This section is concerned with the Mohican Indian Nation. This organization originates from members of the Mohican Indian Nation, and has has strong ties with them.
Welcome to the Ancient Mohican Homeland
Welcome to the ancient Mohican homeland, whose boundaries are roughly from the southern shores of Lake Champlain in the north, down to the Catskill Mountains in the south; and from an undefined area between Schenectady and Amsterdam, NY in the west, to and including the western slope of the Berkshire Mountains of Massachusetts, southwestern Vermont, and northwestern Connecticut in the east. This aboriginal territory, characterized largely by forests, mountains, and rivers, was a trade and communication crossroads in the ancient world because of the intersection of the Hudson and Mohawk Rivers in the heart of the Mohican homeland.
The so-called Hudson River was to the Original People the Mohicanituk (spelling modernized), the Great Water that moves both upstream and downstream because it is actually a tidal river, an extension of the Atlantic Ocean. For this and other reasons the River Valley was an extremely rich resource for all that was necessary to the daily lives of the Native people. Various species of ocean-going fish swam upriver to spawn in the Spring. Passenger pigeons, now extinct, migrated here to breed in the hundreds of millions. Plentiful wetlands supplied a wide range of materials for food and the construction of tools. Shellfish were abundant, as were game birds and fur-bearing animals. The annual flooding of the Mohicanituk created rich soils for agriculture. One of the few major sources of flint in the Northeast, Flint Mine Hill in Greene County, NY, lies deep in Mohican territory. Numerous inland lakes provided refuge for the people when the Winter made the Mohicanituk too cold to inhabit. Because of the north-south orientation of the land, the Mohican had use of many more plant species than would be found in some neighboring territories.
History began for the Mohican people on September 15th, 1609, when Henry Hudson and the crew of the Half Moon first sailed up the Mohicanituk in search of Cathay and the Indies. One of the ship's officers, Robert Juet, described them on that first meeting as a "loving people". They were also the first Native people in the Northeast recorded as having been made deliberately drunk by the Europeans. Fur trading with the Dutch began the next year. Within a few years, 90% of the Mohican had died of epidemic disease. The middle 17th century Mohican-Mohawk conflicts for control of the lucrative fur trade (the so-called 'Beaver Wars') further reduced their power, and although they continued to interact with the Dutch and English, they were increasingly marginalized in their own land. In 1736, as a strategy for survival, they founded (with the help of several Christian ministers) and inhabited the town of Stockbridge, Massachusetts, where they first Europeanized and Christianized. From that time on they became known as Stockbridge Indians. During that period they fought as a part of Rogers Rangers (Interestingly, Major Robert Rogers is often considered the "father of modern guerilla warfare", since European armies of the time typically fought on open ground in tight formation. But Rogers didn't originate the idea‚--he got it from Indian people!) against the French in the French and Indian Wars, and as the only Indian tribe to join wholly on the Colonial side in the American Revolution. During the latter war they lost approximately a third of their warriors, about twenty in one brief tragic engagement alone.
When the surviving warriors returned to Stockbridge, they discovered that most of their land had been taken over ('bought' in legalistic terms) by nonNative inhabitants of the town. Unwelcome in their own country, the Stockbridge Mohican began to prepare for their long diaspora or 'wandering' period. By 1783 the bulk of the Tribe had left western Massachusetts and migrated to central New York to settle next to the Oneida Indians, who had offered them land. Although the Mohican are romantically considered to have 'died off' ("The Last of the Mohicans"), in actuality most of them migrated to other parts of the country and joined other Native communities or established their own. The main part of the Tribe moved to Wisconsin and settled on their present reservation in 1856. Today their official name is the Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohicans. Some families and individuals stayed behind, however, mingling their own blood with that of their White and African-American neighbors. In the Hudson Valley today more than a few people have discovered a Mohican Indian among their ancestors.
Although occasional trips by tribal leaders were made to the homeland area during the 19th century, the modern return of Stockbridge-Mohican people to the land of their ancestors began when the James Davids family made a visit to Stockbridge, Mass., in 1951. Since that time an increasing interest in their heritage has led other Tribal members to make similar visits. Today there is little visible sign that the Mohican were once the Original People of the east-central New York and Massachusetts area, but there is some linguistic evidence of places that were significant to them.
The Mohicanituk--also translated by Tribal members as 'The Waters That Are Never Still'--was the central focus of Mohican life four centuries ago. Schodack and Papscanee Islands were major Mohican village sites. Schodack (a Mohican word meaning 'Place of the Fire'; the sound 'ik' at the end of a word means 'place of' in Mohican) Island was the residence of the principal chief and perhaps the place where Henry Hudson was first formally received. Other present-day place names--Taonic, Schaghticoke, Housatonic, and Pontoosic--reflect the aboriginal residences of these people. Archeological sites--the habitation places of their ancestors--still exist in their homeland area, although few have been professionally excavated and many are in danger of being destroyed. In fact, please remember that any place you step in Mohican country, you are mingling with the dust of the bones and blood of their ancestors.
Links of Interest
Links of interest for those who wish to learn more about the Mohicans.
- The Stockbridge-Munsee Community
Official website of the Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohican Indians.
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