Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohican Indians Resource Guide
Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohican Indians Resource Guide
What is our name?
Our official name is Stockbridge-Munsee Community. We often call ourselves by variations of this such as Mohican Nation, or Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohicans. The original name of our people is Muhheaconneok or Muhheconeew, meaning “People of the Waters that are Never Still.” Over time, and Dutch and English contact, the traditional name became distorted and turned into variations such as Mahican or Mohican. Mohican is what we refer to ourselves as today. This should not be confused with Mohegan, a separate Tribal Nation. In addition to Mohican, we are also Munsee (Lenape). Munsee (Lenape) homelands are further south on the Hudson River Valley and Delaware River Valley. Munsee people are very closely related kin of Mohican people historically, and after the pressures of colonization many Munsee people joined together with Mohicans in Stockbridge. Stockbridge itself is not a culture, it is a placename, a town in Massachusetts where we lived in the 1700s.
In short, culturally, we are Mohican and Munsee people. Politically, our Nation is called the Stockbridge-Munsee Community.
What is our territory?
The Tribe’s original territory spans the Hudson, Housatonic, and Delaware River Valleys. The namesake of the Tribe is the Muhheacannituck, “the waters that are never still,” also known as the Hudson River. Our community are the people of these waters.
Why did you leave the homelands and where did you go? When?
Our Many Trails
“It is curious, the history of my tribe, in its decline, in the last two centuries and a half. Nothing that deserved the name of purchase was made. From various causes, they were induced to abandon their territory at intervals and retire farther inland. Deeds were given indifferently to the government by individuals, for which little or no compensation was paid.”
-Sachem Quinney, 1854
Archaeological evidence of our ancestors stretches back 12,000 years in today’s Hudson Valley region. Mohican sachem John Waunaucon Quinney recounted that in 1604 the Muhheconeew Nation numbered 25,000. After the arrival of Dutch and English, pandemic and violent conflict brought on by this colonization quickly began to take a devastating toll, while land theft also became widespread. Even when Europeans did attempt to “purchase” Mohican and Munsee lands in the Muhheacannituck /Hudson River Valley, their worldview of the permanent sale was at odds with that of our ancestors, who adhered to a model of shared land stewardship and gift exchange. Our ancestors understood these agreements to be an exchange of gifts as a gesture of hospitality among Nations and that we could always return to the lands.
By 1734, the Nation decided to accept an offer to move to Stockbridge, Massachusetts, called “Indiantown” and co-govern the town with four English families. Even after serving in the Revolutionary War and earlier colonial wars, Stockbridge Mohican people found themselves no longer welcome in our own homelands. By the 1780s we started to remove from Stockbridge and accept an invitation to live among the Oneida Nation in western New York. There our ancestors rebuilt and started new enterprises and continued to engage in land claims. However, the pressures to remove Native people from New York State were strong and our sachems looked for other destinations, with one band going to the White River of Indiana at the invitation of the Miami people. By the time the party arrived there, the land had already been lost under the Treaty of St. Mary’s. From there, several parties splintered, with some going to Kansas, and some returning to New Stockbridge, New York. By the 1820s most of the Tribe moved to Kaukauna, Wisconsin and eventually through the 1840s to an area on Lake Winnebago we again named Stockbridge. Finally, the Tribe signed a Treaty with the Menominee Nation in 1856 for the area where we still reside today, in Shawano County, Wisconsin. We continue to return to and protect our ancestral cultural places in our northeastern homelands.
We have a highly documented and unbroken history of remaining a sovereign people, despite multiple removals:
Beginning of European/Dutch encroachment
New Stockbridge, NY
White River, IN
Kansas & Oklahoma
Shawano County, WI
Are there other Mohican or Munsee/Lenape Communities?
We are the only Mohican Tribe. There are four other federally recognized Lenape Tribal Nations: The Delaware Tribe of Indians (Oklahoma), the Delaware Nation (Oklahoma), Munsee-Delaware Nation (Ontario, Canada), and the Munsee at Moraviatown (Ontario, Canada).
Did any Mohican or Munsee Lenape people remain in the homelands?
During our “Many Trails” of forced removals, yes, some individual Mohican or Munsee people remained for various reasons. However, our Nation, our seat of government or council fire, removed and is now in Wisconsin. Requests for representation of our Tribe to speak for our community and history should be directed to the Nation or authorized representatives of other Nations as appropriate.
Do you still return to your homelands?
