[Note from the Author: This is part of what will be, by my classification, about 240 compact tribal histories (contact to 1900). It is limited to the lower 48 states of the U.S. but also includes those First Nations from Canada and Mexico that had important roles (Huron, Micmac, Assiniboine, etc.).
The content and style are representative. The normal process at this point is to circulate an almost finished product among a peer group for comment and criticism.
Using the Internet, this can be more inclusive. Feel free to comment or suggest corrections via e-mail. Working together we can end some of the historical misinformation about Native Americans. You will find the ego at this end is standard size. Thanks for stopping by. I look forward to your comments...Lee Sultzman.]
The original Mahican homeland was the Hudson River Valley from the Catskill Mountains north to the southern end of Lake Champlain. Bounded by the Schoharie River in the west, it extended east to the crest of the Berkshire Mountains in western Massachusetts from northwest Connecticut north to the Green Mountains in southern Vermont.
Because they include all Algonquin tribes between the Hudson and Connecticut Rivers, some estimates of the Mahican population in 1600 range as high as 35,000. However, when limited to the core tribes of the Mahican confederacy near Albany, New York, it was somewhere around 8,000. By 1672 this had fallen to around 1,000. At the lowpoint in 1796, 300 Stockbridge, the "Last of the Mohicans," were living with the Oneida and Brotherton in upstate New York. However, if the Mahican with the Wyandot and Delaware in Ohio were also included, the actual total time was probably closer to 600.
The census of 1910 listed 600 Stockbridge and Brotherton in northern Wisconsin. Three years after the passage of the Indian Reorganization Act in 1934, the Stockbridge became a federally recognized tribe. They currently have almost 1,500 members living on, or near, their reservation west of Green Bay. There are also 1,700 Brotherton Indians (without federal status) on the east side of Lake Winnebago.
Both Mahican and Mohican are correct, but NOT Mohegan, a different tribe in eastern Connecticut who were related to the Pequot. In their own language, the Mahican referred to themselves collectively as the "Muhhekunneuw" "people of the great river." This name apparently was difficult for the Dutch to pronounce, so they settled on "Manhigan," the Mahican word for wolf and the name of one their most important clans. Variations were: Maeykan, Mahigan, Mahikander, Mahinganak, Maikan, and Mawhickon. In later years, the English altered this into the more-familiar Mahican or Mohican. The French name for the Mahican was Loup (French for wolf) and followed a similar reasoning. However, the French were prone to using this without distinction for most Algonquin-speaking tribes south of the St. Lawrence (Mahican, Delaware, and Abenaki). Other names: Akochakaneh (Iroquois), Canoe Indians, Hikanagi (Shawnee), Monekunnuk, Mourigan (French), Nhikana (Shawnee), Orunges, River Indians, Stockbridge, Tonotaenrat, and Uragees.
Algonquin. N-dialect, but in many ways more closely related to the L-dialect of the Munsee and Unami Delaware than the N-dialect spoken in eastern Massachusetts by the Wampanoag, Massachuset, and Nauset.
Divisions:Mahican, Mechkentowoon, Wawyachtonoc, Westenhuck, and Wiekagjoc.
New York State unless otherwise noted. The name of (another tribe) indicates the village had a mixed population.Christian Villages:
Aepjin's Castle, Chaghnet (Chugnut) (Iroquois), Hoosac (Hoosick) (Abenaki), Horicon (Horikan), Housatonic, Kaunaumeek, Kenunckpacook, Kaunaumeek, Maringoman Castle, Mohican John's Town (OH), Monemius (Cohoes, Monnemen's Castle), Nepaug, Nutimys Town (Shawnee-Delaware) (PA), Oswego (Iroquois), Otsiningo (Iroquois-Nanticoke-Delaware), Paanpaack, Peantam, Potick, Potie, Schaghticoke (Scatacook, Scaticook, Shachcook, Skachcook - NOT to be confused with the Schaghticoke in Connecticut), Shekomeko, Shodac (Shotak), Shakehook (Skatekook, Sheffield), Tioga (Munsee-Nanticoke-Saponi-Tutelo) (PA), Tullihas (Delaware-Caughnawaga) (OH), Unawat's Castle, Utfonango (Iroquois), Wechquadnach (Wukhquatenauk), Wequadnack, Westenhuck (Wnahktakook), Wiatiae, Wiltmeet, Winooskeek (Winooski), Wyeck, and Wyoming (Munsee-Shawnee-Iroquois-Nanticoke) (PA).Brotherton, Shekomeko (Shecomeco, Moravian), and Stockbridge (Wnahkutook).
When James Fenimore Cooper wrote "Last of the Mohicans" in 1826, he made the Mahican famous. Unfortunately, he also made them extinct in the minds of many people and also confused their name and history with the Mohegan from eastern Connecticut. Unfortunately, this misconception has persisted, and most Americans today would be surprised to learn the Mahican are very much alive and living in Wisconsin under an assumed name ...Stockbridge Indians. With a similar language and name, the Mahican (Mohican) and the Mohegan may have been members of the same tribe before contact. The Mohegan, however, migrated east as part of the Pequot and settled in eastern Connecticut sometime around 1500, while the Mahican stayed in the Hudson Valley. Afterwards, these two tribes followed separate paths.
