|Native to||United States|
|Region||southern New England|
|Ethnicity||Mohegan, Montauk, Niantic, Pequot, and Shinnecock|
|Extinct||1908, with the death of Fidelia Fielding|
The location of the Mohegan, Pequot, Montaukett, Niantic, and Shinnecock, and their neighbors, c. 1600
Mohegan-Pequot (also known as Mohegan-Pequot-Montauk, Secatogue, and Shinnecock-Poosepatuck; dialects in New England included Mohegan, Pequot, and Niantic; and on Long Island, Montauk and Shinnecock) is an Algonquian language formerly spoken by indigenous peoples in southern present-day New England and eastern Long Island.
The Mohegan Indian Tribe was historically based in central southern Connecticut. While originally part of the Pequot people, it gradually became independent and allied with English colonists in the Pequot War of 1637. This broke the power in the region of the Pequot who were formerly the dominant tribe. In reward, the English gave Western Pequot taken as captives to the Mohegan.
In 1933 John E. Hamilton, also known as Chief Rolling Cloud, was appointed Grand Sachem for Life of the Mohegan by his mother, Alice Storey. The Mohegan had a matrilineal kinship system, and male leaders were chosen by women elders from families with hereditary claims to the position. Storey was a direct descendant of Uncas, the great 17th-century leader of the Mohegan Nation, and of Tamaquashad, Grand Sachem of the Pequot Nation. In Mohegan tradition, the position of tribal leadership called Grand Sachem had always been hereditary through the maternal line.
Gladys Tantaquidgeon, who died at the age of 106 in 2005, served for years as the Tribe's medicine woman and unofficial historian. She became an anthropologist and worked for a decade with the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs. Returning to Connecticut, she operated her family's tribal Tantaquidgeon Museum for more than 50 years, beginning in 1947. It was one of the first museums to be owned and operated by Native Americans.
John Hamilton was a key figure among Native American leaders initiating late twentieth century land claims suits. Tribes in the Northeast had long interaction with European Americans. There was continued encroachment of their lands, even when colonial-era reservations were established. By the early 20th century, many of the tribes in the Northeast were essentially landless.
In the period of mid- and late-20th century increased Native American activism, the Mohegan and other Northeast tribes filed federal land claims suits seeking to recover land or compensation for what they had lost. The courts ruled in their favor, in cases in which states had conducted illegal arrangements with tribal leaders, without gaining US Senate approval. Congress passed bills to ratify these settlements, which often involved compensation for lands lost, or land set aside for the tribes, and sometimes compensation, in addition to official federal recognition of the groups as tribes. The so-called "state tribes" were those along the East Coast who had been recognized by the English Crown through treaties and other documentation long before individual colonial or state governments had been established. But, as the Native people lost their traditional lands and were not assigned reservations, they did not maintain their sovereign legal status associated with federal recognition.
In the 1960s, during a period of rising activism among Native Americans, Hamilton filed a number of land claims authorized by the "Council of Descendants of Mohegan Indians." The group had some 300 members at the time.
In 1970 the Montville, Connecticut faction of the Mohegan expressed its dissatisfaction with Hamilton's land-claims litigation. They wanted a change in direction. When the Hamilton supporters left a council meeting, the remainder elected Courtland Fowler as their new leader. Notes of that Council meeting referred to Hamilton as Sachem.
The group led by John Hamilton worked with the attorney Jerome Griner in federal land claims through the 1970s. The Fowler faction opposed this. In addition, a Kent, Connecticut property owners' organization, with native and non-native members, opposed the Hamilton land claims and the petition for federal recognition. These people were worried that their property values might be affected.
In response to the petitions by additional tribes seeking federal recognition, in 1978 the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) established a formal administrative process and criteria to be satisfied to prove cultural continuity; they established these in consultation with federally recognized tribes. That year, as authorized by the Council of Descendants, Hamilton submitted the Mohegan Tribe's first petition for federal recognition.
John Hamilton died in 1988. In his will, he named Eleanor Fortin as the Grand Sachem of the Mohegan people. She became the leader of the "Hamilton group," which continued to contend with the "Fowler faction" over tribal policy. Despite their disagreements, both groups continued to participate in tribal activities and to identify as Mohegan people.
By 1989, the Fowler faction had revived Hamilton's 1978 petition for federal recognition, which had been dormant for some years. The BIA's preliminary finding was that the Mohegan had not satisfied the criteria of documenting continuity in social community, and demonstrating political authority and influence as a tribe, through the twentieth century.
