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Pronunciations of Abenaki

The common pronunciation of Abenaki in the United States is [A-ben-A-kee], but as a result of the imposition of two different settler colonial regimes there are three different pronunciations in use. In the original language of Western Abenaki it is pronounced [waw-BAN-a-KEE ], in Canada it is pronounced [a-BEN-a-KEE ], and in the United States [A-ben-A-kee]. Please click the link below for a recording of these three different versions by Jesse Bruchac, director of the Middlebury Language School of Abenaki, followed by pronunciations by these Native speakers: Cecile Wawanolet (Troy, Ny; Odanak, PQ), Simosis Obomsawin (Thompson's Point, VT), Elvine Obomsawin (Thompson's Point, VT), and Ambrose Obomsawin (Odanak, PQ).

Historically, how the word “Abenaki” has been spelled in historical documents offers evidence of numerous ways it was heard by non-speakers, such as Abnaki, Abanake, Abanakee, Abenakee and others. Even among the Vermont Abenaki community there have been variant ways of saying the word. Chief Homer St. Francis often said it as “Abernaki,” with an “r” sound. Before the coming of Europeans, there were literally dozens of different Abenaki communities throughout what is now Vermont and New Hampshire with their own tribal names and, often, differing dialects.

Click to hear the pronunciations.