Member of an American Indian people who occupied the upper Hudson River valley in New York State until the mid-17th century. They are closely related to the Mohegan, and share Algonquian linguistic traditions. The Mohican were divided into five groups, each led by a sachem (hereditary chieftain). Traditionally they lived in stockaded villages of 20–30 houses, and cultivated crops, hunted, and fished. In 1664 they were relocated to Stockbridge, Massachusetts, where they became known as the Stockbridge Indians. They later allied with the Munsee and moved to a reservation in Wisconsin, where most now live.
The Mohican grew maize (corn), beans, and squash, commonly known as ‘the three sisters’. They also collected wild rice, maple sugar, and other plant foods, and hunted and fished. Farming was mainly the responsibility of the women. Traditional dwellings included wigwams, made from a frame of poles covered with bark and rush matting, and longhouses. The Mohican decorated their deerskin clothing, baskets, and other artefacts with quillwork, corn husks, beads, feathers, and paint. Common designs were flowers and plant forms. Their religion was based on the concept of a good Great Spirit and an evil prankster. Ceremonies included the traditional harvest feast now known as Thanksgiving.
The first European to encounter the Mohicans was the explorer Henry Hudson in 1603, when he charted the Hudson River. After 1675 Dutch and English settlements encroached onto Mohican territory, and smallpox, tuberculosis, and other diseases ravaged the Mohican villages. By 1710 alcoholism had also appeared among the American Indians. The Mohicans joined the colonists against the British during the American Revolution. In 1818 they were offered land in Indiana, but it was sold to white settlers by the time they arrived. They settled along the White River where they were joined by the Munsee, and became known as the Stockbridge-Munsee. The US government granted them a reservation east of Lake Winnebago, Wisconsin, in 1831, but this was later ceded and they were relocated to a new reservation in 1856.
When the Dawes Act enforced the allotment of reservations into individual plots from 1887, releasing the rest for US settlement, the loss of communal lands left many Mohican homeless and poverty-stricken by 1910. The Stockbridge-Munsee Business Committee was formed in 1931 to campaign for their rights, and in 1935 the US government repurchased 900 ha/2,250 acres of the former reservation lands on their behalf. In 1972 the Mohican were given a further 5,200/13,000 acres of adjoining land. The Stockbridge-Munsee have now become a thriving community.
The novelist James Fenimore Cooper confused the Mohicans and Mohegans in his novel The Last of the Mohicans (1826).
An Algonquian-speaking American Indian tribe of New England. Primarily cultivators, they lived in fortified communities of 20 to 30 houses or...
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Mahicans were Algonquian Indians, of whom the Mohicans or Mohegans formed a part. In the 17th cent. they occupied the Hudson Valley until...