In 1990, the Mohegan under Fowler submitted a detailed response to address the BIA's concerns. They included compiled genealogies and other records, some of which had been collected and preserved by Hamilton and his followers. For instance, Eleanor Fortin had allowed the MTIC (Mohegan Tribe of Indians of Connecticut) researchers access to records pertaining to the Mohegan Congregational Church in Montville. The researchers had assured Fortin that if federal recognition were achieved, it would cover the entire surviving Mohegan population. They also used records maintained by Gladys Tantaquidgeon, who had kept genealogy and vital statistics of tribal members for her anthropological research.
In 1990, the MTIC ruled the tribe's membership be restricted to documented descendants from a single family, ca. 1860. This criteria excludes some of the Hamilton followers. By law, a federally recognized tribe has the authority to determine its own rules for membership. The MTIC tried to sue other Mohegan over their use of the tribal identity as well as their crafting, but they were unsuccessful.
In its 1994 "Final Determination," the BIA cited the vital statistics and genealogies as documents that were decisive in demonstrating "that the tribe did indeed have social and political continuity during the middle of the 20th century." The former Fowler group gained federal recognition as the Mohegan Tribe of Indians of Connecticut (MTIC). They do not acknowledge John Hamilton as Grand Sachem in their history, but say that Harold Tantaquidgeon was their chief prior to the era of federal recognition.
That same year, Congress passed the Mohegan Nation (Connecticut) Land Claim Settlement Act, which authorized the United States to take land into trust to establish a reservation for the Mohegan and settle their land claim. The final 1994 agreement between MTIC and the State in the settlement of land claims extinguished all pending land claims.
The Mohegan Tribe of Indians of Connecticut is the only federally recognized tribe of the Mohegan people.
Descendants of the followers of John Hamilton continue to function as a Mohegan band independently of the MTIC. They hold periodic gatherings and activities.
As of 2014, there are between 1,400 and 1,700 recorded tribal members (these figures vary by source). The Mohegan language has been dormant for approximately 100 years; the last native speaker, Fidelia A.H. Fielding, died in 1908. Fielding, a descendant of Chief Uncas, is deemed the preserver of the language. She left four diaries that are being used in the 21st-century process of restoring the language. She also took part in preserving the traditional culture. She practiced a traditional Mohegan way of life and was the last person to live in the traditional log dwelling.
Another important tribal member was Gladys Tantaquidgeon, who was the tribe's medicine woman from 1916 until her death in 2005. She too assisted greatly in maintaining the Mohegan culture, as she collected thousands of tribal documents and artifacts. These documents were of critical importance to supporting the tribe's documentation for its case for federal recognition, which was approved in 1994.
As of 2010, the Shinnecock and Unkechaug nations of Long Island, New York, had begun work with the State University of New York at Stony Brook, Southampton Campus, to revive their languages, or dialects of the above.
As of 2012, the Mohegan Language Project had created lessons, a dictionary, and other online learning materials to revive their language. The project also has a complete grammar in the works, which has been put together by Stephanie Fielding. The primary goal of the project is for the next generation of Mohegan people to be fluent.
Many of the dictionaries circulating are based on Prince and Speck's interpretation of testimony by the Mohegan woman, Dji's Butnaca (Flying Bird), also known as Fidelia A.H. Fielding.
The Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center collection includes a 1992 menu "which attempts to translate such words as hamburger and hot dog into Mohegan-Pequot."
The language was documented as early as the 17th century.
"In 1690, a Pequot vocabulary list was compiled by Rev. James Noyes in Groton. In 1717, Experience Mayhew, a Congregational Minister translated the Lord's Prayer into Mohegan-Pequot. Ezra Stiles, president of Yale University collected Pequot linguistic data in Groton in 1762."
Prayers from the Baháʼí Faith have been translated into the Mohegan-Pequot language.
"It is a sacred obligation," says the Golden Hill Paugussett Chief, Big Eagle. "Indian people must keep their languages alive. If the language is not spoken, it must be made to live again."
|Nasal||m (m)||n (n)|
|Stop||p (p)||t (t)||k (k)||kʷ (q)|
|Fricative||s (s)||ʃ (sh)||h (h)|
|Approximant||j (y)||w (w)|
/n/ is realized as [ŋ] only before [k].
|Close||iː (i)||uː~oː (o)|
|Mid||ə (u)||ɔ̃ː~ɔː (ô)|
The nasal /ɔ̃/ sound can range to being an oral /ɔ/ sound. "a" written with an acute accent (á) represents a long aː sound.