Although culturally similar to other woodland Algonquin, the Mahican were shaped by their constant warfare with the neighboring Iroquois. Politically, the Mahican were a confederacy of five tribes with as many 40 villages. In keeping with other eastern Algonkin, civil authority was not strong. Mahican villages were governed by hereditary sachems (matrilineal descent) advised by a council of the clan leaders. The Mahican had three clans: bear, wolf, and turtle. However, warfare required a higher degree of organization. A general council of sachems met regularly at their capital of Shodac (east of present-day Albany) to decide important matters affecting the entire confederacy. In times of war, the Mahican council passed its authority to a war chief chosen for his proven ability. For the duration of the conflict, the war leader exercised almost dictatorial power.
Mahican villages were fairly large. Usually consisting of 20 to 30 mid-sized longhouses, they were located on hills and heavily fortified. Large cornfields were located nearby. Agriculture provided most of their diet but was supplemented by game, fish, and wild foods. For reasons of safety, the Mahican did to move to scattered hunting camps during the winter like other Algonquin and usually spent the colder months inside their "castles" (fortified villages). Copper, gotten from the Great Lakes through trade, was used extensively for ornaments and some of their arrowheads. Once they began trade with the Dutch, the Mahican abandoned many of their traditional weapons and quickly became very expert with their new firearms. Contrary to the usual stereotype, most Mahican warriors were deadly marksmen. The mother of the famous Miami chief Little Turtle was a Mahican.
Throughout the 1500s, European sea captains rode the Gulf Stream north along the east coast of the United States on their return to Europe. It became common practice to add some last minute profit to their voyage by stopping enroute to capture native slaves. For this reason, many coastal tribes became hostile to the pale-faced men from the big ships, but the Mahican lived well-inland and had no such experience. Employed by the Dutch East India Company to search for the Northwest Passage (a fabled shortcut to China), Henry Hudson sailed through the Verrazano strait and entered the Hudson River in September, 1609. For the reasons mentioned, the Wappinger on the lower river proved hostile, but Hudson continued upstream until stopped by shallow water near the Mahican villages just below Albany. The Mahican were not only friendly but eager to trade. Hudson exhausted his trade goods and returned to Holland with a cargo of valuable furs which immediately attracted Dutch merchants to the area. The first Dutch fur traders arrived on the Hudson River the following year to trade with the Mahican. Besides exposing them to European epidemics, the fur trade destabilized the region, and rather than prosperity, it brought the Mahican death and destruction.
The turmoil had started almost as soon as European fishermen visiting the Newfoundland's Grand Banks during the 1500s began exchanging metal knives and cooking pots for furs from the Micmac and Montagnais in the Canadian Maritimes. To protect this trade and gain additional hunting territory, these tribes had used their new steel weapons to drive their Iroquois rivals from the lower St. Lawrence River sometime after 1542. Although the French built their first trading posts near the Micmac in 1604, the quality of the fur from the St. Lawrence drew them north. Abandoning the Micmac, the French built new posts at Tadoussac, and then farther upstream at Quebec in 1608. The Iroquois, meanwhile, had organized into the Iroquois League, an alliance of five tribes (Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, Seneca), and were once again formidable. After 50-years of warfare, which apparently started around 1560, they had driven an unknown Algonquin-speaking enemy who they called the Adirondack from the mountains in northern New York of the same name, and were in the process of reclaiming the St. Lawrence Valley from the Algonkin, Montagnais, and Maliseet.
However, this confrontation was far from over in 1608, and the St. Lawrence River west of Quebec was a war zone which blocked the expansion of the French fur trade to the west. The danger from Mohawk war parties made the Algonkin and their Huron allies reluctant to bring their furs to Quebec, and to win their loyalty, the French decided to help them against the Iroquois. In July of 1609, only two months before Henry Hudson reached the Mahican villages, Samuel de Champlain and six other French accompanied a combined Algonkin, Montagnais, and Huron war party south into New York. At the north end of Lake Champlain, they encountered a large force of Mohawk warriors massing for battle. French firearms broke the Mohawk formation killing several of their chiefs. Confronting a new weapon for the first time, the Mohawk broke and ran. The following year, the French joined their allies to destroy a Mohawk fort on the Richelieu River, and afterwards the Algonkin used the steel weapons gotten from the French to drive the Iroquois from the upper St. Lawrence.
If this unequal contest had continued long enough, the Iroquois might well have been destroyed, but they were saved by the beginning of Dutch trade on the Hudson River in 1610. The one obstacle for the Mohawk, however, was that to trade with the Dutch, they first had to cross Mahican territory. Relations between these two tribes had apparently been hostile for many years before contact, and in all likelihood, the Mahican were a part of the Adirondack. A further source of irritation appears to have been that the Mahican had better access to tribes in the wampum producing areas of Long Island sound which gave them control of the trade in this valuable commodity with the Iroquois. In any case, the Mahican were very reluctant to allow Mohawk access to the Dutch, while the Mohawk desperately needed to trade for steel weapons if they were to survive their war with their northern enemies.
At first, the Dutch traders came only in the summer, loaded their ships with fur, and then sailed back to Europe. By 1613 the fur trade on the Hudson River had grown so lucrative, it became organized, and the United Netherlands Company, a consortium of thirteen Dutch merchants, was granted a four-year charter by the Staten Generaal. It was decided to establish a permanent trading post, but the Dutch first had to arrange a truce to end the fighting which had erupted between the Mahican and Mohawk. Once this was done, the Dutch built Fort Nassau on Castle Island just south of present-day Albany in 1614. Just opposite a Mahican village, it was not easy for the Mohawk to visit, but Fort Nassau was also inconvenient for the Dutch. Prone to flooding, it was abandoned with the outbreak of another Mahican-Mohawk war in 1617. Dutch traders were inclined to favor the Mahican in these conflicts, but they had also ingratiated themselves to the Mohawk by arming them against the Munsee and Susquehannock during 1615. This gave the Dutch enough influence to negotiate another truce between the Mohawk and Mahican in 1618. A new Fort Nassau was built on higher ground near its former location.
