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What is a Mohawk Native American?

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  • Written By: Mike Howells
  • Edited By: Michelle Arevalo
  • Last Modified Date: 04 November 2016
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A Mohawk Native American is a Native American who is a member of the Mohawk nation, a particular kind of indigenous North American people originating from upstate New York. The word Mohawk means People of the Flint in Iroquois, which is the original language of the tribe. At its peak, the reach of the Mohawk Native American extended from Eastern Canada to southern New York State.

Native Americans, also called American Indians — and sometimes, incorrectly, simply Indians, existed across the continent of North America before European immigration forced them progressively farther west throughout the 1600s, 1700s, and 1800s. The Mohawk Native American Tribe, part of the larger Iroquois Nation, was first encountered by westerners in the 1600s, when Dutch settlers initially reached the eastern shores of what is now the United States. Mohawk Native American people traded furs with the Dutch, and established a strong alliance that lasted until the Dutch essentially ceded their North American holdings, following the fall of New Amsterdam and its takeover by the English.

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The English, whose influence over the North American continent strengthened a great deal through the turn of the 17th century, attempted to convert the Mohawk Native American people to Christianity, and assimilate them into English culture. Many Mohawks were baptized and took Anglicized names, but the Mohawk Nation remained intact as a separate entity. The tribe remained allied with England during the American Revolutionary War, and again in the War of 1812. This resulted in a great number of Mohawks moving north, into Canada, though significant American populations did ultimately remain.

In the 21st century, the Mohawk Nation is still intact, in New York and southeastern Canada. In both countries, many Mohawk Native American citizens live in special settlements or reservations, though a large proportion live as integrated citizens. 50,000 Mohawks, for instance, are estimated to be living in New York City alone. In Canada, various government initiatives in the 19th and 20th centuries attempted to assimilate Native Americans into Canadian-English culture. While fluency in Iroquois and other historic traditions have fluctuated as a result, a popular resurgence in aboriginal culture, during the the late 20th and early 21st centuries, has led to renewed interest in Mohawk Native American values and customs.

In New York, the Mohawk Native American Tribe has been granted a tribal right to operate gaming establishments as part of the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. The traditional association between Native American tribes and organized gaming dates to the very earliest histories of all the Indian tribes. In the 1970s, various agreements between them and the U.S. federal government laid the groundwork for tribal casinos, mainly as a way for the tribes to become economically self-sufficient. Despite various legal questions, as of 2009, there are two pending applications for Mohawk tribal gaming venues in that state.

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