The Revolutionary Mohicans of Stockbridge
During the early spring, Stockbridge Mohicans set up camp in sugar bushes. For these people, sap harvesting is more than a step of maple sugaring. It honors the spring and the maple trees. Much like this custom, the Mohicans have influenced both local and national history. And as their tradition survives, the Stockbridge Mohicans remain active to this day.
Hundreds of years before European settlement, this tribe occupied the modern-day Upper Housatonic Valley. Hendrick Aupaumut recalled that the Mohicans arrived from the northwest. They crossed “waters where the land almost touched.” Before European arrival, the tribe lived in villages consisting of wik-wams and long-houses. Women minded children, tended to their gardens, and gathered berries. Men hunted, fished, and/or fought in battle. They also taught their history to Mohican children.
The arrival of Europeans in the early seventeenth century disrupted the Mohicans’ way of life. Along with trade goods, Europeans brought devastating diseases such as smallpox. In 1734, missionary John Sergeant introduced Christianity to the tribe. Many felt compelled to adopt the religion. They saw the Europeans’ material and military successes as proof of divine favor. Yet others felt wary of their cruelty against Africans and other American Indians. Still, Mohican leaders adopted the religion. They settled in Stockbridge, which became incorporated as a praying town in 1739.
The Europeans organized Stockbridge under their ideas of property. The town had an English-style schoolhouse, a church, and a town meetinghouse. Other Christianized American Indians settled here alongside the Mohicans and Europeans. The town’s government also became organized under English customs. The Mohicans protested this, as it interfered with their traditions. But the government ignored them. Meanwhile, settlers and squatters continued occupying Mohican lands, including present-day Salisbury and Sharon.
The Stockbridge Mohicans grew increasingly wary of their white neighbors. Still, they allied with the Patriots during the American Revolution. Stockbridge leader Solomon Wa-haun-wan-wau-meet stated that “Wherever you go, we will be by your sides. Our bones shall die with yours. We are determined never to be at peace with the red coats, while they are at variance with you.” Bryan Rindfleisch believes that local pressure and optimism encouraged this alliance. The Mohicans may have hoped to earn the settlers’ respect. These men served as formidable fighters, scouts, and diplomats during the war. They served in several battles and campaigns. These included the Siege of Boston, Valley Forge, and the Battle of Kingsbridge. Yet while these men fought for the Patriots, their families suffered at home. Though soldiers asked the Patriots to provide aid, their pleas went unheeded.
White settlers continued encroaching on the Mohicans’ land. By 1783, the praying town was entirely white-owned. The Mohicans contacted their Iroquois allies, who welcomed them with open arms. Yet the state of New York pushed them out to Wisconsin by 1829. Still, these people remember and care for their ancestral home. In May of 2023, tribal leaders considered purchasing 351 acres of Stockbridge property. As such, they continue to shape American history to this day.
More inspiring ‘American Stories’ from the Upper Housatonic Valley National Heritage Area are at: https://housatonicheritage.org/american-stories.