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The History of Native American Tribes. Mohegan flag

Mohegan flag

   Originally a part of the Pequot, the Mohegan came from the upper Hudson River Valley in New York near Lake Champlain. Sometime around 1500, both tribes left this area and moved to the Thames River Valley in southeastern Connecticut. The Mohegan called their homeland Moheganeak and occupied the upper and western portions of the Thames Valley, while the Pequot lived closer to the coast.

The History of Native American Tribes. Mohegan man

Mohegan man

   The Mohegan and Pequot together numbered about 6,000 in 1620. Internal divisions occurred after 1633, and Uncas and his followers separated from the main body to become the Mohegan. A smallpox epidemic during the winter of 1634-35 reduced both groups by about 30 percent. After the Pequot War, the two groups were forcibly reunited when 1,500 Pequot and western Niantic were placed under the control of Uncas and the Mohegan creating a combined population of about 3,000. A second smallpox epidemic in 1639 lowered this to less than 2,500. The English moved the Pequot to separate reserves in 1655 and later population estimates sometimes included them as part of the Mohegan and sometimes not. Despite the incorporation of Mattabesic, Nipmuc, and Narragansett, the Mohegan population continued to drop - mainly from disease. Although the Mohegan were considered an ally by the colonists, it is likely their close association accelerated the decline of the Mohegan by exposure to infection.

   By 1675 the Mohegan numbered less than 1,200. Thirty years later (1705), they were only 750. In the years which followed, groups began to separate from the main body - most notably, the 300 Mohegan who left Connecticut with the Brotherton Indians between 1775 and 1788 to live with the Oneida and Stockbridge Indians (Mahican) in upstate New York. The Brotherton, Oneida, and Stockbridge sold their New York lands in 1822 and by 1834 had moved to northern Wisconsin. Currently, there are Mohegan descendants in Wisconsin among the Stockbridge west of Green Bay and Brotherton (not federally recognized) east of Lake Winnebago. After these defections, there were only 206 Mohegan in Connecticut in 1774. By 1809 this had fallen to 70. There was a sudden increase to 360 in 1832 - the result of either an amazing birth-rate or a count which included native peoples other than Mohegan. The 1850 census listed 125 Mohegan in Connecticut, most of whom afterwards merged quietly into the general population. The 1910 census found only 22. Recently reorganized as a tribe, the Mohegan have almost 1,000 members (600 live in Connecticut) and received federal recognition in 1994.

The History of Native American Tribes. Fidelia Fielding was the last speaker of Mohegan-Pequot dialect (1827-1908).

Fidelia Fielding was the last speaker of Mohegan - Pequot dialect (1827-1908).

The History of Native American Tribes. Mohegan basket, 19th century

Mohegan basket,
19th century

   In their language, "Mohegan" means wolf - exactly the same as "Mahican" from the Mahican language, but these slightly different names refer to two very distinct Algonquin tribes in different locations.

   Culturally, the Mohegan were identical to the Pequot - the only difference being their political allegiance. The Mohegan were English allies for almost a century after 1633, while the Pequot fought the colonists and were nearly destroyed in five years. From the perspective of the colonists and their descendants (who wrote the history of New England), Uncas and the Mohegan were the "good Indians," while Sassacus and the Pequot were "bad Indians." Most native Americans, however, would probably see this "good" and "bad" in reverse. It is interesting to note that, although the Mohegan and Pequot tried to cope with the Europeans by very different means , their ultimate fate was the same ...impoverishment, loss of their land, and near-extinction.

   Reorganized as a tribe during the 1970s, the Mohegan currently have an enrollment near 1,000 and received federal recognition in 1994.



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