ERIC SCHWEIG (NARRATOR):
This is the story of Uncas, the controversial 17th-Century Sachem
of the Mohegan Tribe in Connecticut.
life has become legend, passed down through 13 generations. It is a complex
legacy, mingling fact and fiction.
to Mohegan Oral Tradition, “The people are the story.”
this story are the descendants of Uncas, the English and neighboring tribes;
American Indian scholars and activists; and the residents of Uncasville, the
village that bears his name.
EICHELBERG: I’d like to tell you a story of a great warrior that lived in
the time of our ancestors. This
warrior’s wisdom, courage, and vision saved the Mohegan from total
annihilation. This great warrior, who became our first sachem, is known as
LONDON: In his time, in the early 1600s, he was the major player in America
SAYE: All nations and cultures do produce outstanding men from time to time.
Perhaps the British saw in him somebody who was outstanding, with whom they
could, as it were, do business.
GILMAN: Tahbut ne Mundo, Mundu Wigu
COONEY: He cared for his people. He cared for the colonists, too. He also
was shrewd and cunning.
GEER: Uncas was a greedy individual that wanted power and he sold his soul
to the colonists.
BROWN: He coped with people whose intent was truly black and black-hearted
and he won.
UNCAS AROUND THE WORLD
In 1826, James Fenimore Cooper’s novel “The Last of the Mohicans,”
introduced a fictional Uncas to the world.
BRUCHAC In many ways it’s the first American adventure novel, the first
American popular novel, and the first novel that features Native Americans
as main characters. It became
probably the icon by which all Native Americans were drawn for generations
after that because we have those two images in the characters of on the one
side Uncas and Chingachgook, who were the noble Mohegans,
and on the other side Magua, who is the despicable, lying, dangerous
redskin, who is the villain of the piece.
they’re names that were picked out of the popular imagination. But Uncas,
of course, was an historical character, the leader of the Mohegan people, who
became the primary ally of the English and was a sort of exemplar of the
relationship between the white man and the Indian. In the popular imagination he was the good Indian, so when
Cooper wrote this book it’s not surprising that the Uncas character should
be used in name if not an actual person because, of course, the fictional
Uncas is totally different.
you had this picture of Uncas as being absolutely steadfast. He is sort of
the image of Tonto. He’s the first Tonto and the Lone Ranger. And this image of the white man with the faithful Indian by his side
continues on down through movies and
television right to the present day. It’s one of the most popular images
in the American imagination, even though beginning with Uncas himself it is a
Fiction met reality when publicity for the 1920 version of The Last of the Mohicans discovered “real Mohicans” in
Mohegan Tribe has lived in the area now encompassing Montville, Connecticut,
for centuries. In and around Montville and its village of Uncasville, the name
"Uncas" is ubiquitous, used by numerous
public and private institutions, businesses small and large, and even
Cooper used the name of Uncas for his fictionalized character, he created an
unprecedented international literary phenomenon.
FROM “THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS” (
More than 12 movie versions of The
Last of the Mohicans have
left an enduring mark on American culture.
Cooney still recalls her hometown’s 1936 premiere.
COONEY: I was a young girl when I went to see this movie. And it was quite
something to go to a movie because we didn’t go to the movies that often.
And before we went my mother told us that it was not all true -- it was a
movie. It did make a lasting impression on me.
Carleton Eichelberg also went with his famliy to see the 1936
EICHELBERG: I remember going down on a Saturday morning with my mother and
my step-grandmother and you know, as a young boy at that time, I think
everybody was interested in cowboys and Indians so to speak. it was
basically fiction but it did take and put our most famous leader into a
national limelight and it made the Mohegan people
more world renown.
MEANS: To me it was a fictional story. It didn’t have any import to me
other than James Fenimore Cooper was an obvious racist.
American Indian activist and actor Russell Means played the fictional
Uncas’s father in the 1992 hit film version. Means first read Cooper’s
story in the second grade.
After three auditions I won the role. Dennis Banks and I were competing for
the role. I won, and did that awesome movie.
the characterization of Uncas
was not developed. He was
two-dimensional. He did fall in love, supposedly, but that was the only
humanity he was allowed to have in the movie. So to try to compare him to
the historical Uncas is impossible, you
know, because the whole movie’s concept, "the last of the Mohegans," is an
absolute fabrication. He wasn’t one of the last, you know.
FROM “THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS” (1992)