The Lasting of the Mahicans
When I was younger I remember watching with my parents, one of their favorite movies, The Last of the Mohicans. In school, I can only remember covering a very brief and erroneous section on Native American history, so growing up I had always referred to The Last of the Mahicans’ indigenous people as the prototype of Native Americans. I had formed a stereotype of what Native Americans were like, in my head, based off of this 1992 “historical epic” film by Michael Mann. When I first, signed up for this class the first thing that popped into my head was this movie. When I was informed that we had to write a paper on whatever topic we wanted I jumped at the ...view middle of the document...
Mohican and Mahican refer to the same tribe from upper New York State. They are quite different from the Mohegans in the Connecticut area.
In the novel and movie there are three romantic idealizations of the Indian: the noble warrior, the “bloodthirsty” savage, and the vanishing Indian. This idealization of Native Americans in The Last of the Mohicans just goes to show the ambivalence towards the indigenous people of America. Writers like Cooper are perfect examples of how early American Literature often illustrated simultaneous, conflicting feelings toward the indigenous people. Native Americans are either romanticized as “children of God or nature”, or as savages, uncultured, uncivilized, etc.
The title suggests that the tribe of the Mohicans was so diminished that only two remain, Chingachgook and his son Uncas, exhibiting the “vanishing Indian” mythology. In the story, the Mohicans (Delawares) and the Iroquois (Mohawks) are vanishing due to the “inroads of civilization”. Even though Cooper made the Mahicans famous, he also made them extinct in the minds of many people. Although only 16,000 acres of their original reservation remains today, the “Last of the Mahicans (Mohicans)” are still there and very much alive. At this point, in my research, I had come to the conclusion that The Last of the Mohicans is just a story and that Cooper had twisted it greatly for his novel.
If Cooper had told the real story of the Mahicans, a more appropriate title for his novel would have been The Lasting of the Mahicans. The Mahicans have a rich history that has been neglected because of the lack of knowledge and the common misconceptions people have of them. Once I realized that my whole perception of Mahicans and (even more) Native Americans was based off a film adaptation of a very flawed narrative novel, it was time that I to remove the veil from my eyes.
The word Mahican is derived from Muheconneok (“from the waters that are never still”). Originally, the Mahicans lived along the Hudson River, which today is New York State. They also lived in parts of Vermont, Massachusetts, and Connecticut. In the 1500’s Europeans would travel north along the east coast of the U.S. and often times would stop, and capture and enslave coastal natives. Since, the Mahicans lived inland they did not experience this, thus they did not have the same hostility that coastal natives had for Europeans. When Henry Hudson sailed up the Hudson River in 1906 he had come across the Mahican villages. The Mahicans were friendly and very keen on trading with Hudson. This, however, backfired on the Mahicans because along with the goods that the Europeans traded they also brought with them many diseases that the natives had never been exposed to.
Eventually, the Dutch and British expansion had forced the Mahicans to leave their homeland. The majority of them had resettled in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, joined the mission...