Mohican Tribe

Mohican Native American Indian

The Mohican Tribe (Mohegan)
Summary and Definition: The Mohican tribe, aka the Mohegan, inhabited the northern end of the Hudson valley, in present-day New York, southern Vermont, western Massachusetts and the northwest of Connecticut. Once a strong powerful nation, they became embroiled in the French and Indian Wars (1688-1763). By 1782 only 138 Mohicans remained.

What language did the Mohican tribe speak?
The Mohican tribe spoke in a related dialect of the Algonquian language family. The meaning of the name 'Mohican' is derived from the Algonquin word "Muhhekunneuw" meaning "people of the waters that are never still". The Mohican (Mohegan) tribe were originally part of the Pequot people from the upper Hudson River Valley in New York near Lake Champlain. During the early 1500's the people moved to the Thames River Valley in southeastern Connecticut and split into two tribes, the Mohican and the Pequot. The Mohican (Mohegan) tribe established their territory in the inland forest areas of the upper and western portions of the Thames Valley, whereas the Pequot settled closer to the Connecticut coast.

What was the lifestyle and culture of the Mohican tribe?
The Mohican tribe were hunters and farmers who raised crops of beans, corn and squash. They were a powerful, highly organized tribe who lived in heavily fortified villages of longhouses or in temporary shelters of wigwams (wetu) during the summer hunting season. Like the Pequot, the Mohican tribe had a strong political structure. Their leader was a grand sachem who was supported by a tribal council. In 1633 the Mohican became allies of the English, an alliance that lasted for nearly a century. They were the bitter enemies of the tribes of the Iroquois Confederacy, especially the Mohawk tribe who frequently attacked their villages. The Mohican tribe supported the British throughout the French and Indian Wars (1688-1763). Disease and warfare reduced the number of Mohicans to just 138 by the the 1782 census and they joined the Oneida tribe. The destruction of the Mohican tribe was reflected in the fictitious story of the Last of the Mohicans written by James Fenimore Cooper

The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper
The Last of the Mohicans was written by James Fenimore Cooper in 1826 and is one of the most famous stories in American literature. The story is fictional but no doubt inspired by the fate of so many Native American Indian tribes who faced annihilation due to the encroachment of the early colonists and the devastating diseases that they brought from Europe.

Picture of the Mohican Native Indian
The above picture depicts Etow-Oh-Koam, also known as Nicholas, who was a Chief of the Mohican (Mohegan) of the Turtle Clan. It was painted by the artist Jan Verelst (1796-1872) in London, England in 1710. Etow-Oh-Koam was our Native American leaders who visited Queen Anne seal a treaty with the British. The diplomatic visit was organised by Pieter Schuyler, mayor of Albany, New York. Queen Anne commissioned the portrait of the four "Indian kings". The Chief Etow Oh Koam wore a red cloak draped over his shoulder over a white tunic - these clothes were special and unlike the simple clothing worn by his tribe. His belt was traditional possibly woven from dogbane or other plant fibers and colored with vegetable dyes. An English saber is attached to his waist and he holds a ball-headed wooden club, a favored weapon of the Mohican tribe, demonstrating his connection to the two nations. If you look at the picture you will see a turtle behind the chief's feet, as a symbol of the Turtle Clan of the Mohican.

Where did the Mohican tribe live?
The Mohican (Mohegan) are people of the Northeast Woodland Native American cultural group.   The geography of the region in which they lived dictated the lifestyle and culture of the Mohican tribe.

  • The Northeast Woodland region extended mainly across the New England States, lower Canada, west to Minnesota, and north of the Ohio River
  • Land: Lush woodlands, rivers, ocean
  • Climate: The climate varied according to the location of the tribe
  • Land Animals: The  animals included squirrel, white-tailed deer, raccoon, bears, beavers, moose, and caribou
  • Fish and Sea Mammals: Whales, Seal, Fish and shell fish
  • Crops: The crops grown in the area were corn (maize), pumpkin, squash, beans and tobacco
  • Trees: Poplar, birch, elm, maple, oak, pine, fir trees and spruce

What did the Mohican tribe live in?
The Mohican tribe lived in fortified villages of longhouses in the winter. In the summer when they travelled away on hunting expeditions they built a temporary pyramid or dome shaped shelters called wigwams. The Mohican wigwam was built with wooden frames that were covered with woven mats, sheets of birchbark and animal skins. Ropes were wrapped around the wigwam to hold the birch bark in place.

