- Alternate use: There are several places named after the Penobscot people: see Penobscot (disambiguation).
The Penobscot are a sovereign people indigenous to what is now the northeastern U.S. and Maritime Canada, particularly Maine.
They were and are a significant participant in the historical and present Abenaki confederacy (or Wabanaki confederacy ), along with the Passamaquoddy, Maliseet and Mi'kmaq nations.
The word "Penobscot" originates from a mispronunciation of their name "Penawapskewi."
Even so, the tribe has adopted the name Penobscot Indian Nation.
Penobscot is also the name the dialect of Eastern Akenaki (an Algonquian language) that the Penobscot people speak. This dialect is also known as Old Town or Old Town Penobscot.
Their reservation is surrounded by the waters of the Penobscot River, in Penobscot County. This large river runs from their sacred mountain to the north, Mt. Katahdin, down through the state to Penobscot Bay. It was along this river that they made seasonal pilgrimages to the ocean for seafood, and then back inland for moose, deer, elk and bear hunting, as weather dictated.
Mt. Katahdin remains a sacred place for these people, and as such travel to the top of the mountain is considered taboo. There is an angry god who resides in Pomola Peak.
Pamola is a lower god in the spiritual belief system of the Penawapskewi. Pamola was an angry god, and due to his trickster behaviour, was sent to Mt. Katahdin for eternity by the power of the highest god, Gluskab.
These people have a prehistoric tie to the river, such that it long ago became a part of their identity. The name of their tribe is the name of a place on the river where they spent most of their time thoughout the year, a place "where the white rocks are," also identified as "where the river widens."
The insignia of this tribe, evidenced in their art and design, is the fiddlehead, in this case an immature frond of the Ostrich fern (Matteuccia struthiopteris L.) that grows along the banks of the Penobscot River. Fiddleheads of this fern are a delicacy, and are one of the first "blooms" appearing after the harsh winters of the region, thus considered a gift from a spiritual higher power: a reward for having survived the winter.
This tribe became federally recognized through the Maine Land Claims Act of 1980.
see also Abenaki