The terms of this agreement gave the Mohawk unlimited access to the Dutch but required them to pay tolls to cross Mahican territory. This was not easy for the Mohawk to accept, but the peace endured for six years. During 1621 the United Netherlands Company was absorbed by the newly-formed Dutch West India Company, a commercial enterprise whose charter gave it exclusive authority to trade, govern, and settle New Netherlands. Settlement had been secondary to the fur trade, but after the establishment of an English colony at Plymouth (Massachusetts) in 1620, the Dutch West India Company began to encourage greater immigration. Thirty families under the direction of Willem Verhulst arrived from Holland in 1624. Most settled near Fort Nassau at a place which they called Maeykans "Home of the Mahican" and began to construct new trading post (Fort Orange) on the west side of the Hudson at present-day Albany. Since they no longer needed to cross the Hudson, the new location was more convenient for the Mohawk, but after 14 years of supplying the Dutch with fur, both the Mahican and Iroquois had just about exhausted the beaver in their homelands. As the fur reaching them began to dwindle, the Dutch asked the Mahican to arrange trade for them with the Algonkin and Montagnais (French allies and trading partners) in the St. Lawrence Valley.
The Mohawk had endured tolls for six years but would not tolerate trade with their northern enemies and attacked the Mahican in 1624. To protect their trade, the Dutch tried to arrange a truce, but this was a war they could not stop. The struggle between the Mahican and Mohawk during the next four years was a critical moment in the history of North America, and if the Mohawk had not won, Cooper's book might well have been called "Last of the Iroquois." Since they lived near their villages and often intermarried with them, the Dutch favored the Mahican, and in 1626, Krieckbeck, the commander at Fort Orange, and six Dutch soldiers joined a Mahican war party against the Mohawk. Running into an ambush, Krieckbeck and three of his men were killed, and the Mohawk warriors celebrated their victory afterwards by cooking and eating one of the dead. Rather than retaliate, Governor Pieter Minuit ordered the other Dutch to remain strictly neutral and evacuated the families near Fort Orange to Fort Amsterdam on Manhattan Island. By 1628, the Mahican had been defeated and abandoned their villages west of the Hudson River.
When the Mahican-Mohawk war ended in 1628, the Dutch pragmatically accepted the outcome, and the Mohawk became their dominant trading partner. The peace not only bound the Mohawk and Mahican into an alliance but required the Mahican to pay an annual tribute of wampum to the Iroquois. The Dutch had become aware in 1623 of the value which natives placed on wampum from their dealings with the Pequot along the Connecticut River. Soon afterwards, they began accepting it as a medium of exchange in the fur trade which greatly increased its value. Using the wampum they were receiving from the Mahican, the Mohawk could purchase many of things they needed from the Dutch, but to continue to dominate the fur trade, they still needed to find new sources of beaver. For this reason, the Mohawk, after they made peace with the Mahican in 1628, continued their wars against the Mahican allies in western New England: Pennacook, Pocumtuc, and Sokoki (western Abenaki). At the same time, they renewed efforts to retake the upper St. Lawrence which they had been forced to surrender to the Algonkin and Montagnais in 1610.
Strangely enough, it was a European war between Britain and France which allowed them to do this. In 1629 a British fleet captured Quebec, and for the next three years until it was returned to France by treaty in 1632, French trade goods (and weapons) came to a complete halt for the Algonkin and Montagnais. While their trade with the Dutch continued, the Iroquois seized this opportunity to attack their enemies while they were at a disadvantage. In 1629 a Mohawk war party destroyed the Algonkin-Montagnais village at Trois Rivieres. By the time France regained Canada in 1632, the Algonkin and Montagnais had been forced to abandon most of the upper St. Lawrence, and the Mohawk were close to cutting the vital trade corridor through the Ottawa River Valley to the western Great Lakes. To restore the previous military advantage, the French began selling their allies firearms for "hunting" which started an arms race. Dutch traders countered with similar sales to the Iroquois, and the result was seventy years of intertribal warfare to control the European fur trade known as the Beaver Wars (1629-1701).
Efforts by the Dutch West India Company to increase immigration proved unsuccessful, and in 1629 they offered large land grants with feudal authority to wealthy investors (patroons) willing to transport, at their own expense, fifty adult settlers to New Netherlands. Five patroonships resulted, but since there was little economic opportunity for anyone but patroons, most ended in failure. By 1635, the company had repurchased four of the original grants. The exception was Rensselaerswyck (Van Rensselaer Manoi) in the Mahican homeland which straddled both sides of the Hudson near old Fort Nassau. Since Dutch law required the purchase of native lands, Kiliaen van Rensselaer sent Sebastian Jansen Crol to Fort Orange in 1630 to negotiate the sale with the Mahican. His timing could not have been better. The Mahican were agreeable since they still claimed their old lands west of the Hudson, but after their defeat by the Mohawk in 1628, they no longer had any villages there. Besides the promise of trade, it also seems likely that, despite their recent alliance with the Mohawk, the Mahican felt more comfortable about their new "allies" with a Dutch settlement near them. Other purchases from the Mahican were added over the years, and Rensselaerswyck eventually grew to almost a million acres.