What clothes did the Mohican wear?
The simple clothes worn by the early Mohican tribe were made from animal skins or birchbark. These included long breechclouts, leggings, long cloaks and shoulder to waist length mantles. These were made from the skins of deer (buckskin) raccoon, beaver, otter and moose. Mohican Women wore wraparound skirts, tunics and cloaks. Moccasins were made of one piece of animal skin with a long tongue and a high collar that could be left up or folded down. The moccasins were greased on the outside for additional waterproofing. The Europeans introduced trade cloth to the Mohican tribe who adopted a more European type of dress.

What food did the Mohican tribe eat?
The food that the Mohican tribe ate included the 'three sisters' staple crops of corn, beans and squash.  Fish such as sturgeon, pike and a variety of shellfish such as oysters, clams, lobsters and scallops were an important part of their food supply. Hunters provided meat from deer (venison), moose, black bear and smaller game like squirrel, rabbit,  duck and wild turkey. The Mohican food also included nuts, vegetables, mushrooms and fruits (blueberries, strawberries and raspberries). The Mohican people used food preservation methods of drying and smoking to ensure that foods was available through the winter months.

Mohican History: What happened to the Mohican tribe?
The following Mohican history timeline details facts, dates and famous landmarks of the people. The Mohican timeline explains what happened to the people of their tribe.

Mohican History Timeline

  • 1500's: The Pequot tribe were originally part of the Mohican (Mohegan) people from Lake Champlain

  • 1500's: European explorers and traders make contact with the Mohican and trading for beaver furs begins

  • 1600's: The people split into two tribes, the Mohican and the Pequot

  • 1619: The New Netherlands was established by the Dutch

  • 1620: The Mayflower ship and the Pilgrims landed in the New World and the Massachusetts Bay Colony founded by John Mason

  • 1620: The Great Migration of English colonists and the encroachment of Native Indian lands begin

  • 1633: The Dutch and English establish trading posts

  • 1633: The Dutch traders begin to provide the Mohawk with guns in order to gain dominance over the Mohican along the Hudson River

  • 1633: The Mohican tribe, led by Uncas, become allied to the English

  • 1634: Epidemics of smallpox and measles are spread by the Europeans

  • 1634: The alliance with the English drew the Mohicans into the Pequot War (1634-1638). English colonists commanded by John Mason and their allies, the Mohican and the Narragansett tribes waged war against the Pequot. The conflict resulted in the near annihilation of the Pequot tribe

  • 1636: Connecticut was settled by colonists, led by Thomas Hooker

  • 1636: Rhode Island was settled by Roger Williams and Anne Hutchinson

  • 1638: The Treaty of Hartford on September 21, 1638 saw the end of the Pequot War and the Mohican and Narragansett tribes were given some of the Pequot lands

  • 1638: The Narrangansett come into conflict with the Mohican tribe over control of the conquered Pequot lands. The Mohicans defeated a Narragansett invasion force of about 1,000 warriors

  • 1675: The Mohican tribe become involved in during King Philip's War (1675-1676)

  • 1688: The French and Indian Wars (1688-1763) begin marking the outbreak of King William's War (1688-1699) and the Mohican serve as English scouts

  • 1702: Queen Anne's War (1702-1713) and the tribe again serve as English scouts

  • 1710: Etow Oh Koam accompanied three Iroquois chiefs on a state visit to Queen Anne in England in 1710. They were popularly referred to as the Four Kings

  • 1738: The Mohican tribe give a missionary named John Sergeant permission to start a mission in the village. The European inhabitants gave this place the name "Stockbridge" after a village in England. From that time on the tribe became Christianized and became known as the Stockbridge Indians

  • 1744: King George's War (1744 - 1748)

  • 1754: French Indian War (1754 - 1763), also known as the 7 year war, was the fourth and final series of conflicts in the French and Indian Wars fought between the British and the French. Both sides were aided by Native Indian allies

  • 1763: French and Indian War ends in victory for the British ending the colony of New France

  • 1767: The famous "Mason land court case" was decided against the Mohican Tribe

  • 1775: The Christian Indians moved away from English settlements to upstate New York. That migration became known as the Brothertown movement

  • 1776: The War of Independence (17751783)

  • 1782: In the 1782 census, 138 Mohicans were counted. Their culture had disappeared and their tribal lands were lost. The Mohican Tribe was left with only 2,700 acres of land, most of which was unsuitable for agriculture

  • 1785: The Oneida tribe offered the Stockbridge Mohican a portion of their farmlands and forests. The Stockbridge Mohican accepted the invitation and moved to New Stockbridge, near Oneida Lake

  • 1826: Author James Fenimore Cooper publishes his book "The Last of the Mohicans"

Mohican History Timeline

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