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Pocomtuc Indian Fact Sheet

Native American Facts For Kids was written for young people learning about the Pocomtucks 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 Pocomtuc pictures and links suitable for teaching all ages.




  Pocomtuc Tribe

How do you pronounce "Pocomtuc?" What does it mean?
Pocomtuc is pronounced "poh-cum-tuck." It comes from a placename in the Mohican language which means "clear stream."

Were the Pocumtucks part of the Mohican tribe?
Not originally. They spoke related languages and shared similar cultures, but the Pocomtuc and Mohican 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. This happened to the Pocumtucks and Mohicans.

Where did the Pocumtuck Indians live?
The Pocomtucks were original people of western Massachusetts and northwestern Connecticut.

How is the Pocomtuc Indian nation organized?
In the past, the Pocomtuc tribe was ruled by a sachem, or chief. Even when the Pocumtucks joined the Mohican Nation, they still had their own sachem, separate from the Mohicans.

Today, there is no separate Pocomtuc tribe. People of Pocomtuc descent have all been absorbed into other Indian tribes (especially the Mohican and Abenaki tribes) or into the general American population.

What language did the Pocomtucs speak?
They spoke a dialect of the Mohican language. The last Mohican Indian who could speak this language died in 1933, but the language is still used by the Stockbridge Mohicans 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 was a friendly greeting and wunneet means "It is good!" You can also see a Pocomtuc picture glossary here.

How do Pocomtuc 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 husk dolls, ball games, and toys such as miniature bows and arrows. Pocomtuc mothers, like many Native Americans, traditionally carried their babies in cradleboards on their backs. Here is a website with pictures of cradleboards and other Native American baby carrier technology.

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

What were Pocomtuc homes like in the past?
The Pocomtucs didn't live in tepees. They lived in small round houses called wigwams. Here are some pictures of wigwams like the ones Pocomtuc Indians used. Pocomtuc 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 Mohican people live in modern houses and apartment buildings, just like you.

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

The Pocomtucs didn't wear warbonnet headdresses like the Sioux. Usually they wore a beaded headband with a feather or two in it. Pocomtuc men and women both kept their hair in two long braids most of the time, but warriors sometimes wore a Mohawk hairstyle or shaved their heads completely except for a scalplock (one long lock of hair on top of their heads.) Here is a website with pictures of Native American long hair. Many Pocomtucs tattooed designs onto their faces as well.

Today, some Pocomtuc 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 Pocomtuc transportation like in the days before cars? Did they paddle canoes?
Yes, the Pocomtucs used bark canoes to travel by river. Here is a website about American Indian boat styles. Over land, the Pocomtucs used dogs as pack animals. (There were no horses in North America until colonists brought them over from Europe.) Pocomtuc 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, Pocomtuc people also use cars... and non-native people also use canoes.

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

What kinds of weapons did the Pocomtucs use?
Pocomtuc hunters and warriors used bows and arrows, spears, and axes. Fishermen used spears and nets. Here is a website with Indian weapon pictures and information.

What are Pocomtuc art and crafts like?
The Pocomtuc tribe is known for their beadwork and native basketry. Like other eastern American Indians, Pocomtucs 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 Pocomtuc tribe interact with?
The Pocomtucs were close allies of their kinfolk the Mohicans. They also traded regularly with other New England Algonquians, particularly the Abenaki and Wampanoag Indians. Sometimes they fought with the Mohawks and other or the Iroquois Indians.

What kinds of stories do the Pocomtucs tell?
There are lots of traditional Pocomtuc legends and fairy tales. Storytelling is very important to the Pocomtuc Indian culture. Here is a story about a woman who avenged her husband, translated into English from the original Mahican language.

What about Pocomtuc 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 Mohican beliefs or this site about Indian religions in general.

Can you recommend a good book for me to read?
You may enjoy The Last Algonquin. It is a biography of an Indian survivor of war and smallpox reflecting on his changing world. The main character is Wappinger, not Pocumtuck, but the two tribes are closely related and shared the same experience of watching their tribe dwindle away after the epidemics. If you'd like to know more about Pocumtuck history and culture, a good source is Spirit of the New England Tribes, which includes folklore and history from many New England Algonquian tribes including the Pocomtuck. 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 Pocomtuc Indian people and their language!

Learn More About The Pocomtucs

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

Pocomtuc Language Resources
Pocomtuc language samples, articles, and indexed links.

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



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