugherty, Owen (May 16, 2019). "Maine becomes first state to ban use of Native American mascots at public schools". The Hill. Retrieved August 26, 2019.


Further reading

  • Sockabasin, Allen J. 2007. An Upriver Passamaquoddy. Thomaston, Maine: Tilbury House.
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