One of the effects of the prolonged Mahican-Mohawk war between 1624 and 1628 was that it had forced the Dutch to locate their settlements elsewhere. In 1626 Pieter Minuit purchased Manhattan Island from the Metoac tribe of the same name. Fort Amsterdam was built on the south end of the island along with the settlement of New Amsterdam, and farmers were brought to raise the food for the garrison. In 1639, the Company gave up its monopoly in the fur trade, and immigration to New Netherlands increased dramatically. As settlement spread across the lower Hudson Valley, native lands were often taken through fraud and intimidation. Unlike the friendly relations which the Dutch had enjoyed with the Mahican, conflict with the Wappinger, Unami Delaware, and Metoac on the lower river was immediate, and because of the growing hostility, the Dutch were reluctant to sell firearms to the tribes near their settlements.
Unfortunately, this was not the situation elsewhere. Although the Dutch and French sold firearms to their native allies, both were very careful to limit the amount of ammunition to prevent the use of these weapons against themselves. However, after the Swedes settled on the lower Delaware River in 1638, they tried to compensate for their late start in the fur trade with unrestricted sales to the Susquehannock who quickly became a threat to neighboring tribes. When the other latecomer, English traders along the Connecticut River, tried to lure the Mohawk away from the Dutch with offers of firearms in 1640, the Dutch reacted by providing guns and ammunition to the Iroquois and Mahican in any amount they wanted. While a brutal war raged to the north along the St. Lawrence between the Dutch supplied Iroquois League and the French allied Huron and Algonkin, the Mohawk and Mahican along the Hudson were at peace with each other. However, both tribes had become very heavily-armed compared to the Wappinger and other tribes on the lower river.
The Dutch were unable to prevent either tribe from using their new weapons against neighboring tribes. The European presence in the Hudson Valley had also introduced a series of new epidemics which further destabilized the situation. Smallpox started in New England and devastated the native population during 1634. Measles, influenza, typhus, and a host of other diseases took a similar toll. To maintain their dominant position in the trade with the Dutch, the Mahican and Mohawk needed additional hunting territory, but they had been hit as heavily as anyone else (perhaps moreso) and were forced to compensate for the fall in their populations by cooperating in warfare. After years of fighting, the Mahican and Mohawk had acquired a great respect for each other as warriors, and by 1642 they were forming joint war parties against the Sokoki and Montagnais. Despite military successes and territorial gains, beaver fur was becoming increasingly difficult to find, but the Dutch were also accepting wampum as payment.
The solution for the Mahican and Mohawk was to subjugate the weaker tribes to the south and demand tribute in wampum. While the Mohawk pressured the Munsee Delaware west of the river, the Mahican went after the Wappinger on the east side. During the winter of 1642-43, eighty heavily armed Mahican warriors arrived at the Wecquaesgeek (Wappinger) villages near present-day Yonkers to demand tribute. In the melee which resulted, 17 Wecquaesgeek were killed and many of their women and children taken prisoner. The Wecquaesgeek fled south to what they thought was the protection of the Dutch settlements on the south end of Manhattan Island. After a two-week stay, they moved across the river to the Hackensack and Tappan (Unami Delaware) villages at Pavonia (Jersey City). Because of a recent incident and near war with the Wecquaesgeek, the Dutch had little sympathy for their plight and considered them, at best, unwelcome guests.
There had also been trouble with the Raritan (Pig War, 1640) and Hackensack (Whiskey War, 1642), and when the Narragansett sachem Miontonimo, accompanied by 100 of his warriors, had visited the Metoac villages on Long Island that summer to recruit allies for a war against the Mohegan in Connecticut, Governor Kieft and the other Dutch became suspicious that a general uprising was being planned against themselves and the English. Ignoring the advice of his council, Kieft decided to exterminate the Wecquaesgeek to set an example to the other Wilden (wild men) near Manhattan. On the night of February 25th, 1643, the Dutch made two surprise attacks on the sleeping Wecquaesgeek villages near Pavonia and, without regard for sex or age, massacred at least 110. As word of the Pavonia Massacre spread to the other tribes along the lower river, they retaliated with attacks on the outlying Dutch farms. The Dutch were quickly driven inside the confines of Fort Amsterdam, and in preparing for siege, Kieft compounded the damage by stealing corn from the Metoac on Long Island.
The Wappinger War (Governor Kieft's War, 1642-45) quickly spread to at least 20 tribes: Tappan, Hackensack, Haverstraw, Navasink, Raritan, and a few Munsee in New Jersey; Wecquaesgeek, Kitchawank, Sintsink, Nochpeem, Siwanoy, Tankiteke, and Wappinger in the north; and Canarsee, Manhattan, Rockaway, Matinecock, Merrick, Secatoag, and Massapequa on Long Island. With only 250 men, the Dutch were nearly overwhelmed. Only the Mahican and Mohawk remained loyal, and Kieft took advantage of this to travel to Fort Orange and conclude a treaty of friendship and alliance with them. Although the Mohawk and Mahican did not intervene in the fighting, the mere threat of their doing so was sufficient to keep the war from spreading. Kieft then offered 25,000 guilders to the English in Connecticut for 150 men to help put down the uprising. Dutch and English forces combined with terrible effect during the 1644 and 1645 to crush the Wappinger and their allies. By the summer of 1645, more than than 2,600 had been killed, and the Wappinger asked the Mahican to mediate a peace for them with the Dutch. The Mahican were rewarded for their services. The treaty signed at Fort Orange that August made the Wappinger subject to the Mahican and required the Metoac on the western end of Long Island to pay them an annual tribute in wampum.
