Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Blue-eyed Indian

Aside from some of the standard stereotypes and assumptions, most non-Indians really don't know much about today's American Indians. But occasionally something will happen that brings them attention from the media. In 1992, a remake of the movie The Last of the Mohicans (based on the novel by James Fenimore Cooper), prompted a reporter for the Troy [New York] Record to interview Steve Comer, the only enrolled member of the Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohican Indians who lives in the Mohican's ancestral homeland.

The article that resulted from Daniel Lorber's interview of Comer ran under the title "RENSSELAER COUNTY'S LAST MOHICAN: 'Blue-eyed Indian' Last of Line to Walk in Ancestor's Footsteps"(October 11, 1992). (Steve notes that his eyes are "technically Hazel," but appear to be blue at times depending on the lighting.) Newspapers really aren't the best place to get a summary of centuries of tribal history, but this particular article - thanks to Comer's knowledge and Lorber's reporting - is better than most.

Stockbridge Mohicans have told me that as they travel the country and tell people that they are Mohicans they are often told by those people that they no longer exist. Comer spoke to that: "In spite of everything, we've survived, and we want people to know we have survived. We lost our language, our history, our lifeways, but we didn't lose our Indian-ness."

Currently Steve Comer is an Archaeology student working on his PhD and active in promoting a wilderness skills demonstration that will be part of the 400-year commemoration of Henry Hudson's voyage up the river that was home to the Mohicans, but later named after Hudson. I'm grateful that he has appreciated my research into the history of his tribe.

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