ETHNONYMS: Mohegan Tribe, Mohegan Tribe of Indians of Connecticut, Moheag, Mmooyauhegunnewuck
Identification and Location. Oral tradition describes the Mohegan as an ancient wolf clan of the Lenni Lenape (Delaware) that moved from upstate New York to Connecticut shortly before European contact. While traveling into southern New England, the Mohegans acquired the nickname Pequotaug (invaders), or "Pequot." During the 1630s dissension among the Pequot/Mohegan leadership led a group of tribes people supporting Sagamore (subchief) Uncas to split with the main body under Sachem (head chief) Sassacus. Uncas and his followers moved to a village on the west bank of the Thames River in the woodlands of southeastern Connecticut. There, at the place called Shantok, they fortified a village and reclaimed the original tribal name Mohegan.
Demography. Estimates of the Mohegan population from historical documents show periods of sharp decreases and increases. Some historians have estimated numbers between 1,500 and 2,000 at the time when Dutch colonists and traders first entered Connecticut in 1614. Over 200 Mohegans joined the colonists' forces in King Philip's War (1675-1676). DeForest (1852) reasoned that the 1704 tally of 150 Mohegan warriors represented a total of 750 Mohegans. Many early accounts are based on the Colony of Connecticut's replies to a Board of Trade and Plantations survey that asked for the number of warriors who could be placed in the field. Most counts did not include men away at war or at sea or families living off the reservation. A 1754 list taken at a town meeting in New London lists only 78 by name. Although the Mohegans sustained heavy losses from the American Revolution and the emigration to Brothertown by the followers of Samson Occum, 138 Mohegans were counted in the 1782 census. In 2001 there were almost 1,500 members enrolled in the Mohegan Tribe.
Linguistic Affiliation. The Mohegan language is an Algonquian dialect similar to that of other southern New England tribes but including some unique elements.
History and Cultural Relations
Some time after the Mohegan/Pequot moved into Connecticut from New York, the region was invaded by the English and other European groups. A quarrel arose between the leaders Sagamore Uncas and Sachem Sassacus. Uncas favored an alliance with the English and wished to become Sachem, while Sassacus was committed to resistance.
Splitting with the main body of Pequots, Uncas's followers assumed the ancient tribal name of Mohegan and settled on the east bank of the Thames River in about 1635. To secure his small group Uncas befriended the English. In 1637 that alliance drew the Mohegans into the Pequot War, a conflict that resulted in the near annihilation of the Pequots. In 1676 the Mohegans again were lured into an English conflict during King Philip's War.
The English-Mohegan alliance also spurred conflict between the Mohegans and the nearby Narragansetts. In 1643 the two tribes fought the Battle of the Great Plain in Norwich, resulting in the execution of the Narragansett Sachem Miantonomo at the insistence of colonial leaders. The Narragansetts retaliated, attempting to starve the Mohegans out of their fortified village of Shantok until provisions were secretly brought in by the English.
During the eighteenth century Mohegan converts to Christianity included the Reverend Samson Occum, one of the first formally trained and ordained American Indian ministers. Occum traveled to England to raise funds for the creation of a New England Indian school, collecting eleven thousand pounds in 1766 for that institution, which later became Dartmouth College. However, when he returned home, the school began to exclude Indians.
The famous "Mason land court case" was decided against the Mohegan Tribe in 1767. Two years later the Sachemship was ended after the death of Ben Uncas III because of the Mohegans' resistance to colonial manipulation of tribal politics.
Discouraged by those events, Occum led Christian Indians away from English settlements to upstate New York in 1775. That migration was known as the Brothertown movement. The movement was interrupted by the Revolutionary War, and this group settled in Oneida County, New York, and later in Wisconsin.
Land allotments to individual members began in 1790, but the Mohegan's existence in southeastern Connecticut was not secure. Occum's sister, Lucy Occum Tantaquidgeon, encouraged her daughter, Lucy Teecomwas, and granddaughter, Cynthia Hoscott, to avoid the threat of federal Indian removal policy by proving that the Mohegan Tribe was already "Christianized" and "civilized." With that goal in mind, the Mohegan Church was founded in 1831 with the help of Sarah Huntington, a local non-Indian missionary who supported the church's fund-raising efforts and was successful in the campaign against removal.
