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NARRATOR: Seeing the world change around him, Uncas made difficult decisions to protect his tribeís future. Once powerful rivals, other tribes were now vanquished, killed or enslaved.


RUSSELL MEANS: Itís amazing to me that a people can be reduced to good and bad. So to racistly label Indians good or bad only enhances your own ignorance. And Uncas was a survivor. A wise survivor.


In the latest demographics itís estimated that in the eastern United States, east of the Mississippi River, there are 12 to 14 million Indian people. Whereíd they go? Whereíd they go? So Uncas represents someone who is smart enough to survive and he got his people to survive, otherwise theyíd be as extinct as the hundreds of Indian nations that were wiped out in the holocaust of the settlement of the East,

SAM 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.


He 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.


NARRATOR: Following the Pequot War, hostilities continued between the Mohegans and the Narragansetts led by their great sachem Miantinomo.


CARLTON 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.


NARRATOR: The Mohegans were outnumbered by the Narragansetts but Uncas had developed a surprise military strategy.


REDMOON (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.


CARLTON EICHELBERG: During that battle Miantonomo started to run north and he was chased by one of Uncasís warriors by the name of Tantaquidgeon.


NARRATOR: 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.


REDMOON: 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.


NARRATOR: The Battle of the Great Plains led to the capture of Uncasís Narragansett rival, Miantonomo.


CARLTON EICHELBERG: And Tantaquidgeon ran Miantonomo down and captured him and brought him back to Uncas.


NARRATOR: Uncas brought Miantonomo to the Colonial Commissioners in Hartford. They later returned him to Uncas with orders to execute him in Mohegan country. Subsequently, Miantonomo was slain by Uncasís brother, Wawequa.




NARRATOR: 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.


These generations of Leffingwells were descendants of the first Leffingwell to venture to the Saybrook settlement -- Thomas Leffingwell.


THOMAS 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.


NARRATOR: Shantok was the Moheganís primary village in the 17th Century. It was here that the Narragansetts sought revenge for their loss at Great Plains.


CARLTON 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.


NARRATOR: A Mohegan runner managed to slip through the Narragansett lines and set out to get help from the colonists.


THOMAS 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.


CARLTON 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.


THOMAS LEFFINGWELL: Because Uncas was grateful he gave Lt. Thomas Leffingwell 9 square miles of land which was later to be the settlement in Norwich.


WHIT DAVIS (Descendant of Thomas Stanton): This house was built prior to 1675 when both Uncas and Thomas Stanton were in their prime


NARRATOR: 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 1654.


WHIT 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.


Because 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.


NARRATOR: In 1999, Mohegan tribal counselor Jayne Fawcett visited the Stanton Farm.


WHIT 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


JAYNE 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.


WHIT DAVIS: Well, Iím so happy and proud and grateful that you feel that way.


JAYNE FAWCETT: So we can imagine Uncas and Thomas sitting here in this space.


WHIT 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.


JAYNE FAWCETT: Thatís what this is about, isnít it Ė old-time connections.




JAYNE FAWCETT: Getting together. Friendships that last through generations. Our families have had connections all these years.


WHIT DAVIS: As I counted out as of now itís been 345 years.  Thatís quite a while.


JOE 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.


MELISSA 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


In 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.


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Last modified: September 03, 2012