“My day has been too long. In the morning, I saw the sons of the Unamis happy and strong; and yet, before the sun has come, have I lived to see the last warrior of the wise race of the Mohicans.”
There is a theory that James Fenimore Cooper created the fictitious Native America tribe, the Mohicans, by combining the names of two Northeastern tribes, the Mahicans, whose territory was in Central Eastern New York State, and the Mohegans, whose territory was in central Connecticut. A second theory is Fenimore Cooper combined the names of the Mahicans and the Mohawks, whose territory was also on the Hudson River.
My maternal side of my family was 100% Italian, so I am 50% Italian and look Italian. My fraternal side was “more ethnically diverse”. The name Maynard can be derived from the French “Menard”. It can also be derived from the English Maynard or Mainard, which in term is derived from the German words magin, which means strength, and hard which means hardy, brave and strong. The Maynard family of Hancock Massachusetts was a mixture of French, English, Yankee and Mohawk Indian.
I am 1/16 Mohawk Indian. You can see the Indian heritage in the high cheekbones of my grandmother, who is in the center of the bottom row. My father is second from the left on the top row. Whether he’s just having a bad hair day or is trying to emulate Dagwood’s haircut, I don’t know. He should have considered scalping himself. Or maybe a mohawk would have looked better on him. What being 1/16 Mohawk means today, in practical terms, is that I can’t open up a casino.
There are approximately 9,000 of us with Mohawk heritage left. The Mohawk’s traditional homeland stretched southward of the Mohawk River, eastward to the Green Mountains of Vermont, westward to the border with the Oneida Nation’s traditional homeland territory, and northward to the St Lawrence River. Mohawk means “People of the Place of the Crystals”.
The Mohawk Indians were also among the first natives who encountered the British and other Europeans who sailed to America to create a new life. Unfortunately, their numbers greatly decreased, because of the many diseases that these new settlers brought over from the Old World. Smallpox, measles and the flu were devastating to the Mohawks who had no immunity.
The Mohawk Indians were part of what was known the Iroquois League of Six Nations. They, along with other tribes soon split over bitter differences on who they would support during the American Revolutionary War in the late 18th century. The Mohawks, along with several other tribes, ended up fighting alongside the British in the war. After the war and many deaths, most of the remaining Mohawks moved to what is now Canada and are the most easterly of the Iroquois tribes..
The Kanienkehaka/Mohawks constitute one of six nations within the Iroquois Confederacy. The others are the Oneidas, Senecas, Cayugas, Onondagas and the Tuscaroras. Scholars and historians credit the Iroquois Confederacy as being the model upon which of the Constitution of the United States is based.
Archaeological findings at Garoga in Fulton County have confirmed that Mohawks have occupied lands, now known as New York State, since at least 1600 A.D.
The contributions of these Iroquoian people to European survival on this continent is significant. Research shows the Mohawks were experts in the fields of hunting, trapping, fishing and agriculture, contributing many, many different species of fruits, vegetables, spices and herbs to today’s menu. Without these contributions, it is safe to say the lifestyle of the Europeans in North America would not have developed as rapidly as it did.
Mohawk people of today have combined centuries-old ways of living into 20th century everyday life. The values of their historical culture still remain present in their daily life. Their distinctive heritage, language, ceremonies and traditional beliefs are still revered and maintained. The code of everyday living, “The Great Law”, has been kept alive by verbal teachings and continued practices for hundreds of years. People still honor the traditional system of Chieftainship, Clan Mothers and Faith keepers.
There is much to admire about the warriors of the Mohawks, in native language known as the Haudenosaunee. We are part of a society which honors traditions and keeps the peace, while serving the needs of others.
In the simplest of definitions, the Warrior Society is an ancient order of Haudenosaunee men who gather to aid their people in time of need and act as the voluntary vanguard of the Haudenosaunee. During times of strife and danger, its purpose is to defend and protect the citizenry and territory of the Haudenosaunee Six Nation Iroquois Confederacy.
The Warrior Society act not only as a defensive vanguard, but also as an important social institution providing essential services to the people; especially those unable and underprivileged. The Warrior Society helps community members who need their firewood piled, gardens tilled, and snow removed whenever and wherever needed. A Warrior Society that operates in this fashion would be described as the humble servants of the people and the power of the people in action….
Internally, the Warrior Society serves as peacekeepers and mediators in conflicts, ensuring that peace and harmony continue to be a priority within our territories. When requested of them by the Clans in Council, the Warrior Society serves as the envoys of peace in international disputes and disturbances.
The Warrior Society also provides a lifestyle of education and self-betterment, gathering to improve their knowledge of the old ways and exercise their roles and responsibilities as Haudenosaunee men. During these study groups, warriors engage in activities to learn our language, our ceremonial speeches, and of course our traditional songs and dances.
