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Mohican Indian Fact Sheet

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




  Mohican Tribe

How do you pronounce "Mohican?" What does it mean?
Mohican is pronounced "muh-HEE-can." It comes from the word Muheconneok, which means "from the waters that are never still." That is the Mohican name for the Hudson River.

Which spelling is correct, "Mohican" or "Mahican"?
Both spellings are acceptable. The Mohicans did not originally have a written language, so when Europeans wrote down Mohican words, they made up their own spellings. Some wrote "Mohican," and others wrote "Mahican." Both spellings are used today.

Are the Mohicans and the Mohegans the same tribe, or two different ones?
The Mohicans and Mohegans are two different tribes. "Mohican" sounds a lot like "Mohegan," but that is because British colonists had trouble pronouncing the Mohican name for themselves, Muheconneok, and the Mohegan name for themselves, Mohiingan. Today, many people think that the Mohicans and Mohegans are the same tribe because of the famous book "Last of the Mohicans." The author, James Fenimore Cooper, made some mistakes in that book. He gave several of his Mohican characters Mohegan names and placed their homeland in Mohegan territory. Because of this error, some people still call the Mohegans "Mohicans" today.

The Mohegan tribes lived in Southern New England, particularly Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Long Island. Here is a link to our Mohegan page if you would like to learn about them. The page you are reading right now is about the Mahicans of New York, who were the first tribe to be called Mohicans and the only tribe to call themselves by this name today.

Where do the Mohicans live?
Originally the Mohicans lived along the banks of the Hudson River, in modern-day New York state. Mohican people also lived in parts of Massachusetts, Vermont, and Connecticut. The Wappinger and Housatonic were originally part of the Mohican Nation, though each had their own sachems (chiefs). After Europeans arrived, disease and warfare killed many Mohican people, and the survivors were driven west. They eventually settled in Wisconsin, where the Stockbridge Mohicans still live today. There are also small Mohican communities remaining in New York and Massachusetts.

How is the Mohican Indian nation organized?
Like most Native American tribes in the United States, the Mohican tribe lives on a reservation. Reservations are special lands that belong to an Indian tribe and are under their control. However, the Mohican reservation is shared with the Munsee tribe. Together they are known as the Stockbridge-Munsee. (They have this name because the Mohicans are also known as Stockbridge Indians, after a town in Massachusetts they once settled in.) The Stockbridge-Munsee tribe has its own government, laws, police, and other services, just like a small country. But the Mohicans and Munsees are also US citizens and must obey American law.

In the past, the Mohican tribe was ruled by sachems, or chiefs. The Wappingers and Housatonics were also part of the Mahican Nation, but each of them had their own sachem as well. Today, the Stockbridge-Munsee tribe is governed by a council that is elected by all the people of both tribes, just like a city council.

What language do the Mohicans speak?
Mohican Indians all speak English today. In the past they spoke their own Mohican language. The last Stockbridge Indian who could speak this language died in 1933, but the community continues to use Mohican for cultural and religious purposes, the way Italians may use Latin words today. If you'd like to know a few easy Mohican words, aquai is a friendly greeting and wunneet means "It is good!" You can also see a Mohican picture glossary here.

What was Mohican culture like in the past? What is it like now?
Here is a Mohican tribal history from the Stockbridge-Munsee tribe. It gives lots of information about Mohican traditions from ancient times until now.

How do Mohican 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 corn shuck dolls, ball games, and toys such as miniature bows and arrows. Mohican 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 Mohican tribe?
Mohican men were hunters and sometimes went to war to protect their families. Mohican 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, Mohican chiefs were always men, but today a Mohican Indian woman can be a politician too.

What were Mohican homes like in the past?
The Mohicans didn't live in tepees. They lived in small round houses called wigwams. Some Mohicans built rectangular lodges instead. Here are some pictures of wigwams, lodges, and other Indian houses like the ones Mohican Indians used. Mohican villages were sometimes palisaded (surrounded with a log wall for protection) and often included a council hall and a sweat lodge as well as family dwellings. Today, Native Americans only build a wigwam for fun or to connect with their heritage, not for shelter. Most Mohicans live in modern houses and apartment buildings, just like you.

What was Mohican clothing like? Did they wear feather headdresses and face paint?
Mohican women wore skirts with leggings. Mohican men wore breechcloths and leggings. Shirts were not necessary in the Mohican culture, but the Mohicans did wear sleeved shirts in cool weather. Mohican people also wore moccasins on their feet. Here are some photographs and links about Native American Indian clothing in general.

The Mohicans didn't wear long headdresses like the Sioux. Usually they wore a beaded headband with a feather or two in it. Mohican men and women both kept their hair in two long braids most of the time, but warriors sometimes wore the distinctive Mohican hairstyle (also known as a "Mohawk".) Mohican men with this haircut would shave their heads except for one long strip down the middle. Mohican women never used this hair style, even when they were joining in a battle. Here is a website with pictures of Native American Indian hair. Many Mohicans tattooed designs onto their faces as well.

Today, some Mohican 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 Mohican transportation like in the days before cars? Did they paddle canoes?
Yes, the Mohicans traveled along the Hudson River by canoe. There were two kinds of Mohican canoes: bark canoes, which are smaller and lighter, and dugout canoes, which are heavy and can carry many people. Here is a website with pictures of different Native American boats. Over land, the Mohicans used dogs as pack animals. (There were no horses in North America until colonists brought them over from Europe.) Mohican 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, Mohican people also use cars... and non-native people also use canoes.

What was Mohican food like in the days before supermarkets?
The Mohicans were farming people. Mohican women harvested corn, squash, beans and sunflower seeds. Mohican men did most of the hunting. They shot deer, moose, turkeys, and small game, and went fishing in the river. Mohican recipes included soup, cornbread, and trail mix. Here is a website with more information about Indian agriculture.

What kinds of weapons did the Mohicans use?
Mohican hunters and warriors used bows and arrows, spears, and axes. Fishermen used spears and nets. Here is a website with a list of Indian weapons.

What are Mohican art and crafts like?
The Mohican tribe is known for their Native American beadwork and baskets. Like other eastern American Indians, Mohicans 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 patterns and pictures on wampum belts often told a story or represented a person's family.

What other Native Americans did the Mohican tribe interact with?
The Mohicans traded regularly with all the other New England Indians, particularly the Wampanoag and Delaware Indians. Sometimes they fought with the Mohawks and other or the Iroquois Indians. Today, the closest ally of the Mohicans is the Munsee tribe, with whom the Stockbridge Mohicans share a reservation in Wisconsin.

What kinds of stories do the Mohicans tell?
There are lots of traditional Mohican legends and fairy tales. Storytelling is very important to the Mohican Indian culture. Here is a story about a woman who avenged her husband.

What about Mohican 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 and Mohican mythology or this site about Native American religions in general.

Can you recommend a good book for me to read?
You may enjoy The Last Algonquin. Despite its confusing title (the main character is Wecquaesgeek, a Wappinger tribe of New York, not Algonquin), this is a very good book for middle school or high school students. It is a biography of an Indian survivor of war and smallpox reflecting on his changing world. If you want to know more about Mohican culture and history, two interesting sources are The Mohican World and The Mohicans of Stockbridge You can also browse through our recommendations of Native American 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 Mohican Indian people and their language!

Learn More About The Mohicans

Mohican Indian Tribe
An overview of the Mohican tribe, their language and history.

Mohican Language Resources
Mohican language samples, articles, and lesson plans..

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

Mahican Words
Mohican Indian vocabulary lists.



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