Since the Mahican were required in turn to pay tribute to the Mohawk, some of the Metoac tribute found its way to the Iroquois who also profited indirectly from the war. Without losing a single warrior in a war they had provoked between the Dutch and Wappinger, the Mahican and Mohawk gained control of the wampum trade of the lower Hudson. After the war, the Mahican added to their diminished ranks by absorbing remnants from the surviving Wappinger. However, several of the Wappinger tribes, although now subject to the Mahican, had come through the war intact. Rather than collect their tribute from Metoac themselves, the Mahican used the Wappinger as their enforcers. Any failure to pay brought immediate Wappinger attacks on the Metoac villages. While these raids may have annoyed the Dutch, they made no effort to prevent them. By 1655 the Metoac had grown angry enough at this that they were ready to kill all of the Dutch settlers on Long Island, but English colonists on the island warned the Dutch and prevented a major uprising. In 1656 Governor Pieter Stuyvesant signed a treaty with the Metoac agreeing to the construction of a Dutch fort on the island for trade and to defend them against the Wappinger (and indirectly Mahican). Despite this, there was more trouble with the Metoac in 1659.
Meanwhile, a string of Iroquois victories along the St. Lawrence had brought the French fur trade to a complete halt by 1645. To continue their trade, the French were forced to sign a peace treaty with the Mohawk agreeing to remain neutral in future wars between the League and the Huron and Algonkin. During the next two years, the Iroquois attempted to gain permission from the Huron to hunt to the north but were refused. In 1647 the Iroquois resorted to force, and sensing their ally was on the verge of victory, the Dutch supplied them with 400 of the latest flintlocks (much better weapon) and unlimited ammunition on credit. In the spring of 1649, the Iroquois overran and destroyed the Huron Confederacy. During the next two years, the Algonkin, Tionontati, and Neutrals suffered similar fates. The suddenness of these conquests alarmed everyone, including the Mahican who, emboldened by the addition of Wappinger warriors to their ranks, were also annoyed that they still had to pay tribute to their Mohawk "allies."
After the Iroquois victories, the French scrambled during 1650 to organize an alliance of the Pocumtuc, Sokoni, and Pennacook to oppose them. Deciding the time had come to end their alliance with the Mohawk, the Mahican also accepted an invitation to join. However, except for an occasional raid or skirmish, this new alliance went untested at first, since the Mohawk and Oneida were engaged in a serious war in Pennsylvania with the Susquehannock and their Munsee allies. Supplied by the Swedes on the lower Delaware River, the Susquehannock and Munsee easily held their own against the fearsome Mohawk, but in 1655 the Dutch captured the Swedish colonies. Suddenly deprived of their supplier of firearms, the Susquehannock were forced to make peace which freed the Mohawk to turn east. Although the Mahican had remained friendly, the Dutch intervention was not appreciated by the tribes of the lower river and may have contributed to a brief but bloody conflict with the Wappinger that year known as the Peach War.
Much to the distress of the Dutch, the Mahican and their allies exchanged raids with the Mohawk and Oneida across northern and western New England during the next three years. Following the murder of Jesuit priest in 1658, war resumed along the St. Lawrence between the Iroquois and the French. At the same time, the western Iroquois (Seneca, Cayuga, Onondaga) became involved in a new war with the Susquehannock, Munsee, and eventually the Unami Delaware. With this many enemies to fight, the Iroquois appealed to the Dutch for support. Besides promises of firearms and ammunition, the Dutch also agreed to use their influence to end the fighting between the Mahican and Mohawk. At the insistence of the Dutch, the Mahican deserted their alliance with the New England Algonquin that year and made a separate peace with the Mohawk. This helped, because, the Dutch were just beginning to have serious problems with the Esopus, four Munsee tribes in the Esopus Valley near present-day Kingston, New York.
The Esopus felt they had never been paid for the lands in the valley taken by the Dutch settlement which had begun in 1652. Although their complaints were ignored, it was not uncommon for Dutch colonists to circumvent their own laws and cheat natives whenever they thought they could get away with it. The difference was that the Esopus did not take this abuse, and after several incidents of increasing violence (some of which may also have involved Mahican and Wappinger warriors), a Dutch farmer was murdered in 1657. Stuyvesant arrived with troops, and after negotiations with the Esopus went nowhere, he left after ordering the construction of a fort and leaving 50 soldiers to garrison it. Tensions built over the following year, and after the murder of some Esopus hired by a Dutch farmer to husk his corn, Esopus retaliation started the First Esopus War (1659-60). The Dutch were besieged inside their fort for three weeks before Stuyvesant, delayed by hostilities with the Metoac on Long Island, arrived with 300 men in relief. The Esopus retreated west into the Catskill Mountains and continued to raid the settlements in the valley.
