Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Mohicans and the Stockbridge Mohicans

The word "Mohican" in the names of this park and other places in Ohio, reflects the fact that Mohicans were leaving their homeland and moving into the Ohio River Valley as early as the late 1600's.

By 1740 most Mohicans had disappeared from the Hudson River Valley. In fact, many of them had been living in the Ohio River Valley for generations. Over time, these "western" Mohicans intermarried with tribes like the Miami, the Delaware, or possibly with frontier whites. Ultimately, they did not maintain their Mohican identity.

Meanwhile, back in their homeland, the once-mighty Mohican nation was struggling to survive as a result of the changes brought about by over one hundred years of white contact. The fur trade brought about a dependence on white goods, problems with alcohol, an increased competition with other Native nations for resources, bloodier warfare, and, of course, devastating European-imported diseases like smallpox.

So by the 1740's, changes in both the natural environment and the surviving population resulted in the once-mighty Mohican nation being spread out in small, scattered communities.

The history of the Stockbridge Mohicans began when two Mohican villages along the Housatonic River in what is now Massachusetts, decided to accept a Christian mission. The residents of those two villages got more than they bargained for: instead of just teaching a new religion and teaching the children to read, the Indians' British neighbors imposed the structure of white culture upon them. Most notably, the two villages were soon gathered into one town which the British called Stockbridge.

The popularity of Stockbridge, Massachusetts - for both religious and non-religious reasons - made it the Council Fire - in other words, the capital city - of what was left of the Mohican Nation. However, it bears noting that many of the Indians that joined the Stockbridge community were Wappingers or other non-Mohican Indians.

Or were they?

The way some people now use the term "Mohican," anybody who is descended from the Stockbridge Indians is a Mohican, so it doesn't then matter if your ancestors were Naragansetts or some mix of Algonkian-speaking refugees: As long as you are descended from the Indians of Stockbridge, Massachusetts, New Stockbridge, New York, and/or Stockbridge, Wisconsin, you can call yourself a "Mohican."

And why not?

My point is not to prevent a group of people from calling themselves whatever they want, but rather to end the confusion and the talking past one another that often results from cases like this where one word means two different things.

Or do I have it completely wrong?

You tell me.


Dunn, Shirley. (2000) The Mohican World, 1680-1750

Frazier, Patrick. (1992) The Mohicans of Stockbridge

Sultzman, Lee. Mahican History


Frank Black said...

Great blog.

Darren said...


Once again you have raised a very interesting discussion topic, one too scary and political for most "Mohicans" to even talk about. My favorite example of the evolution of "Mohican" identity was the repatriation of the "Black Hawk Belt" under NAGPRA from the Chicago Field Museum (which would make an interesting blog entry itself) a few years back. This belt was listed in the records of the museum as having been purchased from a "Brotherton" Indian in 1900 who was living in proximity to the "Stockbridge Reservation" - questionable as to whether there was a "reservation" legally at that time, but nontheless in the neighborhood of where it once was. The Stockbridge-Munsee Tribe claimed cultural patrimony over the belt after providing "expert" testimony that "any Brotherton Indian living on the reservation at that time would have been considered a full member of the Stockbridge Tribe". Really?...Really?...once more for good effort, Really? So apparently any Brotherton/town that lived on or near Stockbridge must also be Mohican. Too bad this logic doesn't apply to the Welch family otherwise we'd all be calling up our cousins on the rez and asking for our enrollment applications.

Darren Kroenke (Brothertown Indian - Skeesuck/Welch descendant)

Jeff Siemers said...

Thanks for your comment Darren.

While I don't want to stir the pot too much, this post was about something that really has "stuck in my craw."

maaliish said...

This is a pot that might need stirring. I understand that the Stockbridge-Munsee are not pure Mohican but I prefer using Mahican as we are a "band" of Mohicans. We even have some backroom discussions about the Munsee part...because we are learning the Munsee dialect of Lunaape
We learn from our Canadian brother/sister tribes. We are having a history conference this week and one objective is to explain "who we are".

maaliish said...

I wrote a comment and don't know where it went. This pot needs some stirring. It is important that we know who we are. A group of mixed tribal blood. No pure Mohicans, but we are a band of Mohicans so that's how I identify. We are Munsee-Mahicans because they specifically are identified. We are learning the Munsee dialect of the Lunaape language and for some that just means an opposing view. Munsee is spoken, Mohican is not. Our goal was to learn Munsee first and then try to reconstruct what language was written down. We need to know who we are. I hear the Brothertown argument but since you've formed your own tribe I don't know what to do. It was all in how they told the government who they were. Some were real honest, some knew enough to say Full.

Kikayeet said...

Not all of us speak Munsee. Some of us have been for years have been learning Mohican and speaking it, so it is spoken here but only by a few. Also many speak Onieda, Ojibwe, Menominee etc for our tribe is and always has been mixed with other Natives. There never was a "Fullblood" Mohican or any other type of Native for that matter. Tribes had for thousands of years swapped members either through consented marriage, war, etc.

If it comes down to how much blood of whatever Native we are to have for identity we may as well just call ourselve Menominee. Living next door to them for 150 years gave us alot of other Native blood.

I am from many other Native bloodlines, but I call myself Mohican. It is the language I speak, the history I follow, and I know the true origin and and meaning of the word "Mahicannuk." It is the lineage I follow on my own choice, I cant speak for the tribe as a whole. But all through our history it has been documented that We are the remnants of the vast Mohican Nation. Many of our people absorbed into other tribes but they make no public acknowledgement (Such as in thier name) of recognizing Mohicans.

There may be "Pureblodd" Native Americans, but there hasnt been any "Pureblood" tribes....ever. Intermarriages have been going on since the beginning. This blood quantum thing is an illusion. There are no accurate BQ stats.

We can get into dumb debates on who has the right to call themselves a tribe that is proven bloodline for the last 400 years. Just as well, we could debate who has the right to call themselves Native American. But why? We all are mixed with more than we know. I can trace Mohican through my bloodline so I have every right to claim it and not have to claim and follow possibly 4 other tibes that I know I am mixed with. Those tribes have peoples to carry on that lineage, history, and language. It is confused people wo forget who they are and allow thier peoples culture and history to die out. I may be of many tribal peoples and non Natives, but I am 100% Mohican. Last I checked I am full of blood! SO yes the Mohicans ARE still around and will be for a long time. If that offends you well.....I lose no sleep over it.

All this talk of "Purebloods" is totally retarted! I need no fantasy stats to tell me who I am or who I am not. I definately dont need any human being to try to school me on who I am or where our people come from. The Mohican spirit still exists and is recognized by its people. Til the day we forget it, or it is replaced by something other than who we have always acknowledged ourselves to be....We are still here!