Member of an American Indian people who moved from the upper Hudson River Valley to Connecticut in the 16th century. They were probably originally part of the neighbouring Pequot people, with whom they shared Algonquian linguistic and cultural traditions. The two groups split after the Mohegan allied with English colonists in the 1630s. Traditionally their economy was based on farming maize (corn), and hunting and fishing. Today about 1,400 (1996) Mohegan of mixed ancestry live in Connecticut, Rhode Island, and New York. Efforts are being made to revive the Mohegan language and culture. Current business interests include a large casino in Connecticut.
The Mohegan traditionally lived in barrel-roofed longhouses and domed wigwams. Their leaders included a sachem (chief), medicine women, and elders. The pro-English Mohegan split from the pro-Dutch Pequot in the 1630s under their leader Uncas, and in 1638 the sovereignty of the Mohegan people was recognized by the Connecticut colony. However, traditional Mohegan culture and religion were deeply affected by European settlement, many converting to Christianity and adopting white customs. In 1831, they founded the Mohegan Church and a museum, which is the oldest American Indian museum in the USA. In 1872, the lands of the Mohegan reservation were broken into individual plots, which were eventually sold off. However, after the US government formally recognized the Mohegan Nation in 1994, 96 ha/240 acres of this traditional homeland were reacquired by the Mohegan in 1995.
The novelist James Fenimore Cooper confused the Mohican and Mohegan in his novel The Last of the Mohicans (1826).