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Hendrick Aupaumut (1757-1830), wrote one of the first ethnographies about a Native Indians Muh-he-con-nuk Indians on the year 1791 (Levine 629). According to Sandra Gustafson, Aupaumut was born in the Native American town of Stockbridge, Massachusetts (Levine 629). Gustafson wrote that Aupaumut received an education by a Protestant minister in the writing, speaking, and reading of the English language (Levine 629). Aupaumut fought with the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War (Levine 629). In the mid 1780’s, after the Revolutionary War, Aupaumut became the leader of the Stockbridge Indians (Levine 629). Aupaumut relocated the Stockbridge Indians to the community of New Stockbridge in the state of New York (Levine 630). In the 1790’s, Aupaumut served President George Washington as a diplomat (Levine 631). Aupaumut negotiated peaceful agreements regarding hostilities between the United States and different Indian nations (Levine 631). In 1791, Aupaumut wrote the ethnography “History of the Muh-he-con-nuk Indians” (Levine 630). Aupaumut’s ethnographic writing gave a historical view into the religious beliefs of the Mahican people and the governmental responsibilities of the Mahican people (Levine 630).
Hendrick Aupaumut wrote about the religious beliefs of the Muh-he-con-nuk Indians in the ethnography “History of the Muh-he-con-nuk Indians” (Levine 630-631). Aupaumut wrote that the ancestors of the Muh-he-con-nuk Indians also believed in one Supreme Creator before their conversion to Christianity (Levine 630). The name of the Muh-he-con-nuk Indian’s Supreme Creator was called “Waun-theet Mon-nit-toow (the Great, Good Spirit) (Levine 630). Aupaumut wrote that Waun-theet Mon-nit-toow was the creator of the earth and the universe (Levine 630). Aupaumut also wrote that Waun-theet Mon-nit-toow had authority over all things on the earth and throughout the universe (Levine 630). The Muh-he-con-nuk Indians believed in a devil or evil spirit who they called “Mton-toow or Wicked Spirit” (Levine 630). Aupaumut wrote that the Mton-toow tempted people “to tell a lie-angry, fight, hate, steal, to commit murder, and to be envious, malicious, and evil-talking” (Levine 630). Aupaumut stated that the fore-fathers of the Muh-he-con-nuk Indians created customs that were observed and passed down from generation to generation (Levine 630). One of the customs observed was the function of the family (Levine 630-631). Aupaumut wrote the head of the family was responsible for teaching their children about the Great, Good Spirit (Levine 630-631). The head of the family taught their children that the Great, Good Spirit kept them safe (Levine 630-631). The head of the family also taught their children that they must love and be kind to all people (Levine 631). The Muh-he-con-nuk Indians would call people who did not help people in need “Uh-wu-theet” (Levine 631). “Un-wu-theet” was a name given to “hard-hearted” and those people would not be helped in their time of need (Levine 631). While religion gave strength and comfort to the Muh-he-con-nuk Indians, the government gave stability to the Indian nation (Levine 631).
The government of the Muh-he-con-nuk Indians consisted of five positions of authority (Levine 631-633). The first position of government be longed to the Chief Sachem. Aupaumut wrote that the Chief Sachem was called “Wi-gow-wauw” (Levine 631). In the article “Ninigret, Sachem of the Niantics and Narragansetts: Diplomacy, War, and the Balance of Power in Seventeenth-Century New England and Indian Country”, written by Julie Fischer and David Silverman, the responsibilities of the Chief Sachem were discussed (3-6, 18). Fisher and Silverman wrote that the Chief Sachem provided the following duties: 1) Provided hospitality to political dignitaries; 2) The Sachem’s home was used as a political meeting building for ambassadors, people with complaints, people with petitions, and couriers from other locations; 3) The Sachem acted as an intermediary between families throughout the tribe by listening to problems and finding solutions; 4) The Sachem represented the tribe in matters of trade and politics with other nations; 5) The Sachem provided for people who were in need (3-6, 18). Aupaumut wrote in “History of the Muh-he-con-nuk Indians” that the Sachem was responsible for the general well-being of the tribe and would promote peace throughout the tribe (Levine 631). Aupaumut also wrote that the Sachem took steps needed to maintain peace with other tribal nations (Levine631). Under the Chief Sachem were the Chiefs (Counselors) who were called “Woh-weet-quan-pe-chee” (Levine 631). In the academic journal “Hendrick Aupaumut” by Rachel Wheeler, she wrote that the responsibility of the Chiefs was to counsel the Sachem in everyday affairs regarding the different tribes in the nation (218). Aupaumut also wrote that the Sachem was to seek advice from the Chiefs regarding public issues to determine what was in the best interest of the tribal nation (Levine 631-632). The “Hero or Mo-quau-pauw” was a position that was acquired only by worthiness or distinction in war due to bravery, courage, and exceptional conduct (Levine 632). During times of war, the Sachem and the Chiefs would charge the Hero with the responsibility of leading the young men into war (Levine 632-633). The “Owl or Mkhooh-que-thoth” was a position that was also earned by worthiness or distinction by exhibiting a strong memory, a strong orator, and a strong voice (Levine 633). The responsibility of the Owl was to state the orders of the Sachem to the people with a loud voice (Levine 633). The last official was the Runner (Levine 633). The Runner’s job was to inform the people of meetings, carry messages to different locations, and travel to other tribes to notify the tribes of the arrival of the Sachem or Chiefs (Levine 633).
In summary, the Muh-he-con-nuk Indians religious beliefs were similar with Christianity.
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