Mohawk or Mohican?

As I was perusing some British newspapers online and there seems to be a big to-do over David Beckham’s new haircut.

To those of us here in the U.S., it looks like a Mohawk. However, the British seem to refer to as a Mohican (sometimes it’s lowercase).

Anyone care to speculate on why that difference came about?

Having absolutely no real answer I can only speculate that perhaps the British press is confused. Especially as the Mohicans are a literary invention ( by the quite rightfully reviled James Fenimore Cooper ). Either it is an old holdover from Cooper’s piece being popular in Britain and that stereotypical haircut being linked with it via illustrations in it or it is just a simple error by somebody trying to recall what people call those things.

What about it, former Brit punks :stuck_out_tongue: ? Mohawk or Mohican?

  • Tamerlane

Nah. The Mohicans (or Mahicans) were an Algonquian-speaking people of what is now New York State. The Mohawks were an Iroquoian-speaking tribe from the same general area, and a member of the famed Iroquios Confederacy. Actually, the two groups were rivals and frequently fought each other, which no doubt confused the hapless white people–“Okay, so the Mohawks are at war with the Mohicans, or have we got that backwards?” As to the hairdo, I’ve never heard it called anything but a “Mohawk” over on the American side of the Atlantic, and this earlier thread seemed to find some basis for ascribing the 'do to the Mohawks as well as to the Huron Indians (who were more closely related to the Mohawks than to the Mohicans, being speakers of an Iroquoian language, although they were not members of the Iroquois Confederacy, and were in fact enemies of that league).

It’s not impossible that the Mohicans also cut their hair that way, and at any rate it’s certainly not impossible that the British, under the influence of The Last of the Mohicans (including the 1992 movie version) have started referring to the haircut that way. It would seem, though, that if that is the case, the British usage is probably newer than “Mohawk”, and likely incorrect.

MEBuckner: I was aware of the Mahicans ( not to mention the Mohegans :smiley: ), but I didn’t realize they were synonmous with Cooper’s Mohicans. I always assumed he just made all of it up whole cloth. You mean that hack actually did some research :stuck_out_tongue: ?

Learn something new every day :slight_smile: .

  • Tamerlane

He did a little, Tamerlane
In their language, “Mohegan” means wolf - exactly the same as “Mahican” from the Mahican language, but these slightly different names refer to two very distinct Algonquin tribes in different locations. It is very common for the Mohegan of the Thames River in eastern Connecticut to be confused with the Mahican from the Hudson Valley in New York (a distance of about a hundred miles). Even James Fenimore Cooper got things confused when he wrote “Last of the Mohicans” in 1826. Since Cooper lived in Cooperstown, New York and the location of his story was the upper Hudson Valley, it can be presumed he was writing about the Mahican of the Hudson River, but the spelling variation chosen (Mohican) and use of Uncas, the name of a Mohegan sachem, has muddled things. Other factors have contributed to the confusion, not the least of which was the Mohegan were the largest group of the Brotherton Indians in Connecticut. After the Brotherton moved to the Oneida reserve in upstate New York in 1788, they became mixed with the Stockbridge Indians (Mahican) from western Massachusetts. Because of this, the present-day Stockbridge Tribe should contain descendants from both the Mahican and Mohegan. Anyone not confused at this point may consider himself an expert.

Spelling variations used for the Mohegan in Connecticut and Mahican of New York and western Massachusetts (Mohiggan, Monahegan, Morihican, etc.) frequently overlap and have been applied equally to both tribes. Alternative names only for the Mohegan were: Seaside People, Uncas Indians, Unkas, and Upland Indians.[/q]

Oops. That’s a quote from this site:

IIRC, in the 1992 film version of “Last of the Mohicans”

Uncas, a Huron, sports a “Mohawk” haircut, but the two Mohicans in the film do not.

Actually, goofed there. The name of the Huron in the book/film is Magua. Uncas is a Mohican.

And to confuse things still further, there’s a Cecil-like book entitled **Did Mohawks Wear Mohawks?**that I’m sorry I didn’t pick up when I saw it. The response, as I recall, is that they didn’t.