Robbie Robertson of The Band is a Mohawk Indian. So are former NHL Boston Bruin winger and pugilist, Stan Jonathan, and Jay Silverheels, Tonto of The Lone Ranger television series. I watched the Lone Ranger as child and didn’t know I was watching one of the last of my tribe, or that he and I were blood brothers.
While just 1.7 percent of Americans self-identified as either completely or partially Native American on the 2010 census, the Cornell University Genetic Ancestry Project used genetic tests to identify Native American heritage in between 4 percent and 5 percent of the 200 undergraduates studied. Just fewer than 2 million people are enrolled in Native American tribes, representing about 0.7 percent of the population. That’s not a reliable estimate of how many people have Native American ancestry, however. Each tribe has its own rules about the “blood quantum” required for membership, and some qualified people have not enrolled in a tribe.
Although she has admitted being 1/32 Cherokee/Delaware Indian, Senator Elizabeth Warren has again started to be asked questions about her Indian heritage. You can tell her Cherokee heritage the same way you can by looking at my grandmother, look at her cheek bones. Warren was born in Oklahoma, the state that has the highest percentage of Native Americans, 8.6%., or approximately 320,000 people. The Cherokee’s are the largest minority group in Oklahoma, approximately 180,000 citizens. Then Professor Warren was attacked by her opponent, the unctuous Scott Brown, in their 2012 Senate Race about her ethnicity and whether she used it as an affirmative action candidate to obtain her previous employment.
Senator Warren has claimed that both of her grandparents were of Cherokee ancestry. The Boston Herald, not exactly a bastion of liberal politics, reported that her great-great-great grandmother was Cherokee. Per newspaper clippings released by her campaign, other members of Warren’s family, including a first cousin, have embraced their Cherokee roots and are active in American Indian causes in Oklahoma, where she grew up. She has the same amount of Cherokee heritage as the new principal chief of the Cherokee nation.
Now could all of this new controversy being kicked up by the very right-wing media’s websites, like Breitbart and Legal Insurrection, have anything to do with the Senator’s new book, “A Fighting Chance”? Despite her assertions that she is not running for President, putting out a book about political policies could be taken as a way of measuring support as potential Presidential candidates are want to do? The first-term Senator from Illinois, Barack Obama was audacious enough to do so in 2006.
A recent Quinnipiac University poll shows Elizabeth Warren as the “hottest” national politician with a temperature rating of 48.6 degrees. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s rating is 47.8 degrees.
As I have written previously, Senator Warren is hot because of her populist economic views, which I called “The New Economic Populism”. The ideas show that she is fighting for the struggling middle class and to reduce the growing income and wealth inequalities.
What are the ideas of the new economic populism?
• Increasing the minimum wage, perhaps up to $15 to $22 per hour
• Protecting existing Social Security and Medicare benefits and increasing them
• Expanding the scope of the Affordable Health Care Act, potentially leading to having a one-payer system
• Putting more controls on banks and financial institutions through new Glass-Stengall like legislation
• Changing the current federal college student loan program financing program, reducing the existing amount of student debt, driving down college tuition rates and increasing the number of Pell Grants
• Overhauling the existing affordable housing programs to make housing more affordable to the middle and lower classes.
Combine her popularity with her ideas to change the US economy, Elizabeth Warren could be a formidable challenger to Hillary Clinton and a major threat to the moneyed interests that back right-wing politics. Senator Warren wants to once again give the middle and lower classes a fighting chance against a system that is rigged against them. Her personal story is similar to that of another well-known female politician, Texas gubernatorial candidate, Wendy Davis: growing up in a lower class household, struggling to go to college, excelling in school, getting a law degree, divorcing and being a single parent and ultimately, becoming a most popular national political figure.
Elizabeth Warren is an accomplished woman, one who has gone much farther than could reasonably be expected. She didn’t get to where she is today, a possible President, without being a warrior, whether she’s 32/32 Cherokee, 1/32 Cherokee or 0/32 Cherokee. She is part of our Warrior Society.
“Tis a strange calling!’ muttered Hawkeye, with an inward laugh, ‘to go through life, like a catbird, mocking all the ups and downs that may happen to come out of other men’s throats.” James Fenimore Cooper, “The Last of the Mohicans”.
Yes, it is, but it is what I do. Is it presumptuous of me to call my self a Mohawk Indian? I don’t think so. While it is not my dominant ethnicity, it is very much a part of who I am. If I can use it to bring attention to the rest of the last of the Mohawk Indians and the situation of all North American Native Americans, I will have honored the lives of my ancestors. Like Senator Elizabeth Warren, I’m proud of my Native American heritage. But I’m not proud of what the other 15/16th of my ancestors did to my tribe.
If I am to be one of the last of the Mohawk warriors, then I’m not going down without a battle, too.