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The Mingo people are an Iroquoian-speaking group of Native Americans made up of peoples who migrated west to the Ohio Country in the mid-18th century, primarily Seneca and Cayuga. Anglo-Americans called these migrants mingos, a corruption of mingwe, an Eastern Algonquian name for Iroquoian-language groups in general. Mingos have also been called "Ohio Iroquois" and "Ohio Seneca".
Most were forced to move to Indian Territory in the early 1830s under the Indian Removal program. At the turn of the 20th century, they lost control of communal lands when property was allocated to individual households in a government assimilation effort related to the Dawes Act and extinguishing Indian claims to prepare for admission of Oklahoma as a state. In the 1930s Mingo descendants reorganized as a tribe and were recognized in 1937 by the federal government as the Seneca-Cayuga Tribe of Oklahoma.
The Mingo may have been an independent group in the Six Nations of the Iroquois Confederacy. The etymology of the name Mingo derives from the Delaware word, mingwe or Minque as transliterated from their Algonquian language, meaning treacherous or stealthy. In the 17th century, the terms Minqua or Minquaa were used interchangeably to refer to the Iroquois and to the Susquehannock, both Iroquoian-speaking tribes.
The Mingo were noted for having a bad reputation and were sometimes referred to as "Blue Mingo" or "Black Mingo" for their misdeeds. The people who became known as Mingo migrated to the Ohio Country in the mid-eighteenth century, part of a movement of various Native American tribes away from European pressures to a region that had been sparsely populated for decades but controlled as a hunting ground by the Iroquois. The "Mingo dialect" that dominated the Ohio valley from the late 17th to early 18th centuries is considered a variant most similar to the Seneca language.
After the French and Indian War (1754-1763), many Cayuga people moved to Ohio, where the British granted them a reservation along the Sandusky River. They were joined there by Shawnee of Ohio and the rest of the Mingo confederacy. Their villages were increasingly an amalgamation of Iroquoian Seneca, Wyandot and Susquehannock; and Algonquian-language Shawnee and Delaware migrants.
Although the Iroquois Confederacy had claimed hunting rights and sovereignty over much of the Ohio River Valley since the late 17th century, these people increasingly acted independently. When Pontiac's Rebellion broke out in 1763 at the end of the Seven Years' War, many Mingo joined with other tribes in the attempt to drive the British out of the Ohio Country. At that time, most of the Iroquois nations based in New York were closely allied to the British. The Mingo-Seneca Chief Guyasuta (c. 1725–c. 1794) was one of the leaders in Pontiac's War.
Another famous Mingo leader was Chief Logan (c. 1723–1780), who had good relations with neighboring white settlers. Logan was not a war chief, but a village leader. In 1774, as tensions between whites and Indians were on the rise due to a series of violent conflicts, a band of white outlaws murdered Logan's family. Local chiefs counseled restraint, but acknowledged Logan's right to revenge. Logan exacted his vengeance in a series of raids with a dozen followers, not all of whom were Mingos.
His vengeance satisfied, he did not participate in the resulting Lord Dunmore's War. He was not likely to have been at the climactic Battle of Point Pleasant. Rather than take part in the peace conference, he expressed his thoughts in "Logan's Lament." His speech was printed and widely distributed. It is one of the most well-known examples of Native American oratory.
By 1830, the Mingo were flourishing in western Ohio, where they had improved their farms and established schools and other civic institutions. After the US passed the Indian Removal Act in that same year, the government pressured the Mingo to sell their lands and migrate to Kansas in 1832. In Kansas, the Mingo joined other Seneca and Cayuga bands, and the tribes shared the Neosho Reservation.
In 1869, after the American Civil War, the US government pressed for Indian removal to Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma). The three tribes moved to present-day Ottawa County, Oklahoma. In 1881, a band of Cayuga from Canada joined the Seneca Tribe in Indian Territory. In 1902, shortly before Oklahoma became a state, 372 members of the joint tribe received individual land allotments under a federal program to extinguish common tribal land holdings and encourage assimilation to the European-American model.
In 1937 after the Oklahoma Indian Welfare Act, the tribes reorganized. They identified as the Seneca-Cayuga Tribe of Oklahoma and became federally recognized. Today, the tribe numbers over 5,000 members. They continue to maintain cultural and religious ties to the Six Nations of the Iroquois.
- Cobb, William H., Andrew Price and Hu Maxwell (1921), History of the Mingo Indians, Cumberland, Md.: F.B. Jenvy, printer.
- Hoxie, Frederick E., editor (1996), Encyclopedia of North American Indians. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin, pp. 380–381. ISBN 0-395-66921-9.
- McConnell, Michael N. (1992), A Country Between: The Upper Ohio Valley and Its Peoples, 1724–1774. Lincoln, Nebraska: University of Nebraska Press, ISBN 0-8032-3142-3.