Throughout the nineteenth century women leaders were preeminent. Martha Uncas (1769-1859) served as tribal headwoman and maintained traditional tribal life ways, including the Mohegan language and ancient tribal stories. She trained her granddaughter, Fidelia Fielding, and grandniece, Emma Baker, in those traditions. Fielding (1827-1908) was the last fluent Mohegan speaker before the current language restoration. Baker (1828-1916) served as tribal chairwoman and president of the Mohegan Church Ladies Sewing Society. Their protégée Gladys Tantaquidgeon attended the University of Pennsylvania from 1919 to 1926 and then worked for the Federal Indian Service and Arts and Crafts Board in the 1930s and 1940s. In 1931 she cofounded the Tantaquidgeon Indian Museum, the oldest Indian-owned and -operated museum in America, along with her brother, Harold, and father, John. In the 1970s and early 1980s Tantaquidgeon served as vice-chair of the Tribal Council. She received the title of medicine woman in 1992.
In 1978 the Mohegan Tribe applied for federal recognition from the Bureau of Indian Affairs. To facilitate that application, a constitutional governmental system was created in 1980. The title of chief and other traditional tribal positions were maintained. After recognition in 1994, under Chief and Chairman G'tinemong/Ralph Sturges, the Mohegans began to restore their original reservation lands in Uncasville, Connecticut, to federal trust status. The Mohegan Tribe opened the Mohegan Sun Casino there in 1996, and in 1998 Shantok, the village of Uncas, was repurchased by the tribe and placed in trust. Restoration of the Mohegan Church was completed in 2001.
Shantok was the main seventeenth-century Mohegan village, situated in the present-day hamlet of Uncasville, Connecticut, in what is now the town of Montville in the county of New London, in the eastern portion of the town along the west bank of the Thames. About half a mile from the river was the home of Uncas, standing on a commanding site that is now called "Uncas Hill," which lies about three-fourths of a mile southeast of the present Mohegan Chapel. From this hill, the mouth of the Thames River can be seen and nearly the whole length of the river, to the head of the tidal water, where the Shetucket and Yantic rivers commingle.
In the eighteenth century the tribe split into two villages: Ben's Town and John's Town. Ben's Town contained followers of Ben Uncas III, a Mohegan Sachem installed by the colony of Connecticut against the wishes of the tribal majority. The latter, more populous group consisted of the supporters of John Uncas.
By 1790 the Mohegan Tribe was left with only 2,700 acres (1,093 hectares) of land, much of which was unsuitable for agriculture. More divisions of land would take place until the final division, the consequence of an 1861 act passed in the Connecticut General Assembly that resulted in the remainder of tribal lands being allotted to the members. The commissioners considered this too much land for the Indians to own, and so it was put up for public auction in 1871. The only exception was the land occupied by the Mohegan Church and its parish house, which would continue to be tribal land.
A Mohegan community continues to live in the hamlet of Uncasville, near the Mohegan reservation. The original reservation was disbanded in 1872, and the contemporary tribal lands were returned to federal trust status beginning in 1995, after Mohegan federal recognition in 1994.
Subsistence. In common with the other coastline tribes of southern New England, Mohegans followed a seasonal pattern for subsistence. The Mohegan Tribe was situated in villages on the banks of the Thames River throughout the growing season, which lasted from May to the end of September. Mohegans cultivated extensive fields of corn, squash, and beans and took advantage of the abundant supply of shellfish, processing enormous quantities of food through drying and smoking to keep through the winter months. The spring migration of menhaden, alewives, and herring yielded not only protein but fertilizer for the corn fields.
This was also a season for berry, grape, and herb gathering. In late autumn the Mohegans would move away from the dank and bitter cold of the river sites to its traditional hunting territories inland, splitting into smaller groups so that no area would be overexploited. This was a time for harvesting acorns and butternuts and for building snares and traps for small game. Deer, turkey, and other mammals and fowl were supplemented by the supplies stored during the summer.
After colonial settlement diminished Mohegan lands, many tribal members were forced to work for wages. Much of the remaining Mohegan land was rented to whites for farming and use as woodlots. Overseers were appointed by the colony to keep accurate records of those transactions. Some of the funds were doled out to the tribe in times of need, but much of the money went for administrative costs. A few Mohegans turned to European-style agriculture, and some engaged in sheep husbandry.
