DELORIA: When the history of these times is written they very often do not
judge the behavior of Indians in the same terms that they judge other people.
White people do diplomacy, Indians do something else. What this guy was a
diplomat and he had to make some alliance of some kind. And he made a choice
and interpreting his choice strictly along racial grounds, I think, is a very
limited way of looking at it.
made some choices and theyíre very easy to second guess 350 years later. He
certainly had diplomatic skills in being able to manipulate the system to
enable himself to survive. This was an early example of a much more subtle
view of the power politics of the day than the people who just stayed in one
place and said, ďweíre gonna fight to the end.Ē And, in fact, they did
fight to the end and it was over.
Following the Pequot War, hostilities continued between the Mohegans
and the Narragansetts led by their great sachem Miantinomo.
EICHELBERG: During the 1630s and 40s there was a lot of hostilities
between the Narragansett and the Mohegan, and this was due mainly to a
conflict between the sachem of the Narragansetts, Miantonomo, and the
sachem of the Mohegans, Uncas. And this eventually led to the battle
known as the Battle of the Great Plains.
The Mohegans were outnumbered by the Narragansetts but Uncas had
developed a surprise military strategy.
(Elder, Mohegan Tribe): Uncas knew he didnít have enough warriors to
battle Miantonomo but he was a brave chief. For his people he would
die. So he told his men the night before that he would ask Miantonomo
to fight one-on-one. He told his warriors if he refused, he would drop
to the ground and for them to fire. So thatís when he started to win
the war right there.
EICHELBERG: During that battle Miantonomo started to run north and he
was chased by one of Uncasís warriors by the name of Tantaquidgeon.
The pursuit led to the great gorge at Yantic falls. It was here that
Uncas jumped the chasm to avoid capture. Many Narragansett men, in
their haste to retreat, fell to their death.
This is called Uncasís Leap. The gorge was much narrower than it is
today because over the years it got washed out. This is sacred land.
This was our land and Uncas was protecting it from the Narragansett.
The Battle of the Great Plains led to the capture of Uncasís
Narragansett rival, Miantonomo.
EICHELBERG: And Tantaquidgeon ran Miantonomo down and captured him and
brought him back to Uncas.
Uncas brought Miantonomo to the Colonial Commissioners in Hartford.
They later returned him to Uncas with orders to execute him in Mohegan
Miantonomo was slain by Uncasís brother, Wawequa.
In the old Colonial Cemetery in Norwich, Connecticut, many of the
headstones bear the names of early British settlers Ė Brewster,
Rogers, Minor and Leffingwell.
generations of Leffingwells were descendants of the first Leffingwell
to venture to the Saybrook settlement -- Thomas Leffingwell.
LEFFINGWELL (Descendant of Lt. Thomas Leffingwell):
When he came over from England he was a very young man and he settled
in the Saybrook section of Connecticut. He was an Ensign in the
British Militia and he befriended Chief Uncas of the Mohegan Tribe and
they became very close friends. And the reason he befriended him was,
evidently Lt. Thomas Leffingwell was an outdoorsman, trapper and
woodsman. And, therefore, he fit right in with the Indian culture.
Shantok was the Moheganís primary village in the 17th Century. It
was here that the Narragansetts sought revenge for their loss at Great
EICHELBERG: Around 1645, the Narragansett wished to get revenge
for the slaying of Miantonomo so they came here and they laid siege to
Fort Shantok. And it got to the point where the Narragansett had just
about starved the Mohegan out.
A Mohegan runner managed to slip through the Narragansett lines and
set out to get help from the colonists.
LEFFINGWELL: They got word to the English settlement in Saybrook.
And Lt. Thomas Leffingwell came up from Saybrook with provisions and
snuck into the fort and broke the siege.
EICHELBERG: They raised up a side of beef high enough so that the
Narragansett could see it to let the Narragansett know that,
ďweíve got food and thereís no way youíre gonna starve us out.
So why donít you go on home?Ē And they finally did leave and that
basically ended the Narragansett war.
LEFFINGWELL: Because Uncas was grateful he gave Lt. Thomas Leffingwell
9 square miles of land which was later to be the settlement in
DAVIS (Descendant of Thomas Stanton):
This house was built prior to 1675 when both Uncas and Thomas Stanton
were in their prime
John Whitman Davis is the proprietor of the old farm established in
the middle 1600s by Thomas Stanton, in Pawcatuck, Connecticut.
Stanton, the interpreter general for the crown colonies of New
England, later established a trading post about a mile up the river in
DAVIS: And they visited back and forth and they traded. And through
his trading with them he had probably first came in contact with
Uncas. And Thomas, through being the interpreter, was the
one that he did business with and allied himself with, because Thomas
had a lot of influence in the colonial legislature. He was powerful
with the Indians and very important to the white people because they
had to get along somehow.
Uncas allied himself with the English he and Thomas became very close
friends He trusted Uncas and Uncas trusted Thomas Stanton, and
they each kept their word to each other which meant a lot.
In 1999, Mohegan tribal counselor Jayne Fawcett visited the Stanton
DAVIS: Well, Jayne, this is where our ancestors no doubt walked and
they probably sat right here, probably not in these same chairs, but
this table. Thatís an old table, an old Stanton table, kind of
primitive made, but nevertheless thatís the best they had in those
days. And it was custom then to invite someone into their house to see
it when they had a new one
FAWCETT: You were talking about some of the things in the room, things
that would have been traditional -- that probably were here when Uncas
was here. And these very floors: The floors most certainly were floors
that Uncas and Thomas walked on. And I canít tell you how
extraordinary that is.
DAVIS: Well, Iím so happy and proud and grateful that you feel that
FAWCETT: So we can imagine Uncas and Thomas sitting here in this
DAVIS: Thatís right. And so he would have his best friends come in
and see his new house and Iím sure that when Thomas went over to
Montville, to your people, that Uncas probably had him into his wigwam
or his cabin. And I bet they did quite a lot of business together
making plans for settling and the wars.
FAWCETT: Thatís what this is about, isnít it Ė old-time
FAWCETT: Getting together. Friendships that last through generations.
Our families have had connections all these years.
DAVIS: As I counted out as of now itís been 345 years.
Thatís quite a while.
BRUCHAC: Well, Uncas truly did become the friend of the English. I
think thatís an interesting thing about the man that he was able
both to be friendly to the English on their terms and also on his own
terms. He was maintaining the sovereignty of his people. In some ways
he is the first native person to maintain sovereignty in the face of
European pressures on land and culture. He keeps his people as his
people. But he also, I think, really did like the English.
TANTAQUIDGEON: Uncas signed many of the documents that we see in the
Colonial era with his mark. His mark was a representation of not only
himself but some of his very most important beliefs
the most prominent of these marks youíll notice that thereís a
heart at the center with something piercing the heart. Very
frequently, when Uncas signed documents where he gave away tribal
land, you actually see a bloodletting from his heart as he gives away
each parcel of tribal land. Youíll also notice, though, that beneath
that is a pipe. And the pipe represents the fact that he has made a
gesture of friendship and goodwill toward the non-Indian people. And
he will abide by that and commits to that.