The Four Worlds International Institute

Contact with Europeans and Early History

The Mahican's first contact with Europeans occurred in 1609, when Henry
Hudson sailed up the river that now bears his name. The Dutch built a
trading post nearby in 1614. From that point onward, Native people
exchanged furs and agricultural surplus for metal tools, beads, and
other trade goods. In particular, part of this trade focussed on
wampum: small beads made of white or purple shell which both served as
ornaments and were later adopted by Whites as a medium of exchange with
Indian people. Wampum beads were made by coastal tribes and were traded
with both inland tribes and with Whites. The Mahican were prime
middlemen in the wampum trade, working between the coastal tribes in
New England and New Jersey and the inland Iroquois, especially the
Mohawk. Despite this strong trade, relations between the Mahican and
the Mohawk were seldom peaceful. Raids and wars continued throughout
the 1600s.

Following seventeenth-century epidemics that decimated Native
populations and radically altered their ways of life, colonists flooded
these areas, taking over prime fishing and agricultural areas.
Involvement in the wampum trade drew men away from their traditional
duties and dispersed what had been central villages. Through a series
of wars, including the Esopus Wars of 1655-65 (in the New York City
vicinity), Native people lost much of their political control over
their lands, but remained in the area, adapting themselves to ways of
life which depended on relations with Euroamericans, but maintaining a
strong sense of communal life and family organization based more on
nuclear family life than on the clans.

As a result of the decimation of Native populations by
seventeenth-century epidemic diseases, alteration of Native lifeways,
and participation in barter economies based on the fur and wampum
trades, subsistence and land use changed. Women drew away from
subsistence agriculture to produce wampum and male hunting for
fur-bearers yielded less meat than traditional deer hunting.
Agricultural production decreased or became insufficient for Native
populations, and Native people began to rely on foods traded from
colonists or groups not participating in European barter economies,
leading to nutritional stress. /


Land Transactions and Resulting Changes

In New England and New York, land transactions between Natives and
Europeans continued and combined with increasing encroachment on
remaining Native lands. As Native people were confined to smaller
parcels of land, they could no longer move their settlements freely
when soils and firewood sources became depleted. Different patterns of
land use probably arose, including shorter fallow periods or no fallow
periods for agricultural lands, resulting in lower production. /p>

At the same time, decreasing Native lands made subsistence hunting
problematic, and Native people needed firearms to hunt more effectively
on lands remaining to them. Simultaneously, hunters may have needed to
venture farther from settlements to avoid competing with settlers. As
the number of European settlers grew, trading posts increasingly
catered to their needs, making larger amounts and more diverse types of
trade goods available to Native populations. Most categories of Native
material culture had been replaced or were in the process of being
supplanted by European goods, including lithic technologies, ceramics,
and clothing (except moccasins). Conservatism helped maintain use of
some traditional forms, including bone and shell hoes. Native
woodenware-including bowls, ladles, and spoons-and textile
production-mats and baskets-continued throughout the seventeenth
century. Native house forms remained constant, but their construction
was changed by introduction of iron tools.


Missionaries and Christianity

Internal changes within Native societies created by epidemic
depopulation, ethnic reorganizations, changes in status systems,
economics, and subsistence were not the only sources of large-scale
alterations in Native lives. In 1734, the first missionary arrived
among the Mahican. In the years following, the Reverend John Sergeant
and the Mahican founded a mission village called Stockbridge which
included a school. During the next several years, they were joined by a
number of English families in an experimental Native-White community.
Lessons and religious services were held in the Mahican language. Town
lands were allotted to each family, who adapted to English-style
agricultural life but still sent out hunting parties and practiced
other aspects of traditional life. Single families lived in log cabins
and frame houses yet maintained links to one another through
matrilineal clans. The leadership of a few strong families remained
much the same, although communal meetings were no longer held in the
chief's longhouse. Individuals and families from other smaller tribes
in the area joined the Mahican core at Stockbridge. /p>

In the 1740s, other missionary groups also contacted the Stockbridge,
including Moravians from Pennsylvania. Some of these converts moved to
Bethlehem, Pennsylvania in 1734 to join Moravian Munsee converts there
but later returned to Massachusetts and Connecticut. Persecution of the
Native communities following the Moravian church affected
missionization, and the missionaries and many of their Native followers
withdrew to create new settlements in Pennsylvania among the Munsees
soon afterward. Those who remained with the Moravians suffered through
the depredations of the French and In War and the Revolutionary War and
the eventually moved to the Thames River in Ontario, Canada.