Commerical Activities. The Mohegan Tribe opened its Casino of the Earth, Mohegan Sun, in 1996. By fall 2001 the facilities included the world's largest planetarium, a ten thousand-seat arena, a convention center, and a grand ballroom. This commercial venture has funded tribal social services, education, and other economic endeavors, including an aquaculture project. The lure of well-paying jobs and an opportunity to participate in tribal life continue to draw tribal members back to the home of their ancestors.
Industrial Arts. Weapons and tools initially were fashioned from stone, shell, bone, horn, or wood. Later, many European goods were adapted to fit native needs. Brass from kettles was turned into projectile points, scrapers, awls, combs, and decorative articles. The Mohegans became skilled in the use and repair of firearms. Line and rope were made from vegetable fibers and used for making fish seines as well as twined baskets and textiles. The early use of soapstone for receptacles was replaced by a shell-grit pottery technology that continued beyond the contact era. Mats and baskets were made from the rushes, irises, grasses, and shrubs. Clothing was fashioned from fur and leather as well as from twined materials, often insulated with feathers. Supple saplings were used to frame wigwams and longhouses, which were covered with bark or woven mats, depending on the season. During the colonial period Mohegans were known for basketry and for fashioning brooms and wooden utensils.
Trade. An important commodity for trade with inland tribes was wampumpeag, beads made from the shells of the white and purple quahog. During the summer the shells were collected as a by-product of preserving shellfish meat for later consumption. The winter months were spent grinding, drilling, and stringing the beads, which were valued as a medium for trade, barter, tribute, and ransom. From a survey of precontact archaeological sites, it appears that materials were traded from as far away as Vermont, Ohio, the Great Lakes, and Pennsylvania. After the arrival of Europeans, Mohegans quickly established trade for Dutch and English manufactured goods, acting at times as middlemen for inland tribes.
Division of Labor. Adult males banded together to perform community tasks such as clearing new corn fields through planned fires and turning the soil with bone and wood tools, cutting wood for the palisades that kept animals and marauders out of the village at night, and fashioning dugouts from trees that were felled with stone axes. These were labor-intensive activities best handled in a group. Iron and steel tools were supplied through the fur trade with Dutch, English, and French ships. Men hunted in the colder months, often forming groups to drive deer. Women were expected to tend the corn fields through the growing season with the help of children. Women also augmented the food supply by gathering roots and berries. Both men and women gathered and processed fish and shellfish.
As colonial settlement increased and game diminished, the Mohegans were forced to lease a portion of their lands and sell wood, handicrafts, and their labor. Wages were earned through service in the military and aboard privateers in times of war and through work aboard whaling ships and other commercial craft. Agriculture became a more important occupation. During the nineteenth and twentieth centuries many Mohegans moved away from their homeland to obtain a higher education and search for better-paying jobs.
Land Tenure. Mohegan lands were held by the community and were worked in common. The system of agriculture and living patterns required that no single site be occupied throughout the year. Through incursion and fraud those lands were reduced to 4,000 to 5,000 acres (1,619 to 2,024 hectares) by 1721. The colonial government reserved the right to deal only through the Sachem in acquiring lands, but this practice was not always followed. Divisions of tribal land enacted by the General Assembly of Connecticut took place in 1783, 1790, 1860, and 1872. Land considered to be excess was put up for auction by the state, to be acquired by the Mohegans' neighbors. The only plot of land that has remained tribally owned was the one occupied by the Mohegan Church.
Kin Groups and Descent. Descent is traced both patrilineally and matrilineally. Women traditionally could occupy high-status positions, and it can be seen from early land transactions that they had an ownership interest in the land. Before European settlement Uncas had married a sister of Sassacus, which gave him an equal claim to the Sachemship of the Pequot. Dictated in 1679, the oldest recorded history of kinship traces four generations of unions of Sachems and close relations of Sachems from a variety of southern New England and Long Island, New York, tribes and shows a network of relatives occupying high-status positions.
