Monday, August 10, 2009

William Dick: The Last to Speak Mohican

Do you remember when a petition to start a new Presbyterian church was placed on the Stockbridge Bible? (Some of the older Stockbridge Mohicans signed it with tears in their eyes.) The new church, of course, was named after John Sergeant, the tribe's first missionary. The three elders of the new church were William C. Davids, Jamison "Sote" Quinney, and William Dick (remember the photo of him sitting next to the steel safe?).

William Dick's Indian name was "Makwa Monpuy" or "Maq-wau-pey," according to the front page of The Milwaukee Journal on Wednesday, November 8, 1933 (see image above). The death of William Dick the day before at age 76 made the front page because he was the "Last of the Mohicans" as the newspaper put it, explaining that he "often repeated" that "the Mohican tongue was forgotten by all but himself."

William Dick was born in Stockbridge, Wisconsin where he learned to speak "lingering musical remnants of his native tongue" from his grandmother. He moved to the Shawano County reservation and then around 1914 he moved to Milwaukee to be close to his daughter and grandson.

The article states that Professor Franklin Speck of the University of Pennsylvania discovered "Dick's value to science." How that happened is not made clear, but the Journal did record that in 1932 anthropologists from the University of Chicago "sought his help in recording the ancient tribal tongue." He was understandably "a little dusty on the nouns and verbs, but Miss Olive Eggan...went back with a portfolio bulging with more than 300 Mohican words in their various forms."

As you may know, today's Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohican Indians has a language committee. Hopefully they are trying to get ahold of the recordings in the portfolio at the University of Chicago.


clem healy said...

I am currently attending college & am writing a paper about Native American ministers. I am aware of two from LI, Rev.Paul Cuffee & Samson Occum, and one from NE, William Apres. If anyone knows of others, especially from the 17th & 18th centuries, I would appreciate the information. I may be reached at
Thanks to anyone who may wish to respond.

Jeff Siemers said...

Hi Clem. Jeremiah Slingerland was a Stockbridge Mohican and ministered to his own people. I've done lots of research on him, but only wrote a few posts so far. My current posts about Sergeant and Occom is intended as an introduction to a series of posts about Slingerland.