Welcome to week 52 of Bidwell Lore! It is hard to believe we have been sharing this series for a full year and the Museum could not have done it without the invaluable help of Museum Trustee Rick Wilcox. Most of the research and writing for this series was done by Rick and we are so grateful for all of his assistance. Thank you, Rick!!
This week, we share the final email in our series about the Mohicans and talk a little bit about where they are today. Bidwell Lore will take a break next week and then come back on May 4th with a new series about the history of Monterey and Tyringham.
The Stockbridge-Munsee Band of the Mohican Nation Today by Rick Wilcox
The Bidwell Lore Native American series should, rightfully, end with information about life among the Stockbridge-Munsee Band of the Mohican Nation today.
The Stockbridge-Munsee Cultural Affairs Office provides language about its purpose: The mission of the Cultural Affairs Department is to protect, preserve and tell the history of the Stockbridge Munsee Band of the Mohican Indians. We do this through the archives at the Arvid E. Miller Memorial Library and Museum, protection of our ancestral lands through Historic Preservation, and revitalization of our Language.
Recently the Massachusetts Extension Office of the Wisconsin Historic Preservation Office moved from Troy, New York, to Williamstown, Massachusetts, into new office space provided by Williams College. They have for a number of years been working in their original homeland encompassing the Hudson River valley from Lake Champlain to Manhattan, parts of Vermont, northwest Connecticut, and Western Massachusetts from the New York line to the Westfield River.
A small example of a cultural contribution was when I was asked by the Stockbridge Conservation Commission to create a document in support of their application to the Commonwealth to designate the Lake Mahkeenac Watershed: An Area of Critical Environmental Concern by providing evidence of the area’s historical cultural importance. I reached out to Stockbridge-Munsee Historic Preservation Manager Bonney Hartley for a supporting statement, which you can read below. In addition, I asked her to review and edit my document to ensure it was accurate and appropriate with regard to Mohican history
Today’s Stockbridge-Munsee Community Addresses the Cultural Significance of the Lake Mahkeenac Watershed
“The Lake Mahkeenac watershed is a culturally-significant place to the Stockbridge-Munsee Mohican people.
Though displaced now in Wisconsin, our tribal members continue to regularly return to our Stockbridge homelands and our Tribal Historic Preservation Office works to preserve and protect significant cultural sites for future generations. The Lake Mahkeenac watershed is one such place that continues to hold cultural relevance and is significant to preserve. The deed research and other historical documentation clearly demonstrate the depth of Mohican residency on the landscape, and the likelihood of cultural sites to still be present in the landscape. In addition, the deed research is revealing and adds to Stockbridge Mohican political history by showing the extent and means by which these English families were “double dealing” and took most of the land intended for Stockbridge Mohicans on the east side of the Pond. The cultural relationship to the watershed is important to the community; as the “people of the waters that are never still,” it is always our tradition and responsibility to uphold the waterways as in this Area of Critical Environmental Concern effort.
Significantly, last year, in working with the Stockbridge Bowl Association, the island in Lake Mahkeenac was renamed Kwuniikwat Island. Kwuniikwat is a Mohican and Munsee word meaning “appearing long,” to describe the shape of the island, as well as to pay homage to the Quinney family—whose name derives from Kwuniikwat and are a historically important family of sachems or chiefs in Mohican history. It is significant to the Tribal Nation that place names such as these are established and raise visibility and awareness of our ancient history as well as contemporary ties to the land. “
Tribal Historic Preservation Manager
Stockbridge Munsee Community
Why the Mohican became the Stockbrige-Munsee Band of the Mohicans
The name Muh-he-con-neok, or People of the Waters That Are Never Still, evolved over time, and as heard by the ears of the Dutch and English became Mahican and in later years more commonly spelled Mohican. “Stockbridge” Indians was a place name given by the English settlers to the band of Mohicans living in the Stockbridge area after the founding of the mission at Indian Town in 1737.
Stockbridge Mohicans took in members of the Munsee Community that traveled down from Canada when the Mohican community established their Reservation in Wisconsin. The Munsee Tribe was formerly from the Delaware River Valley, at one time expanding from New Jersey to the west side of the Hudson River bordering the Mohican territory, before moving to Canada during the Revolution. They are considered “cousins” of the Mohicans, but a distinct Tribe. Hence the name Stockbridge (Mohican)-Munsee Band of the Mohican Nation, also called the Stockbridge-Munsee Community, which honors the two communities. Stockbridge Indians was a place name given to the Mohicans by the English. To say Munsee Indians is to eliminate half of the membership equation of the current community.
Indian Town [Stockbridge] was not a homogenous community any more than Stockbridge is today, and because of kinship issues and political affiliations created by marriages and other arrangements members of other tribes lived among the Mohican people.
Land Acknowledgement for the Stockbridge-Munsee Community 2020
It is with gratitude and humility that we acknowledge that we are learning, speaking, and gathering on the ancestral homelands of the Mohican people, who are 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.
Over the winter the Bidwell House Museum hosted a speaker series titled, “Hidden in Plain Sight: Native Peoples and the Struggle to Recover Their History in New England” which you can watch on their YouTube page HERE or on the Museum website. This series reminds us of a forgotten past, and also encourages us to be a part of recovering that history. One step in that awareness can be for cities, towns, non-profits, and other groups or individuals to participate in the Land Acknowledgement quoted above.
To learn more about the Stockbridge-Munsee Community today, please go to www.mohican.com