Marriage. Mohegans married people from their own tribe as well as those from other tribes. This practice seemed to extend to all social levels and continued after the settlers arrived. The genealogy of Uncas lists Pequots, Narragansetts, and Mohegans among his antecedents. Uncas had wives from neighboring tribes as well. Some of the followers of Uncas who went with him to stay among the Narragansetts during his exile from the Pequots remained there with their Narragansett wives. During the colonial period those practices continued, with exogamy rising during times when the Mohegan population was low. Polygamy was practiced by the Sachems until Christianity made inroads on tribal customs. This also may have been the practice of the Sachem's councilors, but that is uncertain. Serial monogamy existed, with either party able to cast off a disagreeable spouse.
Domestic Unit. Mohegans formerly lived in wigwams within villages. Villages were mobile; a move often followed the exhaustion of land for agriculture or a change in the game population. The married couple, its children, and some of the couple's blood relations could occupy a wigwam. A Mohegan family might raise children who were not closely related. Even during times of hardship food was shared. This changed during the eighteenth century, when scarce resources tended to be kept within the family unit. Mohegans, however, continued to adopt orphans and give childless widows room at their hearths. Even at the beginning of the twenty-first century it was not unusual for three generations of a family to live under the same roof.
Inheritance. The first recorded Mohegan will dates from 1676. It was written by colonists for Joshua, the oldest son of Uncas, and clearly enumerates possessions and the estate and provides for trustees and the final disposition of the decedent's remains. The will has a clear European orientation as it makes provisions for Joshua's two sons to be educated in the English manner. His two wives had some land granted to them that was part of their families' tribal land. Joshua also left a large amount of acreage to prominent men in the colony, grants in which the parcel boundaries overlapped, a bequest that would keep the Connecticut courts busy for fifty years. Joshua predeceased his father, and Uncas claimed that the will ignored the traditional division of property, which would have included his father as an heir. Early documents reveal that in other southern New England tribes the daughters and sisters of high-status males also inherited positions of power as well as property on the demise of their ranking relative, and this might have been the case with Mohegans too, as the ruling families were interrelated.
Socialization. A traditional childhood offered the freedom to learn the skills needed to become an adult. Fishing, hunting, and competing in sports and games of endurance furnished boys with strength and skill. Girls helped their mothers and learned to perform tasks and crafts that made tribal life run smoothly. Discipline was mainly in the form of verbal disapproval. Indians were shocked by the corporal punishment that the colonists used to correct children, believing that such mistreatment of a child damaged the future adult. When schools were established, both boys and girls were enrolled. Colonists were encouraged to take Mohegan children into their families as servants and teach them to read so that they would be receptive to the Bible and Christianity. The girls often were relegated to a submissive state under the patriarchal structure of the "Christian" family, and both sexes were discouraged from "prideful" ways. After 1700 it was common for a young Indian to have an English name, retaining the Indian name of the father as a surname. Some who were bound out or apprenticed for two, three, or more years acquired the family name of those with whom they lived.
Social Organization. Traditionally, Mohegan leadership and land ownership were matriarchal. However, even at the time of Sachem Uncas (early to middle seventeenth century) there were disputes over the line of succession.
Tribal leaders typically were chosen by the older Mohegan women, a practice that has continued into the modern era. In 1970 the elder women (nanus) chose Courtland Fowler as the tribal chief, and in 1991 the tribal medicine woman Gladys Tantaquidgeon recommended Ralph Sturges as chief. Both men were elected by a majority of the Mohegan Tribe.
Oral tradition states that until the early twentieth century the Mohegans retained remnants of a chief's class, a warrior class, and a lower class made up of those from other tribes.
Political Organization. From ancient times until 1769 the Sachemdom was the main form of political leadership. Hereditary leaders from specific ruling families were chosen as Sachems and Sagamores. A tribal council made political decisions.
Social Control. After the Sachemdom was transformed into an honorary chieftainship in 1769, chiefs continued to resolve many disputes. However, the nanus handled some judicial matters. Today an elected Council of Elders serves as the supreme tribal judicial body.
Conflict. Precontact warfare was limited to skirmishing between various tribes, but Europeans introduced larger-scale conflict. To maintain the tribe's autonomy from the Pequots, Sachem Uncas made an alliance with the English in 1636. The European presence divided the native community, and by the 1640s the Mohegan were fighting with the neighboring Narragansett Tribe. Uncas never engaged in armed conflict against the colonists, and the Mohegans were never a conquered people. Intertribal alliances and organizations contributed to conflict resolution over time.
