Mohegan people

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Not to be confused with the Mahican or Mohawk, different Native American tribes.
Lester Skeesuk, a Narraganset-Mohegan, in traditional dress
Mohegan Indian Tribe
Total population
1300
Regions with significant populations
Languages
English, originally Mohegan-Pequot language)
Related ethnic groups
Pequot people

The Mohegan people are Native American Indians in Connecticut; the majority are associated with the Mohegan Indian Tribe, a federally recognized tribe living on a reservation in the eastern upper Thames River valley of south-central Connecticut.[1] It is one of two federally recognized tribes in the state, the other being the Mashantucket Pequot. There are also three state-recognized tribes: Schaghticoke, Paugusett, and Eastern Pequot.

At the time of European contact, the Mohegan and Pequot were a unified tribal entity living in the lower Connecticut region, but the Mohegan gradually became independent. In 1637, European colonists destroyed the fort at Mashantucket and forcibly disbanded the Pequot nation during the Pequot War. Thereafter, under the leadership of Uncas, a sachem, the Mohegan were understood to be a separate tribal nation.[1][2] Uncas' name is meant to be Wonkus, which translates to fox.

The word Mohegan (pronounced /ˈmhɡæn/) translates in their respective Algonquin dialects (Mohegan-Pequot language) as "People of the Wolf".[3][4]

Over time, the Mohegan gradually lost ownership of much of their tribal lands and their tribal status. In 1978, Chief Rolling Cloud Hamilton petitioned for federal recognition of the Mohegan. Descendants of his Mohegan band operate independently of the federally recognized nation.

In 1994 a majority group of Mohegans gained federal recognition as the Mohegan Tribe of Indians of Connecticut (MTIC).[5] They have been defined by the United States government as the "successor in interest to the aboriginal entity known as the Mohegan Indian Tribe."[6] The same year, under an act of Congress, the United States took land into trust to serve as a reservation for the Tribe.

Most of the Mohegan people in Connecticut today live on the Mohegan Reservation at 41°28′42″N 72°04′55″W / 41.47833°N 72.08194°W / 41.47833; -72.08194 near Uncasville in the Town of Montville, New London County. The MTIC operate one of two Mohegan Sun Casinos on their reservation in Uncasville.

History[edit]

The Mohegan Indian Tribe was historically based in central southern Connecticut. While originally part of the Pequot people, it gradually became independent and served as allies of English colonists in the Pequot War of 1637, which broke the power of that formerly dominant tribe in the region. In reward, the English gave Pequot captives to the Mohegan.

The continuously occupied Mohegan homelands in Connecticut include landmarks like Trading Cove on the Thames River, Cochegan Rock, Fort Shantok, and Mohegan Hill, where the Mohegan founded a Congregational Church in the early 1800s. In 1931, the Tantaquidgeon family built the Tantaquidgeon Indian Museum on Mohegan Hill to house tribal artifacts and histories. Gladys Tantaquidgeon (1899-2005) served for years as the Tribe's medicine woman and unofficial historian. She studied anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania, and worked for a decade with the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Returning to Connecticut, she operated this museum for six decades.[7] It was one of the first museums to be owned and operated by Native Americans.[8]

In 1933 John E. Hamilton,[9][10] a.k.a. Chief Rolling Cloud, was appointed as a Grand Sachem by his mother, Alice Storey, through a traditional selection process based on heredity. She was a direct descendant of Uncas, the great 17th-century leader of the Mohegan Nation, and of Tamaquashad, Sachem of the Pequot Nation. In Mohegan tradition, the position of tribal leadership was often hereditary through the maternal line.

John Hamilton was a key figure among Native American leaders initiating late twentieth century land claims suits. Tribes in the Northeast had long interaction with European Americans, which had resulted in many of them becoming nearly landless. Settlement of land claims suits in the late 20th and 21st centuries was related to federal recognition for a number of Indian nations, particularly for the so-called "state tribes." These were tribes along the East Coast who had been recognized by the English Crown long before individual colonial or state governments had been established. But, as these Native people lost control of their traditional lands and were not assigned formal reservations, they started to lose the sovereign legal status associated with recognition by federal and state governments and institutions.

