Who are the Mohican Indians?

J.L. Drede

The Mohican Indians, also referred to as Mahican Indians, are a Native America tribe originally from the Hudson River Valley. The tribe's original home was along the Delaware River, which they named the Mahicannituck. They called themselves the Muhheconneok, which translates to the people of the waters that are never still. According to official tribe history, before Europeans settled in the area, the Mohican territory spread north to south from Lake Champlain to Manhattan and west to east from Schoharie Creek in New York all the way to Massachusetts, Vermont and Connecticut.

Like many Native American groups, the Mohican used canoes for trading, fishing, and warfare.
Like many Native American groups, the Mohican used canoes for trading, fishing, and warfare.

European contact with the Mohican Indians began in 1609 when a Dutch trader by the name of Henry Hudson traveled into the territory. The Mohicans established trade with the Dutch early on, but the area quickly became volatile. Much of the conflict stemmed from battles over the area's dwindling fur trade between the Mohicans and the Mohawks, a rival Indian tribe. Additionally both tribes would become involved in conflicts between Dutch, English and French.

By the early 1700s, the Mohicans were driven from the area. Traveling east along the Hudson River they eventually settled in areas that would become the states Massachusetts and Connecticut. With land being taken over both by the rival Mohawk tribe and European nations, the Mohicans found themselves relying more on the goods of Europeans. Many also turned to Christianity during this time as well. Many of these Mohicans, along with members of other American Indian tribes who were converted to Christianity, found home in the town of Stockbridge. Indians in this this town, which resides in what is now Massachusetts, fought side by side with European troops in both the French-Indian and American Revolutionary War.

Over time the constant moving, conflict and deadly diseases such as measles and smallpox, which were brought over by the Europeans, decimated the Mohican numbers. The remaining forces were not enough to fight off the settlers, who later demanded the Indian tribes leave Stockbridge, even after they helped them fight the British soldiers during the American Revolutionary War. The Mohican Indians moved further west, eventually settling in what is now Wisconsin. Together with the Munsee Indians they make up the Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohican Indians, a large Native American reservation in Bowler, Wisconsin.

Mohican culture has left an indelible mark on Western civilization. In 1826, author James Fenimore Cooper published his book "The Last of the Mohicans," which has been adapted into film several times. A more recent sign of the tribe's influence is what the British call a "mohican" haircut, shaded on the sides with a stripe in the middle. Ironically, in the United States this haircut is called a mohawk, named after the Mohicans' rival tribe.

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Discussion Comments

Nice touch about the hairstyle in the U.S. known as the "Mohawk" being named after the Mohicans' rival tribe. Learn something new every day, seemingly.

By the way, a fascinating topic would be one on Cherokee Indians. Identifying what an honest-to-goodness "Cherokee" is in the 21st century would be a heck of a task.

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