|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, Stockbridge, and Shinnecock-Poosepatuck; dialects include Mohegan, Pequot, Montauk, Niantic, and Shinnecock) is an extinct Algonquian language formerly spoken in parts of present-day New England and 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 served as allies of English colonists in the Pequot War of 1637, which broke the power of that formerly dominant tribe in the region. In reward, the English gave Pequot captives to the Mohegan.
In 1933 John E. Hamilton, also known as Chief Rolling Cloud, was appointed Grand Sachem for Life by his mother, Alice Storey, through the traditional selection process of chiefs based on heredity. She 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 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, which had resulted in many of them becoming nearly landless. Settlement of land claims suits in the late 20th and 21st centuries was related to federal recognition for a number of Indian nations, particularly for the so-called "state tribes." These were tribes along the East Coast who had been recognized by the English Crown 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 faction of the Mohegans expressed its dissatisfaction with Hamilton's land-claims litigation. They wanted a change in direction. When the Hamilton supporters left the 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, as the people were worried about effects on their properties.
Federal process for recognition
In response to the desire of more tribes to gain federal recognition, in 1978, the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) established a formal administrative process and criteria to be satisfied to prove cultural continuity. 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 members of the 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 political authority and influence as a tribe through the twentieth century.
In 1990, the Mohegan under Fowler submitted a detailed response to meet 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 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 did so unsuccessfully.
Final determination, 1994
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 have not acknowledged 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.
Language endangerment and revitalization efforts
As of 2014, there are between 1,400 and 1,700 recorded tribal members (these figures vary by source). The Mohegan language, however, has been dormant for approximately 100 years as the last native speaker, Fidelia Fielding, died in 1908. Fidelia, a descendant of Chief Uncas, is deemed the preserver of the language, as she left four diaries that are being used in the process of restoring the language. She not only preserved the language, but she took part in preserving the culture as well. She remained loyal to the traditional Mohegan way of life and was the last 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 that she collected were of critical importance in the process of the tribe getting federal recognition as a sovereign nation 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."
Bahá'í Prayers in the Mohegan-Pequot Language are also available.
"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."
ɒ, ἁ, i:, ōō, ô, ʌ
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 for forms: singular, plural, obviative and locative. The obviative form is used when there are two or more animate third persons in a sentence. The obviative is used when a noun or pronoun is the object of the verb (the object is the obviate), or if the third person is possessed by another person. 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.
Person, number and gender
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.
|Independent Verbs (animate intransitive)|
|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
|Independent Verbs (animate intransitive w/long vowel ending)|
|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 steal|
*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 any noun can be possessed, however, there is a distinction in possessive relationships and that is the alienability distinction. Some nouns are able to stand alone without showing possession (alienable), while others must show a possessor (inalienable).
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.
|Inalienable Possession - Animate Singular|
|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|
|Inalienable Possession - Animate Singular|
|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).
|Inalienable Possession - Animate Plural|
|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|
|Inalienable Possession - Inanimate Plural|
|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.
|Conjunct Verbs: Animate Intransitives|
|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
- Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Pequot-Mohegan". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
- Lewis, M. Paul (ed.), 2009. Ethnologue: Languages of the World. 16th edition. Dallas: Summer Institute of Linguistics
- "Passings: John E. Hamilton; Indian Activist". Los Angeles Times. 12 May 1988. Retrieved 28 February 2013.
John E. Hamilton; Indian Activist
- Oberg, Michael Leroy (2003). Uncas : first of the Mohegans. Ithaca (N.Y.): Cornell University Press. ISBN 0801438772.
- "Running Against Time - Medicine Woman Preserves Mohegan Culture". School of Anthropology; Alumni Newsletter. University of Pennsylvania. Summer 2001.
- "The Mohegan Tribe Celebrates Re-Opening of Tantaquidgeon Museum". Press Room. The Mohegan Tribe. Retrieved 25 November 2012.
- "Contemporary History of Mohegan, 1933-2002", Native American Mohegans
- Associated Press, "Gladys Tantaquidgeon, Mohegans' Medicine Woman, Is Dead at 106", New York Times, 2 November 2005
- "Final Determination that the Mohegan Tribe of Indians of Connecticut Does Exist as an Indian Tribe", Federal Register, Vol. 59, No. 50, 15 March 1994, accessed 18 March 2013
- Patricia Cohen, "Indian Tribes Go in Search of Their Lost Languages", New York Times, 6 Apr 2010, C1, C5
- "Mohegan Language Project". Retrieved 2012-11-12.
- J. Dyneley Prince and Frank G. Speck (March 1904). "Glossary of the Mohegan-Pequot Language". American Anthropologist. New Series. 6 (1): 18–45. doi:10.1525/aa.1904.6.1.02a00030.
- Libby, Sam (18 October 1998). "Tribes to Revive Language". The New York Times. p. 6.
- "Ôkosuwôkak wuci Mohiks-Piqut Uyôtowáwôk - Bahá'í Prayers in the Mohegan-Pequot Language". Retrieved 2012-11-12.
- Fielding, Stephanie (2006), A Modern Mohegan Dictionary 2006 Ed.
- Cowan, William. Pequot from Stiles to Speck. International Journal of American Linguistics. The University of Chicago Press. Vol. 39, No. 3 (Jul., 1973), pp. 164–172
- De Forest, John W. “The Lord’s Prayer in the Pequot Tongue.” In History of the Indians of Connecticut. 1852. Reprint, Brighton, MI: Native American Book Publishers, 1994.
- Michelson, Truman. "The Linguistic Classification of Pequot-Mohegan." American Anthropologist 26 (1924): 295. doi:10.1525/aa.1924.26.2.02a00240
- Pickering, John, ed. "Doctor Edwards' Observations on the Mohegan Languages." Collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society. Series 2 Volume 10 (1823): 81-160.
- Prince, J. Dyneley and Frank G. Speck. "Glossary of the Mohegan-Pequot Language." American Anthropologist 6 (1904): 18-45. doi:10.1525/aa.1904.6.1.02a00030
- Prince, J. Dyneley and Frank G. Speck. "The Modern Pequots and Their Language." American Anthropologist 5 (1903): 193-212. doi:10.1525/aa.1903.5.2.02a00010
- Speck, Frank. "A Modern Mohegan-Pequot Text." American Anthropologist 6 (1904): 469-76. doi:10.1525/aa.1904.6.4.02a00070
- Speck, Frank and Fidelia Fielding. "A Pequot Mohegan Witchcraft Tale." Journal of American Folklore 16 (1903): 104-6.
- Speck, Frank. "Native Tribes and Dialects of Connecticut: A Mohegan-Pequot Diary." Smithsonian Institution Bureau of American Ethnology Annual Report 43 (1903): 199-287.
- Speck, Frank. Speck Papers and Photograph Collection. (17 microfilm reels)
- Speck, Frank. "Text of the Pequot Sermon." American Anthropologist 5 (1903): 199-212.
|Mohegan-Pequot language test of Wikipedia at Wikimedia Incubator|
- Mohegan Language Project, website with assorted Mohegan Language resources
- A Modern Mohegan Dictionary (2006 Edition)—contains Guide to Using the Dictionary, Mohegan Grammar Paradigms, Mohegan to English Dictionary, and English to Mohegan Word Finder
- Mohegan-English Dictionary (November 2008 edition)—update of the Mohegan to English Dictionary section of above
- Mahican vs. Mohegan
- OLAC resources in and about the Mohegan-Pequot language