As noted above, there are quite a few tribes from the Northeast with names similar to Mohawk/Mohican/Mahican. When I was researching “Weequehela” I came across a lot of such tribes in areas far removed from the regions inhabited by the Mohawks, which surprised me. But it wasn’t germane to my topic, so I didn’t look into it further.

In Cooper’s books, at least, the Mohicans, or Mohegans, or whatever Uncas and Chingachgook were, were described as being shaved/plucked bald, except for a single small patch on the top center. The hairdo commonly called a “mohawk” in the States is a full stripe of hair, running from front to back, so Cooper would not be the origin of that usage.

As for the tribe(s) called by the name “Mohican” or variants of same, where do the Lenni-Lenape and Delaware fit in? I seem to recall that Cooper described “Lenni-Lenape” as being synonymous with “Mohican”, and that Mohican was a subset of Delaware. Accurate?

Chronos: As I recall the Delaware were considered the stem group of a lot of the Algonquin-speaking people of New England. That is, many of the Algonquin tribes in that region recognized the Delaware proper as “Elder Brothers”. I would imagine ( and someone else may have more definitive info ) that the a good number of the region’s tribes budded off the Delaware ( who were still the single largest and most powerful Algonquin-speaking tribe in the area at the time of European settlement ). A very common process among tribal groups in general and American Indians in particular. I could cite dozens of examples - For one, the Comanche from the Shoshoni.

And later, under European and European-inspired pressure, new composite tribes took shape - i.e. the Wyandots.

  • Tamerlane

p.s. - Thanks for the illuminating info on the Mahicans/Mohicans/Mohegans guys :slight_smile: .

Getting back to the OP, when I looked at photos of David Beckham he doesn’t sport a classic “Mohawk”, i.e., he only has a small strip of hair left on his head. It’s not a full-length one like those of us in the U.S. consider to be a “Mohawk.”

Somehow, I doubt the English have bothered to make this fine of a distinction and have likely just remembered the word “Mohican” because it appeared in a famous book and a fairly successful recent film.

The Germans went with something like Iroquois:
der Irokesenschnitt

British use of “Mohican” to refer to the haircut certainly goes back to long before 1992. It may well be connected with Cooper’s book, however. I think it may be a sort of hypercorrection, whereby people familiar with the word “Mohicans”, thanks to Cooper, assumed that “Mohawk” was some sort of corruption or slangy version of “Mohican”.

One subgroup of Eastern Algonquian is called Delawaran. The nucleus of Delawaran being the two Lenape languages, Unami and Munsee, with Mahican being the outlier. [ul]
[li]Unami was spoken in most of New Jersey and in eastern Pennsylvania, extending south into parts of Delaware and Maryland. [/li][li]Munsee was spoken in northern New Jersey, Manhattan and the other NYC boroughs, and the lower Hudson Valley. Their neighbors to the north in the upper Hudson Valley were the Mahicans.[/ul][/li]
What this means is that Mahican is the next closest related language to Lenape. Munsee is more similar to Mahican than Unami is.

Cooper got the name of Chingachgook not from a Mahican source but from a book on Lenape Indians, in a chapter on the language, by missionary John Heckewelder, who used the spelling “chingachgook” to transcribe the compound xinkwi xkuk, meaning ‘big snake’. It was in the context of how the root for ‘big’, xinkw-, forms compounds, and “chingachgook” was one of the examples.

It was probably 76/77 when it became a vaguely popular punk hairstyle. It was always called a Mohican, but then again, barbers are there to cut your hair, you can’t really expect them to have a detailed knowledge of native American culture.

Something for the weekend, Sir?

Wow, someone joined the boards to post on a 13-year-old thread about a haircut! Welcome, and sa-lute!

The reason I’m not clicking on this link is because I don’t ever want to know one way or the other whether this website is called “Dick’s Hovel” or “Dick Shovel”.

I’ve never heard of the style called anything but a “Mohawk” in Canada.

There was a word I heard in a class about management theory for large organizations - Bohicans. as in:

BOHICA = Bend Over Here It Comes Again

Just as everyone is a Finn today, St. Urho’s, tomorrow all will be Irish for St. Paddy’s. I reckon some of those Mohegans and Mohicans will be Monaghans for the occasion. :wink: