See A. Skinner, Notes on Mahikan Ethnology (1925).
North American Indian people living mostly in northeastern Wisconsin, U.S. Their original territory was the upper Hudson River valley above the Catskill Mountains. Their name for themselves is Muh-he-con-neok, meaning “the people of the waters that are never still.” Traditional Mohican political organization consisted of five major divisions governed by hereditary sachems (chiefs) assisted by elected counselors. They lived in strongholds of 20–30 houses situated on hills or in woodlands. In 1664 they were forced by the Mohawk to move to what is now Stockbridge, Mass., where they became known as the Stockbridge Indians. Later they moved to Wisconsin. Population estimates indicated approximately 3,500 Mohican descendants in the early 21st century. James Fenimore Cooper drew a romanticized portrait of the declining Mohican in The Last of the Mohicans (1826).
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The Mahicans (also Mohicans) are a Native American tribe who have moved mostly to northeastern Wisconsin, U.S., but who came from the Hudson River Valley (around Albany, NY), many then moving to Stockbridge, Massachusetts after 1780, before the remaining descendants moved to Wisconsin during the 1820s and 1830s. Though similar in name, the Mahicans were not Mohegans, a different Algonquian-speaking tribe living in eastern (upper Thames valley) Connecticut (who were jointly ruled by the Pequot tribe until 1637). The tribe's name for itself was Muhhekunneuw, or "People of the Great River." Their current name is the name applied to the Wolf Clan division of the tribe, from the Mahican manhigan.
The Mahicans were living in and around the Hudson Valley at the time of their first contact with Europeans in 1609. Over the next hundred years, tensions between the Mahicans and the Mohawks as well as the Europeans caused the Mahicans to migrate eastward into western Massachusetts and Connecticut to the Hudson River. Many settled in the town of Stockbridge, Massachusetts becoming known as the Stockbridge Indians.
The Stockbridge Indians allowed Protestant Christian missionaries to live among them and converted to Christianity in the 18th century. Although they fought on the side of the American colonists in both the French and Indian War and the American Revolution, they were dispossessed of their land and forced to move westward, first to New Stockbridge in the 1780s, on land allocated for them by the Oneidas, and later to Shawano County, Wisconsin in the 1820s and 1830s. In Wisconsin, they settled on reservations with the Munsee; the two were jointly known as Stockbridge-Munsee. Today the reservation is known as that of the Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohican Indians (Stockbridge-Munsee Community).
The first Christian Indian community in America was established by Moravian Church missionaries at the Mahican village of Shekomeko in 1740. Their intent was to incorporate the native American people into European society through civilizing Christianity. They were so successful in their efforts and so diligently defended their Indians against white exploitation that the missionaries were hounded and finally forced out by the government.
The now extinct Mahican language belonged to the Eastern Algonquian branch of the Algonquian language family. It was an Algonquian N-dialect, as were Massachusett and Wampanoag, but in many ways, it was more similar, and just as easily considered an L-dialect, such as that of the Lenape.
James Fenimore Cooper's novel The Last of the Mohicans is based on the Mahican tribe but includes some cultural aspects of the Mohegans, a different Algonquian tribe living in eastern Connecticut. The novel takes place in the Hudson Valley, Mahican land, but some characters' names, such as Uncas, are Mohegan.