Orono, Penobscot Chief


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Orono was a Penobscot chief, born on the Penobscot River in Maine in about 1688. According to one tradition he was a descendant of Baron de Castine, and although Williamson, who seems to have seen him and was familiar with his later career, is disposed to reject this story.

From Orono’s own admissions it is possible that he was a son of Castine’s daughter, who married a Frenchman, and with her children was taken captive in 1704.

Nickolar, who was related to Orono by marriage, asserted, according to Williamson, that Orono was in some way related to old Castine; moreover he asserts that Orono was not of full blood, but part white,”a half breed or more.”

Orono informed Capt. Munsell (Williamson, op. cit., 83) that his father was a Frenchman and his mother half French and half Indian. He had none of the physical characteristics of an Indian save that he was tall, straight, and well proportioned.

Very little is known of him until he had passed his 50th year. That he embraced the Roman Catholic faith while comparatively young, and that he was only a subordinate chief until he had reached his 75th year, are confirmed by the scanty records of his history.

Until 1759 Tomasus, or Tomer, was head-chief of the Penobscot, when he was succeeded by Osson, who in turn was succeeded by Orono about 1770 or 1774. These three were ardent advocates of peace at the commencement of the French and Indian war in 1754, and until war was declared against the tribe by the English colonists.

In 1775 Orono and three of his colleagues went, with one Andrew Gilman as interpreter, to profess their friendship and to tender their services to the Massachusetts government.

They met the Provincial Congress at Watertown on June 21, where they entered into a treaty of amity with that body and offered assistance, and afterward proved faithful allies of the colonists during their struggle for independence.

Orono was held in as high esteem after the war as before; and in 1785 and 1796 entered into treaties with Massachusetts, by which his tribe ceded certain portions of their lands and fixed permanent limits to the parts reserved.

At the time of the latter treaty Orono is said to have reached his 108th year. He died at his home at Oldtown, aine., Feb. 5. 1802.

His wife. who was a full blood Indian and his almost lifelong compainon, served him a few years.  Orono had a son, who was accidently shot about 1774, aged 25 years; and a daughter who married Capt. Nickolar. 

Orono was buried in the cemetery at Stillwater,Penobscot County, Maine, in the vicinity of the town that bears his name.