Despite painful and unjust removals from our Housatonic River, Delaware River and Hudson River Valley homelands, the Stockbridge-Munsee Community has continued to persevere and thrive. Our ancestors returned numerous times to what we consider unceded lands and attempted to engage in land claims—such as for 600,000 acres in today’s Columbia County NY in 1859, for Schodack Island, and for protecting burial grounds in Stockbridge in 1809. These land claims have never truly ended. Today we engage in many cultural heritage activities in the original homelands. Through our Historic Preservation Office, we engage in site protection work, which often involves Government-to-Government consultation on ground disturbing projects to protect cultural sites. The office reviews over 300 projects annually across Mohican and Munsee homelands, spanning six states. The goal is to ensure that adequate archaeological research is conducted before construction so that ancestral sites are not erased. In addition, the office conducts archaeological survey work to document important sites and seek their inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places. We also work to return ancestors’ remains from museums for reburial, and to return items of cultural significance. Given the Stockbridge-Munsee Community’s three centuries of land dispossessions and removals by colonists, the return of cultural items that were forced to be left behind or taken from the Tribe is incredibly meaningful and greatly welcomed. Our Cultural Affairs department works extensively to provide speaking engagements, contribute to school curricula, and to assist in development of exhibits and interpretive signage throughout our homelands.
Who represents Lenape or Mohican people today in the homelands?
Authorized representatives of federally recognized Mohican and Lenape/Delaware Tribal Nations can and do speak for our Tribal interests in our homelands. Though the federal recognition system is not perfect, it does establish criteria for ensuring that recognized tribes are distinct autonomous communities, existing as an autonomous community since historical times and recognized as such since prior to 1900. The existence of a persistent political relationship is central to this recognition.
When a tribe is federally recognized, it has the right to establish a tribal government and enter into agreements with the federal government in much the same way that the federal government makes agreements with Canada and Mexico. Stockbridge-Munsee Community has repeatedly suffered many losses over the past several hundred years in our hard-won fight to stay together as a self-governing people. Our sovereignty is precious to us.
In our homelands we are aware of a few groups that have recently formed and claim Mohican and Munsee heritage, often establishing that one person is a “sachem” and forming 501c3 nonprofit heritage groups that can be hard to distinguish from sovereign Nations. These types of entities do not speak for Mohican and Munsee Nations’ input on our cultural sites or represent our interest or perspective. They may certainly speak to their own individual perspective, but are not an authorized representative for our Nation.
Representation and sovereignty matter. We ask that agencies, museums, land and environmental advocacy groups, and anyone else seeking to appropriately ally with the indigenous peoples in our Hudson and Housatonic River Valley homelands ensure that they are working with authorized representatives. For the Stockbridge-Munsee Mohican Nation: https://www.mohican.com; For the Delaware Nation: https://www.delawarenation-nsn.gov; For the Delaware Tribe: http://delawaretribe.org.
What Languages are spoken by the Tribe?
We recognize Mohican and Munsee both equally as our two official languages. Many in our community were passed down words in these languages from their grandparents but unfortunately the last fluent speakers in our community were documented in the 1920s. However, we have undertaken language revitalization efforts over the years and have grown a few speakers again. We currently offer both Mohican and Munsee language classes weekly and invite you to join!
But what about the Last of the Mohicans? I guess that is fiction?
Yes. That book (and movie) is inaccurate, and it doesn’t have much to do with us as a people, as a tribe. It perpetuates a false erasure narrative – there has never been the last of the Mohicans
I have been told I have Native American heritage. What should I do?
There’s a lot that goes into that question around shared belonging, community, and who claims you. We encourage you to read more including Kim Tallbear’s book: Tribal Belonging and the False promise of Genetic Science. If your question is specifically about Stockbridge-Munsee ancestry or you have a question about genealogy and enrollment, please contact our enrollment office.
CONNECTING WITH US:
Many people who live or work on our ancestral homelands have interest in connecting with us and we want to connect with you. Due to the volume of inquiry, we want to share our responses to these frequently asked questions as a start.
How can we introduce ourselves, and make you aware of our project/organization?
There are many kinds of introductions and ways to begin a relationship. Adopting a land acknowledgment practice is one place to begin, as are many other action items in this resource guide. We encourage you to view some of the virtual presentations about our history and culture, and follow our Facebook page. If you write to us, it's helpful to have a specific question we can respond to.
What is a land acknowledgement and do you have an example of one we can use?
Publicly acknowledging us as the original stewards of the land you are on is a way of showing respect, resisting the erasure of our history, and a starting point for further action.