Nouns in Mohegan have two forms: animate and inanimate. They are further distinguished by number. Animate nouns include people, animals, heavenly bodies (sun, moon, stars, but not clouds), and spirits. There are other items that call fall into the category of animate such as certain cultural items and plants, but it is not known why these items are considered animate. It is something that is simply learned and memorized. One way to help identify if a noun is animate or inanimate is to look at its plural form. Plural animate nouns typically end in -k while plural inanimate nouns ends in -sh.
Animate nouns have four forms: singular, plural, obviative and locative. The obviate form is used when there are two or more animate third person nouns in a sentence, to mark the noun which is less salient (less relevant to the discourse). The unmarked noun is called the proximate, which is more salient/relevant to the discourse. The obviate is also used to mark a third person possessed noun, with the possessor considered as the proximate, even if the possessed noun is more salient than its possessor. The locative is used to show where something is spatially. Note that there is no obviative form for inanimate nouns, and neither the obviative nor the locative have plural forms (plurality is known through context).
|Animate Nouns (with regular stems)|
|Mohegan Form||English Translation|
|Obviative||winayah||old woman/women (obviative)|
|Locative||winayuk||at the old woman|
|Inanimate Nouns (with regular stems)|
|Mohegan Form||English Translation|
|Locative||wacuwuk||at the hill/on the hill|
Verbs in Mohegan come in several forms. Independent verbs exist in four forms: inanimate intransitive, animate intransitive, transitive inanimate and transitive animate. There is also the conjunct form which does not carry the affixes (used to clarify person) that the aforementioned hold.
Mohegan animate intransitive verbs show who the subject is by utilizing affixes. Singular forms have prefixes, but third person (singular and plural) only have suffixes. In the plural forms there are inclusive and exclusive suffixes; the inclusive we includes the person who is speaking as well as the person he/she is talking to whereas the exclusive we does not include the person the speaker is talking to. When an animate intransitive verb stem ends in a long vowel (á, i, o or ô) the 3rd person singular does not take a final -w, and in the 3rd person plural these same verbs take -k as an ending in lieu of - wak.
|1st person singular||nukumotu||I steal|
|2nd person singular||kukumotu||you steal|
|3rd person singular||kumotuw||he/she steals|
|3rd person obviative||kumotuh||he/she (obviative) steals|
|1st person plural exclusive||nukumotumun||we (I and he/she) steal|
|1st person plural inclusive||kukumotumun||we (I and you) steal|
|2nd person plural||kukumotumô||you (more than one) steal|
|3rd person plural||kumoyuwak||they steal|
*affixes indicated in bold type
|1st person singular||nuyáhshá||I breathe|
|2nd person singular||kuyáhshá||you breathe|
|3rd person singular||yáhshá||he/she breathes|
|3rd person obviative||yásháh||he/she (obviative) breathes|
|1st person plural exclusive||nuyáhshámun||we (I and he/she) breathe|
|1st person plural inclusive||kuyáhshámun||we (I and you) breathe|
|2nd person plural||kuyáhshámô||you (more than one) breathe|
|3rd person plural||yáhshák||they breathe|
*affixes indicated in bold type
The locative case is used to show where something is. Mohegan utilizes the suffix -uk to indicate spatial relationships, which can be compared to the English prepositions "on," "at," and "in." In Mohegan there is no plural form to go with the obviative and the locative: the same form is used for singular and plural with the difference being distinguished by context.
Example of the Locative Case
|cáhqinuk||in the house/houses|
The absentative case is used to when referencing a person who has died (this includes any property that they left behind). This is accomplished by adding a suffix to either his/her name, title or the property.
|singular||nokunsi||my late grandfather|
|plural||nokunsuk||my late grandfathers|
|obviative singluar||wokunsah||his late grandfather|
|obviative plural||wokunsukah||his late grandfathers|
|departed's possession singular||mushoyi||my late father's boat|
|departed's possessions plural||mushoyuk||my late father's boats|
*suffix indicated by bold type
The following example shows the absentative case in use:
Niswi nusihsuk wikôtamak áposuhutut.
Both of my late uncles enjoyed cooking.
In Mohegan, there are two types of possession, alienable possession and inalienable possession. Nouns receive different marking depending on the relationship between the possessor and the possessed noun. If the possessed noun is connected (physically or sometimes metaphorically) to the possessed noun it is considered inalienable possession. For example in the phrase, the man's hand, the hand is possessed inalienably, because it is inseparable from the man. Inalienable possession can also be metaphorical, for example in the phrase, the man's mother, the mother is possessed inalienably, because of a cultural perception of kinship as a "strong" connection. Inalienable nouns must always receive marking. If the possessor owns the possessed noun, but is not physically attached to it, it is considered alienable possession. In the phrase, the man's house, the house is possessed alienably, because the house is not attached to the man.