In December, the Mahican and Mohawk attempted to mediate a truce but failed, and in the spring the Dutch went on the offensive. Threatened with war with the Mahican and Mohawk if they refused, the Esopus finally agreed to meet with the Dutch during the summer of 1660. Since the treaty signed required the Esopus to surrender most of the disputed land, it did not sit well, but the Mahican and Mohawk guaranteed the treaty and threatened to attack the Esopus if they violated it. Unfortunately, the Mahican and Mohawk were unable to guarantee peace between themselves. That same year, the Mohawk discovered the Mahican were once again trying to arrange trade between the Dutch and the Algonkin, Montagnais, and Sokoki. After the Mahican ignored their warnings, the Mohawk attacked them in 1662. After two years of fighting with battles at Wanton Island and Red Hook, the Mahican had abandoned almost all of the Hudson Valley, including their ancient capital at Shodac just opposite Albany. The fighting continued until 1672, but after 1664, the Mahican council fire was at Westenhuck on upper Housatonic River in western Massachusetts.
With the Mahican and Mohawk preoccupied with each other, the Esopus attacked the Dutch settlements in the Esopus Valley in June, 1663. Reinforcements arrived and drove the Esopus back into the hills where the Dutch could not reach them. In desperation the Dutch called in the Mohawk, who this time employed a more direct method of mediation. Combined with the Seneca, they struck the Munsee and Esopus villages with devastating effect. The Esopus made peace with the Dutch in May of 1664, but the Munsee war with the Iroquois did not end until 1676. By then the Munsee were a conquered people subject to the League. The Dutch had little time to enjoy the peace with the Esopus. In September of 1664, a British fleet arrived and captured New Netherlands. Stuyvesant surrendered Fort Amsterdam on the 6th, and Fort Orange surrendered four days later. Despite the fact the Mahican and Mohawk were at war, the British urged them to make peace and signed treaties of trade and friendship with both tribes on September 24th. New Amsterdam became New York, and except when the Dutch briefly recaptured it in 1673 (renaming it New Orange), the important role of the Dutch in the settlement of North America had ended. The Treaty of Westminster returned New York to Great Britain in 1674.
Little changed for the Mohawk after the British takeover. The British wisely allowed the same Dutch traders to continue trading with the Iroquois, but the Mahican never achieved the same amount of influence with the British that they had enjoyed under the Dutch. Pressed by the Mohawk, the Mahican entered into another alliance with the Pocumtuc, Pennacook and Sokoki, but they had chosen the losing side. While the British stood by in not-so neutral fashion, the Mohawk gathered support from the Oneida, Cayuga, and Onondaga and drove the Pocumtuc, Pennacook, and Sokoki from western New England. Only the Mahican still opposed the Iroquois, but by 1669 they had retreated to the Housatonic Valley in western Massachusetts, and despite the incorporation of small groups of Wappinger and Mattabesec, their population had fallen to less than 1,000.
Because of the threat from the French, the British became increasingly concerned, and in April, 1670, Governor Lovelace travelled to Albany to try to arrange peace between the Mohawk and Mahican. The British continued to insist, and the peace which the Mahican finally made with the Iroquois League in 1672 was actually a total surrender. After 1675 the Iroquois League handled all Mahican negotiations with Europeans, and two years later, the Mahican became the first members of the Iroquois "Covenant Chain." Mahican warriors were recruited for Iroquois raids against tribes in Virginia and Carolina during 1681. Although subject, the Mahican still exercised considerable respect and influence within the Iroquois councils, and under the protection of the Mahican, a group of Shawnee from South Carolina in 1692 were allowed to move in among the Munsee Delaware in northeast Pennsylvania. For this to be allowed, the Mahican had to overcome strong objections from the Iroquois who still thought of the Shawnee as enemies. During the winter of 1676, the Mahican were also instrumental in providing a sanctuary at their village of Schaghticoke on the Hudson River for 250 refugees from the King Philip's War (1675-76). Others followed, and by 1700 the number of refugees at Schaghticoke had grown to more to 1,000.
However, the Mahican had more difficulty protecting themselves and their lands from the colonists of New England and New York. Settlement of the upper Housatonic began shortly after the King Philip's War. In the Hudson Valley, the Mahican sold their lands west of the river to the Van Rensselaer Manoi in 1680, and seven years later, they parted with even more. Sales of other lands along the Hudson were also made to Robert Livingston in 1683 and 1685 followed by the surrender of their claims in northwest Connecticut. Whites usually took the lands in between these tracts which were sold without purchase. Even as they continued to absorb members of the Wappinger and Mattabesic, smallpox during 1690 reduced the Mahican to less than 800 (10% of their original number). During the King William's War (1689-96) between Britain and France, the Mohawk were dispersed during 1693 by French attacks on their homeland. Faced with a possible French invasion from Canada, the governor of New York recruited Mahican, Wappinger, and Munsee warriors to stem the tide. The Mohawk are said to have lost half of their warriors in this conflict, but two-thirds of the Mahican and Wappinger who entered British service never returned.
Shortly after the outbreak of the Queen Anne's War (1701-13), the Mahican sachem Minichque was mortally wounded by four free blacks during a visit to Albany in August of 1702. Concerned the Mahican would go over to the French, the British did everything in their power to nurse him back to health. Although they normally had problems punishing white men for murdering an Indian, for some reason, the British had no trouble prosecuting the culprits in this particular case. The Mahican apparently appreciated these efforts and remained loyal to the British. In 1711 the Mahican, Schaghticoke, and Iroquois attended a conference at Albany with the British to plan an expedition to capture Quebec. The undertaking ended in disaster. The ships used to transport them to the Gulf of St. Lawrence became lost in fog off the coast of Nova Scotia, and after a collision, two sank with the loss of 840 men.