Here is our Tribal Council-approved land acknowledgement that you can adapt for your particular context:
“It is with gratitude and humility that we acknowledge that we are learning, speaking and gathering on the ancestral homelands of the [Insert as appropriate: Muhheaconneok or Mohican people or Munsee Lenape people], who are the indigenous peoples of this land. Despite tremendous hardship in being forced from here, today their community resides in Wisconsin and is known as the Stockbridge-Munsee Community. We pay honor and respect to their ancestors past and present as we commit to building a more inclusive and equitable space for all.”
If you are choosing to write a land acknowledgement that mentions the Stockbridge-Munsee Community, we do ask that you please submit your language to our department for final approval.
Some important components are to specifically name our Tribe (not just say “the Native Americans”) and ensure that you include not only historical reference to our people but to make it contemporary and state that our Tribe continues to exist today. Including action steps in your land acknowledgement is also crucial. Without action, the land acknowledgement doesn't mean anything, and you end up with empty words on paper. Action is imperative.
Here is an example of a land acknowledgement made by Yo Yo Ma at Tanglewood for Earth Day 2021 (at minute 28:30)
Here is another example of a land acknowledgement our Cultural Affairs Director recorded for WAM Theater
Do you have a museum or cultural center I can visit?
We encourage you to visit our Arvid E. Miller Memorial Library Museum in Bowler, Wisconsin. It holds the largest Mohican archives in the world. We don’t yet have a cultural center in our northeastern homelands but hope to in the near future. Though not a public space, we maintain a Historic Preservation extension office in Williamstown, MA, which focuses on serving our Nation’s repatriation and site protection interests. We invite you to visit the Carriage House exhibit at the Mission House in Stockbridge MA, and the current exhibition at Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield, MA both of which our Tribe curated. You can also take this guided virtual walking tour of Stockbridge https://www.nativeamericantrail.org/stockbridge-walking-tour/
Do you have a museum gift shop we can buy things from?
How can we donate to your programs?
We appreciate donations to our fund raising for a new cultural center. You can donate online at https://smcfinancevt.securepayments.cardpointe.com/pay?
How can we hire you to (co)curate our museum exhibitions?
We love being asked to work together with institutions to share our stories and culture. Please contact our Cultural Affairs Department at CulturalAffairs@mohican-nsn.gov.
Questions we love that require some planning:
How can we bring a Tribal member to speak at our event, offer a blessing at our site, etc.?
Because of the history of our removals, most of our Tribal members live in Wisconsin. We love to speak and participate in events in our homelands - please reach out to our Cultural Affairs Department at CulturalAffairs@mohican-nsn.gov if you are interested in bringing members. We may not always be able to accommodate requests without funding, but we appreciate the invitations. If you wish for our leadership to participate in official business in our homelands, you can reach out to our Tribal Council via Tribal Council Secretary Jody Hartwig at Jody.Hartwig@mohican-nsn.gov.
How can we rename our roads or trails in our local area to reflect Native history?
We appreciate the interest in doing so. We encourage you to come up with some suggestions and reach out with them to us at CulturalAffairs@mohican-nsn.gov. Please also include a description of the location and if a support letter from our Tribe is requested.
What are your thoughts on “Native” mascots and how can we change ours?
On September 3, 2019, the Stockbridge-Munsee Community passed a resolution standing firmly against the use of Native American mascots: “Race-based Indian logos, mascots, names and images deliberately, and in a derisive manner, portray Native American tribes, tribal governments and tribal cultures and should be rejected on all occasions and in all uses.” We encourage you to start the process of name change and reach out to us to keep us informed and to request a support letter from our Tribe if needed at CulturalAffairs@mohican-nsn.gov.
How can I stay connected to your ongoing work?
Follow us on Facebook!
Subscribe to Mohican News
Where can I find more information?
Here is a growing list of further resources we have compiled:
STOCKBRIDGE-MUNSEE HISTORY VIRTUAL TALKS
-PBS: Stockbridge-Munsee Mohican History
-Footsteps of our Ancestors – Virtual Walking Tour of Stockbridge
-Finding A Place Again: Honoring the Mohican Story of Stockbridge with Bonney Hartley
-CTSB: 2018 Mohican History seminar & tribal elder Judy Putnam Hartley talk
-History Presentation for NY Fish and Wildlife service in 2015
-”Long Journey Home” Story Map on our effort to reclaim Papscanee Island