Religion and Expressive Culture
Religious Beliefs. Mohegans believe in Gunche Mundo (the Great Spirit), along with lesser spirit beings such as the Weyut Mundo (the Fire Spirit) and Cheepai Wunxis (Foxfire).
Spiritual culture heroes include Moshup the Giant and his wife, Granny Squannit, leader of the Makiawisug (Little People). Sacred sites include Moshup's Rock, Shantok, and the Royal Mohegan (Sachem's family) burial ground in Norwich, Connecticut.
Hobbomockko ("he is bad") is considered preeminent among bad spirits, and Chahnameed is a trickster figure in Mohegan stories.
The Mohegans believe that the earth was created atop a giant turtle referred to as Grandfather. Each of the thirteen lunar months in a year is echoed in the thirteen sections of the turtle's back.
Religious Practitioners. Pauwau is the ancient term for a Mohegan medicine person. In modern times these spiritual leaders generally have been women. This post was held from the American Revolutionary period until 1859 by Martha Uncas, and until 1917 by Emma Baker. Doctor Gladys Tantaquidgeon, the Mohegan medicine woman at the beginning of the twenty-first century, was trained by Baker, who was her great-aunt.
Ceremonies. The Mohegans have held a Green Corn Festival since ancient times. The celebration was conducted under a brush arbor in front of the Mohegan Church from 1860 to 1956. This three-day early September event was known as the "Wigwam." During the 1960s and 1970s the event was transformed into a late August Homecoming held at Shantok, a sacred site in Uncasville, Connecticut. By the 1980s the annual gathering had become a powwow, and in 1992 the two events were combined and the modern Wigwam Powwow was born.
Arts. The aesthically pleasing medallions, floral designs, and border embellishments painted on baskets, beaded onto clothing, and twined into yokeag bags were symbols that had intrinsic meaning to their makers and other tribal members. Painted splint baskets are highly prized by collectors. Made of hand-pounded ash and oak splint until the 1940s, those baskets feature symbolic motifs reflecting the tribe's view of the cosmos. Common patterns include the trail of life (a curvilinear path) accented with dots that represent people, four semicircular domes depicting the "dome of the sky," and a central circle signifying the spiritual force of the universe.
Other unique art forms include dolls made from turkey wishbones. Household items that otherwise would have been thrown away were transformed into toys to remind children that nothing should be wasted.
Medicine. Notable herbal healers include the Reverend Samson Occum (1723-1792), who circulated a medicinal notebook among the local Indian and non-Indian community in the mid-eighteenth century, and Medicine Woman Gladys Tantaquidgeon (born 1899), author of the monograph Folk Medicine of the Delaware and Related Algonkian Indians. Common remedies include bone setting for colds, mint for fevers, "weecup" (basswood bark) for coughs, and sassafras tea for a tonic.
Until the nineteenth century healers used carved wooden masks to chase bad spirits away from those suffering from illnesses and turtle shell cups to administer water and tea. After that time non-Indian doctors were commonly consulted, but herbal cures remained common.
Death and Afterlife. Traditional postcontact burials often featured fieldstones that face the southwest, whereas Christianized tribal members often chose east-west burial. Many Mohegan burial sites are situated along rivers. The Royal Mohegan Burial Ground in Norwich, Connecticut, is set on a rise above the Yantuck River. The other major burial ground, at Shantok, lies on the west bank of the Thames River. The latter site continues to be used for the internment of contemporary tribal people.
Colonial and Revolutionary era burials included more gender-specific goods, such as spoons, mortars and pestles, ocher, pottery, wampum, and hunting implements, along with food and clothing. However, modern burials more commonly include red cedar sprigs, arrowheads, tobacco, sweetgrass, or corn.
For the original article on the Mohegan, see Volume 1, North America.
Baker, Henry A. (1894-1895). "The Mohegans: An Historical Sketch of This Famous Tribe," The Bostonian: An Illustrated Monthly Magazine of Local Interest, Vol. I.
Cronin, William (1984). Changes in the Land: Indians, Colonists, and the Ecology of New England. New York: Hill and Wang, Farrar, Straus & Giroux.
DeForest, John W. (1852). History of the Indians of Connecticut from the Earliest Known Period to 1850. Hartford, CT: W. J. Hammersly.
Fawcett, Melissa Jayne (1995). The Lasting of the Mohegans: The Story of the Wolf People. Uncasville, CT: The Mohegan Tribe.