Land Claims and Federal Recognition[edit]

In the 1960s, during a period of rising activism among Native Americans, John Hamilton filed a number of land claims authorized by the "Council of Descendants of Mohegan Indians." The group had some 300 members at the time. In 1970 the Montville band of Mohegans expressed its dissatisfaction with land-claims litigation. When the Hamilton supporters left the meeting, this band elected Courtland Fowler as their new leader. Notes of that Council meeting referred to Hamilton as Sachem.[11]

The group led by John Hamilton (although opposed by the Fowlers) worked with the attorney Jerome Griner in federal land claims through the 1970s. During this time, a Kent, Connecticut property owners' organization, with some Native and non-Native members, worked to oppose the Hamilton land claims and the recognition petition for federal recognition, out of fear that tribal nations would take private properties.

In 1978, in response to the desires of tribal nations across the country to gain federal recognition and recover tribal sovereignty, the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) established a formal administrative process. The process included specific criteria that BIA officials would judge as evidence of cultural continuity. In that same year, Hamilton's band submitted a petition for federal recognition for the Mohegan tribe.

The petition process stalled when John Hamilton died in 1988. The petition for federal recognition was revived in 1989, but the BIA's preliminary finding was that the Mohegan had not satisfied the criteria of documenting continuity in social community, and political authority and influence as a tribe through the twentieth century.

In 1990, the Mohegan band led by Chief Courtland Fowler submitted a detailed response to meet the BIA's concerns. The tribe included compiled genealogies and other records, including records pertaining to the Mohegan Congregational Church in Montville. BIA researchers used records provided by the Hamilton band, records from the Mohegan Church, and records maintained by Gladys Tantaquidgeon, who had kept genealogy and vital statistics of tribal members for her anthropological research.[7][12]

In 1990, the Fowler group, identifying as the Mohegan Tribe of Indians of Connecticut (MTIC), decided the that the tribe's membership would be restricted to documented descendants from a single family group, ca. 1860. This criteria excludes some of the Hamilton followers. By law, a Federally recognized tribe has the authority to determine its own rules for membership. The MTIC unsuccessfully attempted to stop other Mohegan people from using "Mohegan" as their tribal identity, in public records and in craftwork.[13]

In its 1994 "Final Determination," the BIA cited the vital statistics and genealogies as documents that were decisive in demonstrating "that the tribe did indeed have social and political continuity during the middle of the 20th century."[14] As a result, the Mohegan Tribe of Indians of Connecticut (MTIC) gained recognition as a sovereign tribal nation.

That same year, Congress passed the Mohegan Nation (Connecticut) Land Claim Settlement Act, which authorized the United States to take land into trust to establish a reservation for the Mohegan and settle their land claim. The final 1994 agreement between MTIC and the State in the settlement of land claims extinguished all pending land claims.[14] The MTIC adopted a written constitution. MTIC is governed by a chief, an elected chairman and an elected tribal council, all of whom serve for specific terms.

The Mohegan people associated with Sachem John Hamilton persist as an independent group today. In his will, Hamilton named his non-Mohegan wife, Eleanor Fortin as Sachem. She is now the leader of the "Hamilton group." Despite their contentious histories and disagreements, both groups continued to participate in tribal activities and to identify as members of the Mohegan people. The Hamilton band of Mohegans continues to function and govern themselves independently of the MTIC, holding periodic gatherings and activities in their traditional territory of south central Connecticut.

Extinction and Revival of Language[edit]

The last living native speaker of the Mohegan language, Fidelia "Flying Bird" A. Hoscott Fielding, died in 1908. The Mohegan language was recorded primarily in her diaries, and in articles and a Smithsonian Institution report made by the early anthropologist, Frank Speck.[15][16] Her niece, Gladys Tantaquidgeon, worked to preserve the language.[7] Since 2012, the Mohegan Tribe has established a project to revive its language and establish new generations of native speakers.

Ethnobotany[edit]

The Mohegan people have always had extensive knowledge of local flora and fauna, of hunting and fishing technologies, of seasonal adaptations, and of herbal medicine, as practices passed down through the generations. Gladys Tantaquidgeon was instrumental in recording herbal medicinal knowledge and folklore, and in comparing these plants and practices to those of other Algonquian peoples like the Lenni Lenape (Delaware) and Wampanoag,

For example, an infusion of bark removed from the south side of the silver maple tree is used by the Mohegan for cough medicine.[17] The Mohegan also use the inner bark of the sugar maple as a cough remedy, and the sap as a sweetening agent and to make maple syrup.[18]

Confusion Among Tribal Names[edit]

