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"Mohican" redirects here. For other uses, see Mohican (disambiguation).
Not to be confused with the Mohegans, a different Algonquian-speaking tribe living in eastern (upper Thames valley) Connecticut.

Historic territory of the Mahicans.
Regions with significant populations
 United States (Shawano County, Wisconsin)
English, (originally Mahican)
Moravian Church
Related ethnic groups
Lenape, Mohegan, Pequot

The Mahican (/məˈhiːkən/; also Mohican /moʊˈhiːkən/) are an Eastern Algonquian Native American tribe, originally settled in the Hudson River Valley (around Albany, NY) and western New England. After 1680, many moved to Stockbridge, Massachusetts. Since the 1830s, most descendants of the Mahican are located in Shawano County, Wisconsin, where they formed the federally recognized Stockbridge-Munsee Community with Lenape people and have a 22,000-acre (8,900 ha) reservation.

Following the disruption of the American Revolutionary War, most of the Mahican descendants first migrated westward to join the Iroquois Oneida on their reservation in central New York. The Oneida gave them about 22,000 acres for their use. After more than two decades, in the 1820s and 1830s, the Oneida and the Stockbridge moved again, pressured to relocate to northeastern Wisconsin under the federal Indian Removal program.[1] The tribe's name for itself (autonym) was Muhhekunneuw, Muh-he-con-neok, or "People of the waters that are never still", referring to their tribal territory in the Valley of the Hudson River (Mahicannituck - ″waters that are never still″). Therefore, they along with tribes also living along the Hudson River - like the Munsee and Wappinger, were called "the River Indians" by the Dutch and English. The Dutch botched the name of the Wolf Clan ('Manhigan') in Mahigan, Mahikander, Mahinganak, Maikan and Mawhickon, which the English simplified later to Mahican or Mohican. The French translated the Clan name and therefore called them Loups (wolves).

Joining with a Munsee-speaking group of the Lenape in Wisconsin, they have formed a federally recognized tribe known as the Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohican Indians. They share a 22,000-acre reservation in Wisconsin. Since the late twentieth century, they have developed the successful North Star Mohican Resort and Casino to generate revenues for the tribe.

In the late twentieth century, they joined other former New York tribes and the Oneida in filing land claims against New York state for what were considered unconstitutional purchases after the Revolutionary War. In 2010, outgoing governor David Paterson announced a land exchange with the Stockbridge-Munsee that would enable them to build a large casino on 330 acres (130 ha) in Sullivan County in the Catskills, in exchange for dropping their larger claim in Madison County. The deal has many opponents.



The Mahican were living in and around the Mahicannituck Hudson Valley, along the Mohawk River and Hoosic River at the time of their first contact with Europeans after 1609, during the settlement of New Netherland. The Mahican territory was bounded on the northwest by Lake Champlain and Lake George and on the northeast by the Pocomtuc Confederacy, Pennacook Confederacy (also known as Merrimack or Pawtucket) and the Connecticut River Valley, which was inhabited by the Sokoki of the Western Abenaki. The Pocomtuc, Pennacook and Western Abenaki formed together with Eastern Abenaki, Maliseet (Wolastoqiyik), Passamaquoddy (Peskotomuhkati or Pestomuhkati) and Mi'kmaq the mighty Wabanaki Confederacy. In the south it stretched to the Roeliff Jansen Kill (in present day Columbia County), including both sides of the Mahicannituck (Hudson River), in the east into Massachusetts, into the Green Mountains in Vermont and Connecticut, to the southeast it was bounded by the Housatonic River in western Massachusetts and western Connecticut, in the southwest by the Catskill Creek, which formed the border to the territory of the Munsee (also known as Northern Delaware, a subtribe of the Lenape) and in the west by the Schoharie Creek.

Mahican Confederacy

The Mahican were a confederacy rather than a single tribe, and at the time of contact, had five main divisions:

  • Mahican proper (lived in the vicinity of today's Albany (Pempotowwuthut-Muhhcanneuw - "the fireplace of the Mohican nation") west towards the Mohawk River and to the northwest to Lake Champlain and Lake George)
  • Mechkentowoon (lived along the west shore of the Hudson River above the Catskill Creek)
  • Wawyachtonoc (Wawayachtonoc - ″eddy people″ or ″people of the curving channel″, lived in Dutchess County and Columbia County eastward to the Housatonic River in Litchfield County, Connecticut, main village was Weantinock, additional villages: Shecomeco, Wechquadnach, Pamperaug, Bantam, Weataug, Scaticook)
  • Westenhuck (from hous atenuc - ″on the other side of the mountains″, the name of a village near Great Barrington, Massachusetts. Often called the Housatonic people, they lived in the Housatonic Valley in Connecticut and Massachusetts and in the vicinity of Great Barrington, which they called Mahaiwe, meaning "the place downstream")[2]
  • Wiekagjoc (from wikwajek - ″Upper reaches of a river″, lived east of the Hudson Rivers near the city of Hudson, Columbia County, New York)[3]

Conflict with the Mohawk

Over the next hundred years, tensions between the Mahican and the Iroquois Mohawk, as well as Dutch and English settlers, caused the Mahican to migrate eastward across the Hudson River into western Massachusetts and Connecticut. Many settled in the town of Stockbridge, Massachusetts, where they gradually became known as the Stockbridge Indians. Etow Oh Koam, one of their chiefs, accompanied three Mohawk chiefs on a state visit to Queen Anne and her government in England in 1710. They were popularly referred to as the Four Mohawk Kings.