—— (2000).Medicine Trail: The Life and Lessons of Gladys Tantaquidgeon. Tucson: University of Arizona Press.
Hagerty, Gilbert W. (1985). Wampum, War and Trade Goods West of the Hudson. Interlaken, NY: Heart of the Lakes Publishing.
Love, W. DeLoss (2000). Samson Occom and the Christian Indians of New England. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press.
Peale, Arthur L. (1939). Uncas and the Mohegan-Pequot. Boston: Meador Publishing.
Speck, Frank G. (1928). Native Tribes and Dialects of Connecticu.t Extract from the Forty-Third Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office.
Speck, Frank G., and Jayne C. Fawcett (1987). "Symbolic Motifs on Painted Baskets of the Mohegan-Pequot." In A Key into the Language of Woodsplint Baskets, edited by Ann McMullen and Russell G. Handsman. 95-123. Washington, CT: American Indian Archaeological Institute, Inc.
Tantaquidgeon, Gladys (1995). Folk Medicine of the Delaware and Related Algonkian Indians. Harrisburg: Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission.
Townshend, Charles (1900). "The Quinnipiak Indians," Papers of the New Haven Hisorical Society, Vol. VI. Separate publication of 79 pages and 3 plates.
Trigger, Bruce G., volume editor (1978). Northeast: Handbook of the North American Indians, Vol. 15. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution.
FAITH DAMON DAVISON AND MELISSA FAWCETT TANTAQUIDGEON
MOHEGAN. The Mohegans, an Eastern Algonquian-speaking people located in southeastern Connecticut, first appear on a 1614 Dutch map that shows them located close to the Pequots. If not part of the Pequot tribe, the Mohegan village was under Pequot control until the outbreak of hostilities between the English and Pequots in the 1630s. By the commencement of the English-Pequot War (1636–1638), the Mohegans, under the leadership of Uncas, had broken with the Pequots and joined the English against them.
After the war, Uncas became the most important pro-English Indian leader in New England, but his loyalty did not prevent the English from acquiring most of his tribe's lands. By the 1750s the tribe was split over issues of leadership, which were exacerbated by the last tribal sachem Ben Uncas III. The opposition was led by Samson Occom, Mohegan minister, who after Uncas's death in 1769, organized the Brothertown movement.
The tribe held some 2,000 acres until 1861 when the state legislature divided the land among the tribal members, with the title and citizenship being granted in 1872. Only the plot on which the Mohegan Church was located remained tribal.
The tribe continued to function throughout the twentieth century, centering its activities around the church. It brought suit in the 1970s for the land lost in 1861, and in 1994 it was granted federal recognition and settled its land claim.
Conkey, Laura E., Ethel Boissevain, and Ives Goddard "Indians of Southern New England and Long Island: Late Period." In Handbook of North American Indians. Vol. 15: Northeast. Edited by Bruce Trigger. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution, 1978.
DeForest, John W. History of the Indians of Connecticut from the Earliest Known Period to 1850. Hamden, Conn.: Archon, 1964. Originally published in 1851.
See alsoTribes: Northeastern .
The Mohegan, with the Pequot, Narragansett, and Niantic (Nehantic), lived in western Rhode Island and in Connecticut east of the Connecticut River. They now live on some small reservations in the area and in nearby communities. They spoke Algonkian languages and numbered about one thousand in 1980.
Conkey, Laura E., Ethel Boissevain, and Ives Goddard (1978). "Indians of Southern New England: Late Period." In Handbook of North American Indians. Vol. 15, Northeast, edited by Bruce G. Trigger, 177-189. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution.
Salwen, Bert (1978). "Indians of Southern New England and Long Island: Early Period." In Handbook of North American Indians. Vol. 15, Northeast, edited by Bruce G. Trigger, 160-176. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution.
Simmons, William S. (1978). "Narragansett." In Handbook of North American Indians. Vol. 15, Northeast, edited by Bruce G. Trigger, 190-197. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution.
Mo·he·gan / mōˈhēgən/ (also Mo·hi·can / -ˈhēkən/ ) • n. 1. a member of an American Indian people formerly inhabiting eastern Connecticut. Compare with Mahican. 2. the Algonquian language of this people, closely related to Pequot. • adj. of or relating to the Mohegans or their language.