Although similar in name, the Mohegan are a different tribe from the Mahican (also called the Stockbridge Mohican), who share similar Algonkian culture and constitute another branch in the Algonquian language family. The Mahican were historically based along the upper Hudson River in present-day eastern New York and along the upper Housatonic River in western Massachusetts. In the United States, both tribes have been referred to in various historic documents by the spelling "Mohican", based on mistakes in translation and location.[19] But, the Dutch colonist Adriaen Block, one of the first Europeans to record the names of both tribes, clearly distinguished between the "Morhicans" (now the Mohegans) and the "Mahicans, Mahikanders, Mohicans, [or] Maikens".[19][20]

In 1735, Housatonic Mahican leaders negotiated with Massachusetts Governor Jonathan Belcher to found the town of Stockbridge, Massachusetts, just to the west of the Berkshire Mountains, as a mission village. After the American Revolution, these Mahican people, along with New York Mahicans, relocated to live at New Stockbridge, alongside the Oneida in central New York. During the 1820s the majority of these people removed further west, eventually settling in Wisconsin, where today they constitute the Stockbridge Munsee Band of Mohican Indians. These removals inspired the myth of the "Last of the Mohicans."

Most of the descendants of the Mohegan tribe, by contrast, have continued to live in New England, and particularly in Connecticut, since the colonial era.

Notable Mohegan[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Mohican, Mahican and Mohegan". 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 18. Encyclopædia Britannica. Archived from EB-Mohegan the original on 25 December 2012. Retrieved 20 July 2007. 
  2. ^ William C. Sturtevant, ed. (1978). Handbook of North American Indians. Washington: Smithsonian Institution. ISBN 9780160045752. 
  3. ^ The Mohegan Tribe: Heritage - Our Traditions and Symbols
  4. ^ Jaap Van Marle, ed. (1993). Historical linguistics 1991 : papers from the 10th international conference on historical linguistics, Amsterdam, 12-16 August 1991. Amsterdam: J. Benjamins. ISBN 9789027236098. 
  5. ^ "Mohegan Event Timeline, 1933 to present", Mohegan Tribe of Indians of Connecticut, official website
  6. ^ "25 USC § 1775 - Findings and purposes", Mohegan Nation (Connecticut) Land Claim Settlement Act (1994), Legal Information Institute, Cornell University Law School, accessed 12 January 2013
  7. ^ a b c "Running Against Time - Medicine Woman Preserves Mohegan Culture". School of Anthropology; Alumni Newsletter. University of Pennsylvania. Summer 2001. 
  8. ^ "The Mohegan Tribe Celebrates Re-Opening of Tantaquidgeon Museum". Press Room. The Mohegan Tribe. Retrieved 25 November 2012. 
  9. ^ a b "Passings: John E. Hamilton; Indian Activist". Los Angeles Times. 12 May 1988. Retrieved 28 February 2013. John E. Hamilton; Indian Activist 
  10. ^ Oberg, Michael Leroy (2003). Uncas : first of the Mohegans. Ithaca (N.Y.): Cornell University Press. ISBN 0801438772. 
  11. ^ "Contemporary History of Mohegan, 1933-2002", Native American Mohegans
  12. ^ Associated Press, "Gladys Tantaquidgeon, Mohegans' Medicine Woman, Is Dead at 106", New York Times, 2 November 2005
  13. ^ [1]
  14. ^ a b "Final Determination that the Mohegan Tribe of Indians of Connecticut Does Exist as an Indian Tribe", Federal Register, Vol. 59, No. 50, 15 March 1994, accessed 18 March 2013
  15. ^ Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology to the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, Smithsonian Institution. Bureau of American Ethnology
  16. ^ Mithun, Marianne (1979). Lyle Campbell, ed. The languages of native America : historical and comparative assessment. Austin: University of Texas Press. ISBN 0292746245. 
  17. ^ Tantaquidgeon, Gladys 1928 Mohegan Medicinal Practices, Weather-Lore and Superstitions. SI-BAE Annual Report #43: 264-270 (p. 269)
  18. ^ Tantaquidgeon, Gladys 1972 Folk Medicine of the Delaware and Related Algonkian Indians. Harrisburg. Pennsylvania Historical Commission Anthropological Papers #3 (p. 69, 128)
  19. ^ a b William C. Sturtevant (General Editor), Bruce G. Trigger (Volume Editor). Handbook of North American Indians, Volume 15, Northeast. Smithsonian Institution, Washington (1978). 
  20. ^ Campbell, Lyle (1997). American Indian languages : the historical linguistics of native America ([Online-Ausg.]. ed.). New York, NY: Oxford Univ. Press. ISBN 0195094271. 
  21. ^ Melissa Jane Fawcett. Medicine Trail: The Life and Lessons of Gladys Tantaquidgeon. University of Arizona Press (2000),

External links[edit]