Maliseet Indian Tribe (Malecite, Malécites, Skicin, Maliseet Indians)
AUTHOR: Orrin Lewis
The Maliseet tribe belonged to the loose confederation of eastern American Indians known as the Wabanaki Alliance, together with the Passamaquoddy, Penobscot, Mi'kmaq, and Abenaki Indians.
The Maliseet live primarily in Canada, especially New Brunswick, with one band across the border in nearby Maine (the US granted official recognition to the Maine tribe in 1980). Older literature sometimes refers to them as "St. John's Indians," though there's no evidence they ever used that term themselves. The Maliseet's own name for themselves is Wolastoqiyik (Maliseet is a Mi'kmaq word for someone who can't talk very well,) but today they are usually known as Maliseets or Malecites.
The Maliseet and Passamaquoddy people were closely related neighbors who shared a common language, but though the French referred to both tribes collectively as Etchemin, they always considered themselves politically independent. The tribes of the east coast were extremely confusing to the Europeans, who couldn't understand why there were dozens of small groups of Native Americans who lived together yet claimed to be separate nations. What the Europeans did not realize was that the east coast had not been nearly as empty before they got there. Smallpox and other European diseases had decimated the Indian populations, and they regrouped as best they could.
The Maliseet and Passamaquoddy, near relatives and long-time allies who spoke dialects of the same language, banded together against European and Iroquois aggression with their neighbors the Abenakis, Penobscots, and Micmacs. The resulting Wabanaki Confederacy was no more than a loose alliance, however, and neither the Passamaquoddy nor the Maliseet nation ever gave up their sovereignty.
Maliseet-Passamaquoddy is an Algonquian language with two major dialects: Maliseet (or Malécite), spoken mainly in New Brunswick, and Passamaquoddy (or Peskotomuhkati), spoken mostly in Maine. There are 1500 speakers of both dialects combined. Very few people in the younger generations speak Maliseet or (especially) Passamaquoddy, which means that the language will die out within this century unless language revival efforts can successfully restore its use among Passamaquoddy and Maliseet children.
SOURCE:This article first appeared at www.native-languages.org, one of the best online resources for Native Languages of the Americas.