The last of the Mohegans


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Fidelia Fielding, who died in 1908, was the last Mohegan speaker. Many years later down the line, leaders of the Mohegan tribe are trying to revive the dead language. The community has invested in a $200 million Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center to help revive the language. However, the leaders realize that it may not be possible for the first generation learners to speak the language fluently but it will be worth their effort if people can at least learn a few phrases in the language and carry on simple conservations. It will be up to the second generation learners to strive to be fluent in the language. The State University of New York at Stony Brook also began efforts to revive the language in 2010. The Mohegan language project developed some lessons, a dictionary and uploaded some materials online for anyone who is interested in learning the language to use.

Mohegan is also known as Mohegan-Pequot. It is an extinct language, which had several dialects. These included the Pequot, Mohegan, Montauk, Shinnecock and Niantic dialects. The term Mohegan is currently used to widely refer to all the dialects of the language. Currently, about 5,000 Mohegan Indians can be found in the southern parts of England. Missionaries and a few scholars documented the Mohegan language. Rev. James Noyes in Groton came up with a vocabulary list of Mohegan in 1690. Ezra Stiles, who was president of the Yale University collected linguistic data on the Mohegan language.

When James Fenimore Cooper wrote ‘The Last of the Mohicans’, he confused the Mohegan language with the Mahican language. In his book, he merged the 2 tribes together and portrayed them as being a single tribe. This confusion still goes on today largely due to the similarities of the languages. The word ‘Mohegan’ means ‘wolf’, while the word Mahican was derived from a term that means ‘people of the Hudson River’. The Mohegan people lived along the Thames River in Connecticut, while the Mahicans lived in Hudson Valley in New York. Mohegan and Mahican are two distinct Algonquin tribes. Currently, there are no native speakers of both languages.

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