Bitawbagw (Lake Champlain), the lake between, was a center for trade and exchange connecting the Haudenosaunee and Abenaki people. Mazipskoik (Missisquoi) is located on the northeast shore of Bitawbagw, at Mazipskwebi (Missisquoi Bay), and extends easterly along Mazipskoisibo, the Missisquoi River. It extends easterly along Mazipskoisibo, the Missisquoi River. Mazipskoik is where flint can be found. Missisquoi is one homeland within Wôbanaki, the Dawnland. Missisquoi belonged to a vast trade network that reached from Sobagw, the Atlantic Ocean, to Anishinabewaki, an Anishinaabe territory in the Great Lakes.
Missisquoi people were connected to and intermarried with other Abenaki/Wabanaki communities, as well as with Kanienkehaka (Mohawk) and Muhhecunnuck (Mohican) neighbors. These intermarriages did not end with the colonization but only increased as families were impacted by disease, conflict, and displacement. Long before any European settlers arrived, the Missisquoi Abenaki community began taking in displaced people from other homelands and have continued to sustain this ancient place for thousands of years, up to the present day.
The Ancient Village that Continues
The ancient village of Missisquoi was situated along the lower Missisquoi River and the vast Missisquoi delta. This area included Kwenozasek, the Pike River, which flows into Missisquoi Bay from Bedford, Quebec. The village spanned both sides of the Missisquoi River, covering the bow of the river, the area of today's Monument Road (Highgate), the protected wetlands of Maquam, and the fishing falls at Takwahoganek (Swanton Center). Families made full use of the river, hunting and fishing not only in the headwaters but also in the uplands, including the multiple streams descending from around Wskwadena, Jay Peak.
Archaeological Insights and Abenaki Oral History
Archaeological studies have verified the ancient village's location, as recounted in oral history from Abenaki leadership families. One notable discovery was a large longhouse, approximately 100-feet long, documented in 2015, which once stood at the village center. The studies also confirmed continuous occupation in this region from 7500 bp (before present time) to the present day. Additional archaeological sites corroborate human settlement along the ancient shore dating back to 13,000 years bp, a period that coincides with Abenaki oral traditions about the valley's formation.
Cultural Practices: Hunting, Fishing, and Agriculture
Hunting, fishing, and gathering have been essential for both subsistence and cultural continuity from time immemorial to the present day. Agriculture became increasingly important as the fertile valley's rich soils—deposited by the receding sea—provided an ideal environment for planting. Abenaki women took the lead in cultivating corn, beans, squash, and sunflowers, among other plants, nourishing families for multiple generations. Long after colonization, these agricultural practices persisted, with families continuing to grow corn and other vegetables and sharing the produce among their kin.
Colonization and Continuance
In the 1500s and early 1600s, French, Basque, Italian, and English explorers and fishing vessels traversed Sobagw, the Atlantic Ocean, arriving in Wabanaki, Wampanoag, and Narragansett homelands along the eastern coast. These visitors engaged in trade with Indigenous communities, and some of these trade goods found their way to Bitawbagw through an extensive network of Indigenous waterways and trails.
Both French and English explorers took the drastic step of capturing Wabanaki and other Indigenous inhabitants along the coast. These captives were transported to Europe where some were enslaved, while others were taught English and French to provide information about the resources and navigational aspects of their homelands. Although some of these captives perished in Europe, others managed to escape and return to their native lands upon arriving back with European ships. News of these kidnappings and returns disseminated through Indigenous trade networks.
Impact of Epidemic Diseases and Social Ruptures
Epidemic diseases, notably smallpox, were also brought by European travelers. These diseases had a catastrophic impact on Indigenous communities in the northeast, causing widespread losses that led to significant ruptures, grief, and conflicts. This turmoil included competition over the fur trade, involving both European settlers and Indigenous nations. To cope with these challenges, survivors turned to traditional practices as well as new goods and ideas introduced by the European newcomers to recover and persevere.