Mahican (məhēˈkən) [key], confederacy of Native North Americans of the Algonquian branch of the Algonquian-Wakashan linguistic stock (see Native American languages). The Mahican were of the Eastern Woodlands culture area. In the early 17th cent. they occupied both banks of the upper Hudson River extending north almost to Lake Champlain. Living to the northeast were the Pennacook, and to the southwest the Wappinger; both were closely related to the Mahican. The Mohegan were a tribe of the Mahican Confederacy and are to be distinguished from the larger group. However, both groups have on occasion been referred to as Mohicans. When the Dutch arrived in what is now New York the Mohawk had been at war with the Mahican for some time and had steadily driven the Mahican east of the Hudson River. The Mahican council fire, or capital, had been moved (1664) from Schodac, near Albany, eastward to what is now Stockbridge, Mass. The complete subjection and dispersal of the Mahican were hastened by the firearms provided to their enemies by the Dutch. Some of the Mahican moved west to join the Delaware, with whom they afterward moved to the Ohio region (where the Mahican refugees lost their identity). Others placed themselves under the protection of the Iroquois Confederacy in S central New York. Those remaining in Massachusetts joined the Massachusetts Stockbridge; other Mahican descendants live in Connecticut and Wisconsin.
See A. Skinner, Notes on Mahikan Ethnology (1925).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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