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Mohegan Indian Fact Sheet

Native American Facts For Kids was written for young people learning about the Mohegans for school or home-schooling reports. We encourage students and teachers to look through our main Mohegan page for in-depth information about the tribe, but here are our answers to the questions we are most often asked by children, with Mohegan pictures and links we believe are suitable for all ages.




  Mohegan Tribe

How do you pronounce "Mohegan?" What does it mean?
Mohegan is pronounced "Mo-HEE-gun." It comes from the Mohegan word mohiingan, which means wolf.

Are the Mohegans and the Mahicans the same tribe, or different ones?
The Mohegans and Mahicans are two different tribes. "Mahican" sounds a lot like Mohegan, but that is because British colonists had trouble pronouncing the Mahican name for themselves, Muheconneok, and the Mohegan name for themselves, Mohiingan.

Which tribe does the word "Mohican" refer to?
Usually "Mohicans" is an alternate spelling for Mahicans. However, the Mohegans and Mahicans have gotten confused because of the famous book "Last of the Mohicans." The author made some mistakes in that book. He gave some Mohican characters Mohegan names and placed their homeland in Mohegan territory. Because of this error, some people still call the Mohegans "Mohicans" today.

Were the Pequot, Shinnecock, Narragansett, and Montauk Indians part of the Mohegan tribe?
Not originally. They spoke similar languages and shared similar cultures, but the Mohegans, Pequots, Montauks, Narragansetts, Niantics, and Nipmucs all used to be distinct tribes, each with its own leadership. But after Europeans arrived, many Native American people of the east coast died from disease and warfare. The survivors merged together, and many of their original tribal distinctions were lost. Colonists and Native Americans from other tribes started calling all of them Mohegans.

Where do the Mohegans live today?
There are three Mohegan/Pequot Indian bands in Connecticut, a Shinnecock Indian band on Long Island, and a Narragansett band in Rhode Island. Most of the people in these bands have mixed Indian heritage due to the merging of the Mohegan tribes in early American history. Other people with Mohegan Indian heritage live in communities throughout New England and New York.

How is the Mohegan Indian nation organized?
Like other Native Americans in the United States, Mohegan Indian tribes have their own reservations. A reservation is land that belongs to an Indian tribe and is under their control. Each Mohegan, Pequot, Narragansett, and Shinnecock Indian tribe is autonomous. That means each tribe has its own government, laws, police, and services, just like a small country. The leaders of the Mohegan Tribe cannot make decisions for the Shinnecock Tribe, and the Mashantucket Pequots cannot make decisions for the Eastern Pequots. But all the Mohegans are also US citizens and must obey American law.

What language do the Mohegans speak?
Mohegan Indians all speak English today. In the past, the Mohegan, Pequot, Montauk and Niantic Indians spoke the Mohegan language, and the Narragansett and Nipmuc Indians spoke the Narragansett language. These two languages may have been similar enough for the different Mohegan tribes to understand each other, or they may have needed interpreters. No one has spoken either language since 1900, so it's hard to know for sure. You can read a Mohegan picture glossary here.

What was Mohegan culture like in the past? What is it like now?
Here are links to pages from the Mohegan Indian Tribe and the Pequot Museum about the heritage and traditions of the Mohegan peoples. Over time the Mohegan Indians have lost much of their culture, including their language, traditional religion, and many customs. But today many young Mohegans have new interest and pride in their grandparents' traditions. Here are some photographs from the Mohegan Tribe Pow-Wow, where modern Mohegan Indians wear traditional clothes and celebrate their heritage with song and dance.

How do Mohegan Indian children live, and what did they do in the past?
They do the same things any children do--play with each other, go to school and help around the house. In the past, Indian kids had more chores and less time to play, just like early colonial children. But they did have cornshuck dolls, ball games, and toys such as kid-size bows and arrows. Mohegan mothers, like many Native Americans, traditionally carried their babies in cradleboards on their backs. Here is a website with pictures of cradleboards and other Indian baby carriers.

What were men and women's roles in the Mohegan tribe?
Mohegan men were hunters and sometimes went to war to protect their families. Mohegan women were farmers and also did most of the child care and cooking. Both genders took part in storytelling, artwork and music, and traditional medicine. In the past, Mohegan chiefs were always men, but today a Mohegan Indian woman could be chief too.

What were Mohegan homes like in the past?
The Mohegans didn't live in tepees. They lived in small round houses called wigwams. Here are some pictures of Indian wigwams like the ones Mohegan Indians used. Today, Native Americans only build a wigwam for fun or to connect with their heritage, not for shelter. Most Mohegans live in modern houses and apartment buildings, just like you.