Nouns pertaining to kinship and body parts are always classified as inalienable, but there are some terms that don't fall under either of these umbrellas that must be classified as inalienable such as the noun "home." Various affixes are used to denote inalienability and different affixes are used to differentiate animate/inanimate and singular/plural. Additionally, when a term requires possession but the possessor is unclear or unknown it is marked with prefix that indicates an indefinite possessor.
|1st person singular||nutônihs||my daughter|
|2nd person singular||kutônihs||your daughter|
|3rd person singular||wutônihsah||his/her daughter|
|1st person plural exclusive||nutônihsun||our (exclusive) daughter|
|1st person plural inclusive||kutônihsun||our (inclusive) daughter|
|2nd person plural||kutônihsuw||your (plural) daughter|
|3rd person plural||wutônihsuwôwah||their daughter|
|indefinite possessor||mutônihs||an unknown person's daughter|
|1st person singular||nusit||my foot|
|2nd person singular||kusit||your foot|
|3rd person singular||wusit||his/her foot|
|1st person plural exclusive||nusitun||our (exclusive) foot|
|1st person plural inclusive||kusitun||our (inclusive) foot|
|2nd person plural||kusituw||your (plural) foot|
|3rd person plural||wusituw||their foot|
|indefinite possessor||musit||an unknown person's foot|
The locative (-uk) and obviate (-ah) suffixes are added to the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd person singular forms. Whether the word is singular or plural should be suggested in the content of the sentence. The obviate affixes only go on animate nouns.
When a possessed noun is plural it must be shown. With an animate noun then suffix -ak is combined with the possessive ending (with the exception of third person singular and third person plural, where the plural is the same as the singular).
|1st person singular||nutônihsak||my daughters|
|2nd person singular||kutônihsak||your daughters|
|3rd person singular||wutônihsah||his/her daughters|
|1st person plural exclusive||nutônihsunônak||our (exclusive) daughters|
|1st person plural inclusive||kutônihsunônak||our (inclusive) daughters|
|2nd person plural||kutônihsuwôwak||your (plural) daughters|
|3rd person plural||wetônihsuwôwah||their daughters|
|1st person singular||nusitash||my feet|
|2nd person singular||kusitash||your feet|
|3rd person singular||wusitash||his/her feet|
|1st person plural exclusive||nusitunônash||our (exclusive) feet|
|1st person plural inclusive||kusitunônash||our (inclusive) feet|
|2nd person plural||kusituwôwash||your (plural) feet|
|3rd person plural||wusituwôwash||their feet|
|indefinite possessor||musitash||an unknown person's feet|
*affixes on all charts are marked by bold type
In Mohegan grammar verbs that are in a dependent clause are said to be in the conjunct order. Conjunct verbs have the same numbers of persons for each verb, but they do not have prefixes, only suffixes. In turn, all of the person information is at the end of the word.
|1st person singular||yáhsháyôn||that I breathe|
|2nd person singular||yáhsháyan||that you breathe|
|3rd person singluar||yáhshát||that he/she breathes|
|1st person plural (incl & excl)||yáhsháyak||that we breathe|
|2nd person plural||yáhsháyáq||that you (more than one) breathe|
|3rd person plural||yáhsháhutut||that they breathe|
|3rd person plural participle||yáhshácik||those who breathe|
|indefinite subject||yáhshámuk||that someone breathes|
*suffixes on chart marked by bold type
Example: Mô yáyuw maci ákacuyǒn.
Translation: It was so bad that I am ashamed.
When in the conjunct form if the first vowel of the word is a short vowel, that is /a/ or /u/, it changes to a long /á/.
Transitive verbs with inanimate objects take only a suffix as well. The suffix vary based on the ending of the stem.
For stems that end in -m- or -n- the suffixes are as follows:
1st person singular: -ôn
2nd person singular: -an
3rd person singular: -k
1st person plural: -ak
2nd person plural: -áq
3rd person plural: -hutut
3rd person plural participle: -kik
Indefinite subject (passive): -uk
For stems that end in -o- the suffixes are as follows:
1st person singular: -yôn
2nd person singular: -yan
3rd person singular: -ôk
1st person plural: -yak
2nd person plural: -yáq
3rd person plural: -w'hutut
3rd person plural participle: -ôkik
Indefinite subject (passive): -muk
For stems that end in -u- the suffixes are as follows:
1st person singular: -wôn
2nd person singular: -wan
3rd person singular: -k
1st person plural: -wak
2nd person plural: -wáq
3rd person plural: -'hutut
3rd person plural participle: -kik
Indefinite subject (passive): -muk
John E. Hamilton; Indian Activist