Identification. The Maliseet are an American Indian group located in New Brunswick and southern Quebec in Canada and northern Maine in the United States. The name "Maliseet" appears to have been given by the neighboring Micmac to whom the Maliseet language sounded like faulty Micmac; the word "Maliseet" may be glossed "lazy, poor or bad speakers." The term the Maliseet use for themselves, Wδlastδkwiyδk," is derived from the name they gave to the St. John River, in the drainage area of which they dwell; it means "people of the St. John River" or, more exactly, "people of the beautiful, good, pleasant river."
Location. The ancestors of the Maliseet (the sixteenthand seventeenth-century Etechemin) occupied not only the St. John River drainage region but also the west shore of the Bay of Fundy and the Gulf of Maine, as well as the rivers flowing into it south to about the sixty-eighth meridian. During the 1600s and 1700s the Etechemin or Maliseet shared use of the south shore of the St. Lawrence River with the Micmac, the Montagnais, and the Abnaki upstream to near Quebec City. Today the Maliseet live primarily in New Brunswick, northern Maine, and southeastern Quebec and form one language group with the Passamaquoddy who live to the south in Maine near the New Brunswick border. The Region is one of mixed deciduous and evergreen forests, interspersed with rivers, streams, and interconnected lakes. Intervales along the St. John River provided the opportunity for some horticulture from the late 1600s on. Precipitation is generally abundant throughout the year. In the interior, it is hot and humid in summer, cold and snowy in winter, with less extreme weather along the Bay of Fundy and to a lesser degree along the St. Lawrence.
Demography. In 1612 the Etechemin numbered less than 1,000, and their numbers declined greatly in the 1600s and 1700s, owing to epidemics and the loss of traditional lifeways. Early in the 1970s, 1,812 Maliseets were enumerated on official band lists, representing a steady increase since around 1870. Better employment opportunities attracted Maliseets to southern New England during World War II, although many families have since returned to New Brunswick.
Linguistic Affiliation. The Maliseet speak a language of the eastern subdivision of Algonkian. The Abnaki (Penobscot) of Maine and Quebec (St. Francis Abnaki) speak Languages closest to that of the Maliseet and Passamaquoddy.