The Stockbridge Indians allowed Protestant Christian missionaries, including Jonathan Edwards, to live among them. In the 18th century, many converted to Christianity, while keeping certain traditions of their own. They fought on the side of the British colonists in the French and Indian War (also known as the Seven Years' War). During the American Revolution, they sided with the British.

In the eighteenth century, some of the Mohican developed strong ties with missionaries of the Moravian Church from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, who founded a mission at their village of Shekomeko in Dutchess County, New York. Henry Rauch reached out to two Mohican leaders, Maumauntissekun, also known as Shabash; and Wassamapah, who took him back to Shekomeko. They named him the new religious teacher. Over time, Rauch won listeners, as the Mohicans had suffered much from disease and warfare, which had disrupted their society. Early in 1742, Shabash and two other Mohican accompanied Rauch to Bethlehem, where he was to be ordained as a deacon. The three Mohicans were baptized on February 11, 1742 in John de Turk’s barn nearby at Oley, Pennsylvania. Shabash was the first Mohican of Shekomeko to adopt the Christian religion.[4] The Moravians built a chapel for the Mohican people in 1743. They defended the Mohican against European settlers' exploitation, trying to protect them against land encroachment and abuses of liquor. Native Americans were alcohol-intolerant and vulnerable to it.

On a 1738 visit to New York, the Mohican spoke to the Governor concerning the sale of their land near Shekomeko. The Governor promised they would be paid as soon as the lands were surveyed. He suggested that for their own security, they should mark off their square mile of land they wished to keep, which the Mohican never did. In September 1743 the land was finally surveyed and divided into lots, one of which ran through the Indians' reserved land. With some help from the missionaries, on October 17, 1743 Shabash put together a petition of names of people who could attest that the land in which one of the lots was running through was theirs. Despite Shabash’s appeals, his persistence, and the missionaries' help, the Mohican lost the case.[5] The lots were eventually bought up by European-American settlers and the Mohican were forced out of Shekomeko. Some who opposed the missionaries' work accused them of being secret Catholic Jesuits (who had been outlawed from the colony in 1700) and of working with the Mohican on the side of the French. The missionaries were summoned more than once before colonial government, but also had supporters. In the late 1740s the colonial government at Poughkeepsie expelled the missionaries from New York, in part because of their advocacy of Mohican rights. Settlers soon took over the Mahican land.[6]

In August 1775, the Six Nations staged a big council fire near Albany, after news of Bunker Hill had made war seem imminent. After much debate, they decided that such a war was a private affair between the British and the colonists (known as Patriots), and that they should stay out of it. Mohawk Chief Joseph Brant feared that the Indians would lose their lands if the colonists achieved independence. Sir William Johnson, his son John Johnson and son-in-law Guy Johnson and Brant used all their influence to engage the Iroquois to fight for the British cause. The Mohawk, Onondaga, Cayuga, and Seneca ultimately became allies and provided warriors for the battles in the New York area. The Oneida and Tuscarora sided with the Patriots. The Mahican, who as Algonquians were not part of the Iroquois Confederacy, sided with the Patriots, serving at the Siege of Boston, and the battles of Saratoga and Monmouth. In 1778 they lost fifteen warriors in a British ambush at the Bronx, New York, and later received a commendation from George Washington.

Later, the citizens of the new United States forced many Native Americans off their land and westward. In the 1780s, groups of Stockbridge Indians moved from Massachusetts to a new location among the Oneida people in western New York, who were granted a 300,000-acre (120,000 ha) reservation for their service to the Patriots, out of their former territory of 6,000,000 acres (2,400,000 ha). They called their settlement New Stockbridge. Some individuals and families, mostly people who were old or those with special ties to the area, remained behind at Stockbridge.