What was Mohegan clothing like? Did they wear feather headdresses and face paint?
At first, clothing and hairstyles were slightly different in each tribe. Mohegan Indians could even tell each other apart by their dress. In general, Mohegan women wore knee-length skirts and the men wore breechcloth and leggings. Shirts were not necessary in the Mohegan cultures, but Mohegan people did wear deerskin mantles in cool weather. Mohegan men and women both wore earrings and moccasins on their feet. Here is a picture of Mohegan clothing and some photographs and links about Native American Indian clothing in general.

The Mohegans didn't wear long headdresses like the Sioux. Usually they wore beaded head bands with a feather or two in the back. Sometimes a Mohegan chief wore a headdress of feathers pointing straight up from a headband, like this. Mohegan men, especially warriors, often wore a Mohawk hairstyle or shaved their heads completely except for a scalplock (one long lock of hair on top of their heads.) Mohegan women usually had long hair. Here is a website with pictures of Native American Indian hair.

Today, some Mohegan people still have a traditional headband or moccasins, but they wear modern clothes like jeans instead of breechcloths... and they only wear feathers in their hair on special occasions like a dance.

What was Mohegan transportation like in the days before cars? Did they paddle canoes?
Yes, the Mohegans made dugout canoes by hollowing out large trees. They used them for transportation and for ocean fishing trips. Here is a website about Native American Indian canoes. Over land, the Mohegans used dogs as pack animals. (There were no horses in North America until colonists brought them over from Europe.) Mohegan Indians used sleds and snowshoes to help them travel in the winter. (They learned to make those tools from northern neighbors like the Cree Indians.) Today, of course, Mohegan people also use cars... and non-native people also use canoes.

What was Mohegan food like in the days before supermarkets?
The Mohegans were farming people. Mohegan women harvested corn, squash and beans and also gathered nuts and fruit to eat. Mohegan men did most of the hunting. They shot deer, turkeys, and small game, and went fishing on the coast. Mohegan Indian recipes included soup, cornbread, and stews. Here is a website with more information about Native food sources.

What kinds of weapons did the Mohegans use?
Mohegan hunters and warriors used bows and arrows, spears, and clubs. Fishermen used pronged spears, nets, and bone hooks. Here is a website with a list of Native American weapons.

What are Mohegan art and crafts like?
The Mohegan tribes were known for their beadwork and Native American basketry. Like other eastern American Indians, Mohegans also crafted wampum out of white and purple shell beads. Wampum beads were traded as a kind of currency, but they were more culturally important as an art material. The designs and pictures on wampum belts often told a story or represented a person's family.

What other Native Americans did the Mohegan tribes interact with?
Primarily they interacted with each other. Remember, the Mohegans originally lived in several distinct tribes. The Mohegan tribes usually liked to trade with each other, but they were not always friends. The Pequots fought several times with the Narragansett and Montauk tribes. By the 1700's, the Mohegan tribes were frequently intermarrying and protecting each other. Some Mohegan people also joined the Stockbridge Indians or the Abenaki.

What kinds of stories do the Mohegans tell?
There are many traditional Mohegan legends and fairy tales. Storytelling is very important to the Mohegan Indian culture. Here's one legend about the Makiaweesug, who were mythical Mohegan creatures like brownies or fairies. Here's a website where you can read more about Mohegan stories.

What about Mohegan religion?
Religions are too complicated and culturally sensitive to describe appropriately in only a few simple sentences, and we strongly want to avoid misleading anybody. You can visit this site to learn more about Mohegan traditions and symbols or this site about Native American religion in general.

Can you recommend a good book for me to read?
You may enjoy Makiawisug, which is a retelling of a Mohegan legend about little folk. If you want to know more about Mohegan culture and history, there's an interesting biography of the Mohegan chief Uncas here and a comprehensive history of the Indian tribes of Connecticut here. You can also browse through our recommendations of American Indian books in general.

How do I cite your website in my bibliography?
You will need to ask your teacher for the format he or she wants you to use. The authors' names are Laura Redish and Orrin Lewis and the title of our site is Native Languages of the Americas. We are a nonprofit educational organization working to preserve and protect Native American languages and culture. You can learn more about our organization here. Our website was first created in 1998 and last updated in 2013.

Thanks for your interest in the Mohegan Indian people and their language!

Learn More About The Mohegans

Mohegan Indian Tribe
An overview of the Mohegan tribe's language and history.

Mohegan Language Resources
Mohegan Indian language samples, articles, and indexed links.

Mohegan Culture and History Directory
Related links about the Mohegan Indians past and present.

Mohegan Words
Mohegan Indian vocabulary lists.



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