As their land and number dwindled, the Mahican began to scatter, and by 1740 most had disappeared from the Hudson Valley. In their search for beaver, Mahican hunters had ranged west into the Ohio Valley as early as 1665. In 1680 the French encountered two groups of Mahican living with the Miami on the upper Kankakee River in northern Indiana. They were still there in 1721, when the French refused permission for other groups of Mahican to relocate to the Ohio country from New York. At the time, the French were on the verge of another war with the Fox and concerned the Mahican were either sympathetic to the British or would ally with the Fox. By 1750 the Mahican on the Kankakee had disappeared and are presumed to have been absorbed by the Miami. As more and more English colonists moved into western Massachusetts, the Mahican began to sell their lands on the Housatonic. Konkapot, their chief sachem, sold one large section in 1724 for £460. Payment also included three barrels of cider and three quarts of rum, presumably to ease the pain of his decision. After the sale, the only Massachusetts land that the Mahican had left was a small area along the Housatonic River between Sheffield (Skatekook) and Stockbridge (Wnahkutook).
After settlement, game became increasingly scarce and alcohol a serious problem. Even with their greatly diminished numbers, the land could not support them. Keepedo (known later as Mohican Abraham) abandoned his lands and left Massachusetts with his people in 1730 to settle among the Unami and Munsee Delaware in Wyoming Valley in northern Pennsylvania. After Pennsylvania cheated the Delaware out of their remaining lands through the infamous Walking Purchase Agreement in 1737, the Iroquois refused to defend the Delaware and even insulted them as "women" during meeting with the Pennsylvania governor in Philadelphia. By 1749 most of these "women" had left the Wyoming and Susquehanna Valleys and moved to the Ohio country without bothering to ask for Iroquois permission. The Mahican with them went also, and one group of Mahican settled on the upper Sandusky River in northwest Ohio near the Wyandot. In 1763 they joined the Pontiac Rebellion, and the following year their village (Mahican John's) was burned by Colonel John Bradstreet. Although they maintained a separate identity until 1793, the Ohio Mahican eventually were absorbed by the Delaware.
The departure of these Mahican left only 400 Mahican at Wnahkutook on the Housatonic, the last official Mahican capital. Most of these were converted to Christianity by missionary work which began 1707. The most notable work was by John Sargeant (Sergeant) who arrived in western Massachusetts in 1734 and, the following year, built a mission at Stockbridge, a place the Mahican called the Great Meadow. Sargeant's growing congregation was joined during 1736 by other converts: Mahican from Schaghticoke and Potick (New York); Munsee; Wappinger; and several other New England tribes. Although the population remained predominately Mahican, tribal identity became increasingly blurred and the native community became known as Stockbridge Indians rather than Mahican. Most of the Stockbridge abandoned their traditional wigwams for frame houses, attended church on Sunday, sent their children to British schools, and resembled their white neighbors in every way except the color of their skin. This was, however, not sufficient to protect them from the colonists who continued to encroach and take their lands. All transfers of Mahican land to whites required approval from the Massachusetts general court, but this legal safeguard was routinely ignored.
Although they were generally disliked by New York and New England colonists, the Moravians also worked with the Mahican after 1740. A mission was established at Shekomeko (Pine Plains, New York) in 1749, but was closed after the start of the French and Indian War (1755-63) when its ministers protested white takeovers of native land and were arrested on the suspicion of being French agents. The Moravians found greater tolerance in Pennsylvania and their missions there at Freidenshutten and Gnadenhutten ministered to both Delaware and Mahican. One of their first converts was the Mahican sachem Keepedo who after baptism was called Abraham. The riots and lynchings by white colonists which accompanied the outbreak of the Pontiac Rebellion in 1763 forced the Moravians to close their missions in Pennsylvania, and their converts left for Ohio. The Moravians followed them west to Ohio and in 1772 established new missions with the same names. In March of 1782 Mahican Abraham (by now an old man) and 90 peaceful Christian Delaware were massacred by American militia at Gnadenhutten, Ohio.
Meanwhile, the Mahican at Stockbridge had been providing invaluable military service in the defense of British settlements. They garrisoned Fort Dummer (Vermont) to protect settlements in western New England against Abenaki raids during Grey Lock's War (1724-27). They also served as British scouts during the King George's War (1744-48), but their white neighbors grew increasingly hostile. Turning the other cheek as required by their new faith, the Stockbridge chose to not to retaliate for the unprovoked murder of a Mahican in 1753 by two whites, even when their punishment by a Massachusetts court was exceptionally lenient. At the outbreak of the French and Indian War in 1755, a war party from St. Francois came to Schaghticoke in August and took its people back to Canada with them. The defection of the Schaghticoke made the British suspect the loyalty of all of their native allies. This worsened after some of the Schaghticoke returned and killed five colonists near Stockbridge. Despite this, 45 Stockbridge warriors joined Major Robert Roger's Rangers in 1756, and because of them, Abenaki and Schaghticoke raiders avoided English settlements along the Housatonic.