Later Life at Stockbridge, Massachusetts

As time went on, Stockbridge lifeways became more like those of their
White neighbors, including greater reliance on farming. However, their
efforts at agriculture were largely unsuccessful, and those who
maintained some land base practiced some subsistence farming augmented
by hunting, and craft commercial production-woodenware and splint
basketry-and sale of herbal medicines and wage labor on local farms.
During the eighteenth century, famine was common, and the people sought
to eke out a living as best they could. /p>

During the Revolutionary War, the Stockbridge mostly sided with the
Americans, but at a drastic cost. Many men were killed and the
community was fragmented. Many joined other Indian communities in the
area or moved to Canada with Moravian Munsee converts. By the end of
the war, Whites had largely taken over the town and local government
and pressed the remaining Stockbridge to sell their lands. Starting in
1783, surviving Mahicans accepted the Oneida's invitation to live among
them and began their move to New York to found New Stockbridge.


Life in New York

Having already made much of the transition to Euro-American lifeways
during their time in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, the Stockbridge were
able to forge a new and stronger community in New York. Establishing
farms, they raised sheep and wove the fleece into cloth, raised crops
and made baskets and other crafts for sale. Using monies they received
after the Revolutionary War, they bought cattle and farm tools and
built a sawmill. A stable American-style farm village was well
established by 1800. Within the group, political factionalism divided
the people into those who favored a more traditional lifestyle and
leasing their lands to Whites and those who preferred to work the land
themselves, including many men who had abandoned traditional ways and
farmed themselves, which had always been women's work. The former group
also maintained the Mahican language and some aspects of traditional
dress, while the more acculturated Stockbridge spoke English and wore
Euro-American style clothing. /p>

Although many Stockbridge adjusted well to life in New York, their
leader Hendrick Aupaumut still felt that the tribe should be farther
removed from Whites to escape their influence. He chose to relocate the
Stockbridge to Indiana near the Miami tribe which had already accepted
a number of Munsee and Delaware immigrants.. This plan was delayed by
the War of 1812, during which Aupaumut served as an intermediary
between the United States and Midwestern Indian tribes, the majority of
which were allied to the British.


Early Life in Wisconsin

The first two Stockbridge families left New York for Indiana in 1817.
The next year another eighty tribal members, led by John Metoxen,
joined them. Much to their chagrin, they found that the land they had
intended to settle had been ceded by the Miami tribe and was to be sold
to White settlers. Aupaumut's son, Solomon Hendrick, led a delegation
to Green Bay, Wisconsin in 1821 to try to find a new place for their
people to settle. Representatives from the Stockbridge, Brothertown,
and Oneida tribes negotiated with the Menominee and Ho-chunk tribes for
a tract of land of about 860,000 acres for all three tribes. Another
tract of 6.72 million acres was purchased the following year.

Although the land treaties with the Stockbridge, Brothertown, and
Oneida were disputed by the Menominee and Ho-chunk, the Stockbridge in
Indiana and New York began moving to Wisconsin, settling along the Fox
River near present-day Kaukauna. A Christian mission was established
there in 1825. By 1831, 225 Stockbridge had migrated to Wisconsin along
with 100 people from the Munsee Delaware who had earlier moved to
Canada. Their joint community became known as the Stockbridge-Munsee.
Aupaumut died in 1830, and John Metoxen took his place as the tribal
sachem. /p>

The federal government finally mediated the dispute between the
Menominee, Ho-chunk, Stockbridge and other tribes in 1831 and 1832 with
a series of three treaties. As part of this compromise, the
Stockbridge-Munsee would leave their settlement on the Fox River for
new lands on the east shore of Lake Winnebago in present-day Calumet
County. As compensation, the federal government reimbursed the
Stockbridge-Munsee $25,000 for the improvements they had made to the
Fox River settlement.

