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Montauk Indian Fact Sheet

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




  Montauk Tribe (Montaukett, Metoac)

How do you pronounce "Montauk?" What does it mean?
Montauk is pronounced "Mon-tawk." It comes from a Mohegan-Pequot placename, Manatauke, which probably meant "island home."

Were the Montauk Indians part of the Mohegan tribe?
Not originally. They spoke the same language and shared similar cultures, but the Montauks, Mohegans, Pequots, Shinnecocks, and other tribes of New England 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. Today, there are people of Montauk heritage living among other tribes such as the Shinnecock, Pequot, and Mohegan tribes-- and vice versa.

Where did the Montauk Indians live?
The Montauks are original people of eastern Long Island, in New York state.

How is the Montauk Indian nation organized?
The Montauk tribe is not federally recognized by the United States. That means the Montauks don't have reservations or their own governments. Many Montauk descendants today live in Wisconsin with the Brotherton Mohegans. But there are still communities of Montauk people living in New York.

What language do the Montauks speak?
Montauk Indians all speak English today. In the past, the Pequots, Mohegans, Montauks, Niantics, and other tribes of New England all spoke the Mohegan-Pequot language. This language died out more than 100 years ago, but some young people are working to revive it. You can read a Montauk picture glossary here.

What was Montauk culture like in the past? What is it like now?
Here is a link to a Montauk and Shinnecock website with information about the heritage and traditions of the Montauk people.

How do Montauk 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 kid-size bows and arrows. Montauk 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 carrier technology.

What were men and women's roles in the Montauk tribe?
Montauk men were hunters and sometimes went to war to protect their families. Montauk 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, Montauk chiefs were always men, but today a Montauk Indian woman could be chief too.

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

What was Montauk clothing like? Did they wear feather headdresses and face paint?
Montauk women wore knee-length skirts and the men wore a loincloth and leggings. Shirts were not necessary in the Montauk culture, but Montauk people did wear deerskin mantles in cool weather. Montauk men and women both wore earrings and moccasins on their feet. Here is a picture of Montauk clothing and some photographs and links about Indian regalia in general.

The Montauks didn't wear long headdresses like the Sioux. Usually they wore beaded Indian headbands with a feather or two in the back. Sometimes a Montauk chief wore a headdress of feathers pointing straight up from a headband, like this. Montauk 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.) Montauk women usually had long hair. Here is a website with pictures of Native American Indian hair.

Today, some Montauk 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 Montauk transportation like in the days before cars? Did they paddle canoes?
Yes, the Montauks made dugout canoes by hollowing out large trees. They used them for transportation and for ocean fishing trips. Here is a website about American Indian canoe styles. Over land, the Montauks used dogs as pack animals. (There were no horses in North America until colonists brought them over from Europe.) Montauk 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, Montauk people also use cars... and non-native people also use canoes.

What was Montauk food like in the days before supermarkets?
The Montauks were farmers and fishermen. Montauk women harvested corn, squash and beans. Montauk men fished in the ocean and sometimes even hunted whales in their dugout canoes. Other Montauk foods included clams, rabbit stew, and berries. Here is a website with more information about Indian food recipes.

What kinds of weapons did the Montauks use?
Montauk hunters and warriors used bows and arrows, spears, and clubs. Fishermen used pronged spears, nets, and bone hooks. Here is a website with pictures and information about old Indian weapons.

What are Montauk art and crafts like?
The Montauk tribes were known for their beadwork patterns and basketry. Like other eastern American Indians, Montauks 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 Montauk tribe interact with?
The Montauks liked to trade with other Algonquian tribes of southern New England, such as the Lenape, Shinnecock, and Mohican tribes. Although they were closely related to each other, these tribes were not always friends. The Pequot was one tribe that sometimes fought with the Montauk tribe.

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

What about Montauk 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 New England Algonquian traditions and symbols or this site about Indian religion in general.

Can you recommend a good book for me to read?
The Montaukett Indians of Eastern Long Island is a good overview of Montauk history and culture. You may also enjoy Makiawisug, which is a retelling of a Mohegan legend about little folk. 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 Montauk Indian people and their language!

Learn More About The Montauks

Mohegan Tribes
Historical overview of the Montauk and other Mohegan-speaking tribes.

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

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



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