Rather than gratitude, the Stockbridge found themselves increasingly unwelcome in New England. Although Konkapot and a few families refused to leave, many Stockbridge sold their Massachusetts lands in 1756 and, accepting the invitation of the Oneida, moved to upstate New York. These were soon joined by the last groups of Wappinger and Munsee from the lower Hudson Valley forced to relocate for similar reasons. After the fall of Quebec in September, 1759, there was no doubt about the outcome of the war with the French, and a new wave of British settlers poured into western Massachusetts. To pay debts owed to white traders, Konkapot was forced to sell more land in 1763, and by the start of the American Revolution in 1775, the Stockbridge holdings in Massachusetts had been reduced to less than 1,200 acres. Other than the lands which had been provided to them by the Oneida, this was all the Mahican had left after years of loyal service to both the British and Dutch.
Especially galling were the Mahican and Wappinger lands along the Hudson River confiscated by New York or occupied by white squatters after the Mahican and Wappinger families in the area had been forced to leave in 1758 by the threat of massacre. When the Mahican and Wappinger tried to forcibly expel squatters in Duchess and Putnam counties, troops were brought in to prevent bloodshed, but the whites stayed where they were. When it looked as if nothing further would be done, the Wappinger sachem Daniel Nimham visited Great Britain where his protests received a favorable hearing. Encouraged, he returned in 1762 and stunned the colonists by filing suit in the New York courts for the recovery of Wappinger and Mahican lands taken without compensation. Recovering from their surprise, the colonists responded with legal motions intended to delay a ruling. By the outbreak of the American Revolution in 1774, nothing had been done.
As war approached, both the Mahican and Wappinger (now virtually the same tribe) sent wampum belts to other tribes advising neutrality. However, after a meeting with the Patriots at Boston in April, 1774, Captain Hendrick Aupamut changed his mind and decided to throw in with the rebels, and Nimham's Wappinger followed suit. The Stockbridge were one of the few tribes to support the American cause during the war. They participated in the siege of Boston and fought at Bunker Hill that June; saw service at White Plains in 1776; served as scouts for the army of Horatio Gates at Saratoga and fought as a company-sized unit at the Battle of Bennington in 1777; and were at Barren Hill in 1778. Nimham was killed at the battle of Kingsbridge in August, 1778. For their service, the Stockbridge received a land grant in Vermont (later sold). Unfortunately, the Stockbridge also paid a terrible price for their patriotism ...the war cost them almost half of their adult male population.
Whatever the gratitude of their white neighbors, it did not last after the war and certainly did not include citizenship. With most of their lands gone, the Stockbridge left western Massachusetts for New York - the last group in 1786. By 1802 the Stockbridge community on the Oneida reserve had added several hundred Christian Brotherton Indians from Connecticut, Long Island, and New Jersey. Only a few isolated Mahican families continued to live along the Hudson. Meanwhile, the Stockbridge had provided another invaluable service to their country. In 1793 they volunteered for the thankless and dangerous role as American negotiators with the tribes of the western alliance in Ohio who were at war with United States. Two other government commissioners enroute to a meeting with the alliance had been murdered only the year before, but the Stockbridge delegation led by Hendrick Aupamut arrived safely in August, 1793, undoubtedly because they had so many relatives among the hostile Miami and Delaware. They were heard in council with respect, but unfortunately, the negotiations ended in failure and the war went on to its eventual conclusion at Fallen Timbers in 1794. Stockbridge and Brotherton warriors also served in the American Army during the War of 1812.
Patriotic service and conversion to Christianity did not prevent land speculators and settlers from taking their lands or demanding their removal >from New York. As their landbase shrank, nearly one-third of the Stockbridge under the leadership of John Metoxin accepted an offer made in 1808 by their relatives among the Delaware and Miami and in 1818 moved to the White River in Indiana. Unfortunately, they had no sooner arrived than they learned the Delaware had sold their Indiana lands and were preparing for removal west of the Mississippi to southwest Missouri. Some Stockbridge continued on to Wisconsin, but many chose to stay and were joined later by a group of Munsee Delaware. This mixed group did not leave Indiana and rejoin the main body until 1834. Meanwhile, the remaining Stockbridge in New York had sold their remaining lands in 1822 and agreed to move with the Oneida and Brotherton to a new reservation in northern Wisconsin on lands east of the Fox River which the government intended to purchase from the Menominee and Winnebago. The Menominee changed their minds about the amount of land they wished to sell, and it took some time to negotiate a new agreement.
After a new treaty signed in 1831, the move was completed by 1834 with the Oneida located just west of Green Bay and the Stockbridge and Brotherton settled on the east shore of Lake Winnebago. During the late 1830s the government made plans to send them to Oklahoma and Kansas. One group actually moved in 1839, but after extreme hardship enroute, they did not adjust well to life on the plains and returned to Wisconsin. By this time, the Stockbridge had decided they had moved enough. However, serious internal divisions developed after the government offered citizenship if the the Stockbridge would end their tribal ownership of land. The majority of the Brotherton finally accepted this offer in a treaty signed in 1856, while the Stockbridge, Munsee, and a few Brotherton moved to a new 40,000 acre reservation west of Green Bay. Tribal ownership finally ended with the individual allotments mandated by the General Allotment Act (Dawes Act, 1887). During the 28-years between the completion of allotment (1910) and the formation of a new Stockbridge tribal government in 1938 under the Indian Reorganization Act (1934), much of their land had been lost to either tax foreclosures or sales to whites. Although only 16,000 acres of their original reservation remains today, the "Last of the Mahicans" are still there and very much alive.
First Nations referred to in this History of the Mahican:
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