The central figures of Mahican society, including the chief sachem and his counselors and relatives, were part of the move to New Stockbridge. At the new town, the Stockbridge emigrants controlled their own affairs and combined traditional ways with the new as they chose. After learning from the Christian missionaries, the Stockbridge Indians were experienced in English ways. At New Stockbridge they replicated their former town. While continuing as Christians, they retained their language and Mahican cultural traditions. In general, their evolving Mahican identity was still rooted in traditions of the past.[7]

Removal to Wisconsin

In the 1820s and 1830s, most of the Stockbridge Indians moved to Shawano County, Wisconsin, where they were promised land by the US government under the policy of Indian removal. In Wisconsin, they settled on reservations with the Lenape (called Munsee after one of their major dialects), who were also speakers of one of the Algonquian languages. Together, the two formed a band and are federally recognized as the Stockbridge-Munsee Community.

The now extinct Mahican language belonged to the Eastern Algonquian branch of the Algonquian language family. It was an Algonquian N-dialect, as were Massachusett and Wampanoag. In many ways, it was similar to one of the L-dialects, like that of the Lenape, and could be considered one.

Their 22,000-acre reservation is known as that of the Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohican Indians and is located near the town of Bowler. Since the late twentieth century, they have developed the North Star Mohican Resort and Casino on their reservation, which has successfully generated funds for tribal welfare and economic development.[8]

Land claims

In the late twentieth century, the Stockbridge-Munsee were among tribes filing land claims against New York, which had been ruled to have unconstitutionally acquired land from Indians without Senate ratification. The Stockbridge-Munsee filed a land claim against New York state for 23,000 acres (9,300 ha) in Madison County, the location of its former property. In 2011, outgoing governor David Paterson announced having reached a deal with the tribe. They would be given nearly 2 acres (0.81 ha) in Madison County and give up their larger claim in exchange for the state's giving them 330 acres of land in Sullivan County in the Catskill Mountains, where the government was trying to encourage economic development. The federal government had agreed to take the land in trust, making it eligible for development as a gaming casino, and the state would allow gaming, an increasingly important source of revenue for American Indians. Race track and casinos, private interests and other tribes opposed the deal.[8]

Representation in other media

James Fenimore Cooper based his novel, The Last of the Mohicans, on the Mahican tribe. His description includes some cultural aspects of the Mohegan, a different Algonquian tribe that lived in eastern Connecticut. Cooper set his novel in the Hudson Valley, Mahican land, but used some Mohegan names for his characters, such as Uncas.

The novel has been adapted for the cinema at least half a dozen times, the first time in 1920. Michael Mann directed 1992 adaptation, which starred Daniel Day-Lewis as a Mohican-adopted white man.

Notable members

  • Shabash, leader of the Shekomeko village in the 18th century, took his people's case to the governor of the New York Colony
  • Hendrick Aupaumut, a Revolutionary War hero
  • Electa Quinney, Wisconsin’s first ‘public school’ teacher
  • John Wannuaucon Quinney, diplomat
  • James Apaumut Fall, actor and singer (voice of Kocoum in Disney's Pocahontas)
  • Brent Michael Davids, composer/flautist
  • Bill Miller, musician



  • Brasser, T. J. (1978). "Mahican", in B. G. Trigger (Ed.), Northeast (pp. 198–212). Handbook of North American Indian languages (Vol. 15). Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution.
  • Cappel, Constance, "The Smallpox Genocide of the Odawa Tribe at L'Arbre Croche, 1763", The History of a Native American People, Lewiston, NY: The Edwin Mellen Press, 2007.
  • Conkey, Laura E.; Bolissevain, Ethel; & Goddard, Ives. (1978). "Indians of southern New England and Long Island: Late period", in B. G. Trigger (Ed.), Northeast (pp. 177–189). Handbook of North American Indian languages (Vol. 15). Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution.
  • Salwen, Bert. (1978). "Indians of southern New England and Long Island: Early period", in B. G. Trigger (Ed.), Northeast (pp. 160–176). Handbook of North American Indian languages (Vol. 15). Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution.
  • Simpson, J. A.; & Weiner, E. S. C. (1989). "Mohican", Oxford English Dictionary. Oxford: Clarendon Press. (Online version).
  • Sturtevant, William C. (Ed.). (1978–present). Handbook of North American Indians (Vol. 1-20). Washington, D. C.: Smithsonian Institution.
  • Trigger, Bruce G. (Ed.). (1978). Northeast, Handbook of North American Indians (Vol. 15). Washington, D. C.: Smithsonian Institution.
  • William A. Starna: From Homeland to New Land: A History of the Mahican Indians, 1600-1830. University of Nebraska Press, 2013. ISBN 978-0803244955

External links

  • Stockbridge-Munsee community
  • Mohican nation Stockbridge-Munsee band: Our history
  • Mohican languages (Native Languages of the Americas)
  • Hendrick Aupaumut (Mahican) (1757-1830)
  • Stockbridge-Munsee History
  • Mohican Indians
  • Stockbridge Munsee Tribe Timeline
  • Death In the Bronx The Stockbridge Indian Massacre in 1778 by Richard S. Walling-for reference only
  • Poem Mahican translation by Carl Masthay (linguist, Algonquianist)

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