Introduction to the language of the Stockbridge Mohicans

Introduction to the language of the Stockbridge Mohicans

The Stockbridge Mohican Indians called themselves “Mahiikaniiwak“. This word is the plural form of the word “Mahiikaniiw”.

Mahiikanuk means the place of Mahiikan, or
Place of the waters that are ebbing and flowing. (HA Jones)(IG)

The language spoken by the Mahiikaniiwak, is an Eastern Algonquian language, and over the years this language has been called Mahican by linguists, Stockbridge by tribal members in the early 1900s and recently the Tribal Council designated it as Mohican, one of the official tribal languages. The other official language is Munsee. I will refer to the language using all three designations interchangeably in this text and will use Mh as an abbreviation where appropriate.

Western or Moravian Mahican was a dialect spoken in the upper Hudson river area where a Moravian mission was formed. Differences in conjugated forms and some parts of words characterize this dialect. For the purposes of this language project, words from Moravians sources have been modified to the Eastern Mahican manner of speaking and in most instances I have noted such modifications in the lexicon.

Eastern Mahican was the dialect spoken by the Mohicans of Stockbridge. An excellent discussion of the differences between the two dialects can be found in Goddard 2007. (IG) This project will focus on the Stockbridge or Eastern Mahican dialect exclusively, since this was the language spoken on the author’s home reservation, currently in Shawano County, Wisconsin.

My attempt to transcribe, teach and document words and the grammar of Mohican has been done as accurately as possible using all available written materials. It is fortunate that some of the written material was recorded by fluent native speakers including Hendrick Aupaumut. Words and phrases were recorded by a number of non fluent speakers using different spelling systems. These words have been meticulously studied and researched in order to reconcile and explain the differences. In many cases, several variants of a word exist and these are listed and noted as variants without any attempt to designate one variant as more correct than another in most cases.