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Mohegan Indian Chiefs and Leaders
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Occom, Samson, A Christian convert, called “the pious Mohegan,” born in 1723. Converted to Christianity under the influence of Rev. E. Wheelock in 1741, he received in the family of that minister a good education, learning to speak and to write English and obtain in some knowledge of Latin and Greek; and even of Hebrew. Owing to ill health he did not complete the collegiate instruction intended for him.
He was successively a school teacher in New London, Conn. (1748); preacher to the Indians of Long Island for some ten years; agent in England (1766-67) for Mr. Wheelock’s newly established school, where he preached with great acceptance and success; minister of the Brotherton Indians, as those Mahican were called who removed to the Oneida country in the state of New York (1786). On his death at New Stockbridge, N. Y., in 1792, Occom was greatly lamented. He is said to have been an interesting and eloquent speaker, and while in England delivered some 300 sermons. A funeral sermon on Moses Paul, a Mahican executed for murder in 1711, has been preserved in printed form. Occom was the author of the hymn beginning “Awaked by Sinai’s Awful Sound,” and of another, “Now the Shades of Night are Gone,” which gave Bishop Huntington delight that the thought of an Indian was made part of the worship of the Episcopal Church; but it was omitted from the present hymnal. It was through his success in raising funds in England that Mr. Wheelock’s school was transferred from Lebanon, Conn., to New Hampshire, where it was incorporated as Dartmouth College. As a man, Occom exhibited the virtues and the failings of his race. He was a regularly ordained minister, having been examined and licensed to preach by the clergymen of Windham county, Conn., and inducted in 1759 by the Suffolk presbytery, Long Island. His later years were marred by drunkenness and other vices, but on the whole his life was one of great benefit to his race, though Schoolcraft (Ind. Tribes, v, 518, 1855) praises him perhaps too highly. See J. Edwards, Observations on the Language of the Muhhekaneew Indians, 1789; W. De Loss Love, Samson Occom and the Christian Indians of New England, 1899.
Cheeshateaumuch, Caleb. The only New England Indian who completed his studies at Harvard College, taking his degree in 1666. He died of consumption.
Uncas (corruption of Wonkus, fox,’ lit. ‘the circler.’-Gerard). A Mohegan chief, son of Owenoco, who in 1626 married a daughter of Sassacus, chief of the Pequot, and became one of their leaders (De Forest, Inds. of Conn., 86, 1852).
He was known also as Poquim or Poquoiam. A rebellion against Sassacus led to his defeat and banishment, whereupon he fled to the Narraganset, but soon made his and returned. This conduct was repeated several times. He warred against the Pequot, Narraganset, and other tribes. After taking prisoner Miantonomo he executed him at command of the English. He sided with the English in King Philip’s war in 1675.
His death occurred in 1682 or 1683. The family line became extinct early in the 19th century. De Forest (op. cit., 86) says: “His nature was selfish, jealous, and tyrannical; his ambition was grasping and unrelieved by a single trait of magnanimity.” Stratagem and trickery were native to his mind. His personal habits were bad and he was addicted to more than one vice of the whites. He protested against the introduction of Christianity among his people. A monument to his memory was erected by the citizens of Norwich, Conn., in July, 1847, the cornerstone of which was laid by President Jackson in 1833. Another memorial, consisting of a bronze surmounting a large bowlder, was erected by Mrs Edward Clark, afterward the wife of Bishop H. C. Potter, on the site of the home of James Fenimore Cooper, at Cooperstown, N.Y.
Oneka. A Mohegan chief of Connecticut, eldest son and successor of the celebrated Uncas; born about 1640, died 1710. In 1659, under the name Owanecco, he joined with his father and his brother, Attawenhood, in deeding a tract 9 m. square for the settlement of the town of Norwich, Oneka signing with the totem of a bird. In 1661 lie made an attack, with 70 men, on one of Massasoit’svillages, killing 3 persons and taking 6 prisoners. In 1675, at the instance of Uncas, he went to Boston, with two brothers and 50 warriors, to offer their services to the English against the Wampanoag under King Philip, which were accepted, and shortly after his party almost captured this noted leader In 1679 Uncas and Oneka trade a grant of 600 acres to the county for rebuilding the jail, and two years later the General Court gave its consent that Uncas should deed his lands to Oneka. The latter had a son named Mahomet, or Mawholnott.
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