The Stockbridge-Munsee moved to their new home on Lake Winnebago
between 1832 and 1834. Since soils were poor on their new lands, many
Stockbridge depended on the sale of timber from their lands. Conflicts
arose over internal politics. John W. Quinney, a tribal leader, wrote a
tribal constitution in 1837, replacing hereditary sachems with elected
tribal officials. Not all tribal members favored this innovation.
Dissension increased when the federal government ordered the
Stockbridge-Munsee to move west of the Mississippi River to provide
land for hordes of incoming White settlers. In 1838, the tribe sold
about half of its reservation on Lake Winnebago to the United States,
and the following year those who wanted to remove westward. About 170
tribal members left for Missouri. Those who left feared that staying in
Wisconsin would jeopardize their tribal identity. In leaving, they felt
they would retain their Indian culture and political autonomy.

Conditions in Missouri were difficult, and many Stockbridge-Munsee
returned to Wisconsin. In 1843, Congress passed an act making all
Stockbridge-Munsee United States citizens. This divided up reservation
lands on Lake Winnebago-which had been held communally-among individual
tribal members. Many Stockbridge-Munsee consented to this plan and
became known as the Citizen Party. The opposition formed the Indian
Party, under the leadership of John W. Quinney, with the intent to
retain the federal status, culture, and political sovereignty of the
tribe. /p>

The Indian Party became distressed when Whites began buying up land
granted to individual tribal members. Quinney lobbied to have the 1843
act repealed, and Congress did so in 1846, but members of the Citizen
Party refused to give up their American citizenship and stayed on their
allotted lands along Lake Winnebago. The Indian Party wanted to
relocate to the Crow Wing River in Minnesota, but negotiations with the
government for a tract of land did not succeed. The Indian Party
finally gained about 44,000 acres of the Menominee reservation in 1856,
all in Shawano County. Additionally, the tribe was reimbursed
approximately $78,000 to cover expenses in moving to their new home.

John Quinney played a leading role in gaining this home for his people,
but did not live to see it. He was elected grand sachem of the tribe in
1852 but died in 1856. The Indian Party approved a new constitution in
1856 which, like Quinney's earlier constitution, vested tribal
authority in an elected sachem. However, members of the Citizen Party
continued to oppose the Indian Party, particularly concerning the sale
of the old reservation at Lake Winnebago. Citizen Party members argued
that they were cheated out of proceeds from this sale. To placate the
Citizen Party, Congress authorized the sale of part of the new
reservation near Shawano in 1871. Three quarters of the new reservation
lands were sold, primarily to lumber companies.


Later Life in Wisconsin

Stockbridge-Munsee lands became further divided by the 1887 Dawes Act,
which mandated that communally owned reservation lands be divided and
owned individually by tribal members, with excess lands sold to public.
Congress passed legislation in 1904, 1906, and 1910 that divided
remaining Stockbridge-Munsee lands. The 1910 act also terminated the
Stockbridge-Munsee's status as a federally recognized Indian tribe. By
1934, only one hundred acres of the reservation remained in Indian
ownership. Many could not afford to pay taxes associated with land
titles, and this forced them to sell their property to non-Indian
buyers such as lumber companies.

The Indian Reorganization Act in 1934 encouraged the re-establishment
of tribal governments by tribes across the nation. The tribe could
adopt a new constitution provided by the U.S. government or draft their
own. Within the boundaries of their old reservation, the
Stockbridge-Munsee had maintained a town government, and in 1931 this
body created the Stockbridge-Munsee Business Committee. In 1938, the
Stockbridge-Munsee drafted and approved a new constitution.

Under the leadership of Carl Miller, the Stockbridge-Munsee reorganized
their tribal government and regained federal recognition. Using federal
funds secured through the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the tribe managed
to buy back over 15,000 acres of land within their old reservation
boundaries. In 1972, the federal government placed about 13,000 acres
of the land into federal trust for the tribe. Currently the
Stockbridge-Munsee have about 1500 enrolled tribal members, 900 of whom
live on the reservation

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