Our Language & Culture

Why Language is Important


  • (Indigenous Language Institute Handbook series. Handbook 5)
  • Language is like the bones.  Culture is like the body.  They are tied together!!
  • Language learners are renewing their culture as they are learning their language.
  • Because language needs “context” we need to create context in both our traditional and contemporary lives.  That means talking to each other in the language about every day things.  This is how we will awaken it.
  • Culture and language influence how we think.
  • We gain a deeper respect for our culture through learning our language
  • Elders carry the culture; to respect the culture is to respect your Elders
  • A living language allows a lasting culture.
  • Culture and language “grounds” the person.
  • This “grounding” helps a person to resist outside influences that are often physically, mentally, and spiritually detrimental to an individual.  This is part of meeting the needs of our people.

Language Walk-in Mohican

Note how 2nd person plural "Kiawa" and 1st person plural (Excl) "Niana" mesh together to form the 1st person plural (Incl) "Kiana".

In the bold print within these words is what are called "root-words" the "root-word" in these selected items is "walk". What I am trying to do is to get you to see how words are put together in 1st, 2nd, 3rd person.

Prefixes are the letters that come before the root word, and suffixes are the letters that follow the root word.

  • (1st person singular) N’pumseh= I walk
  • (2nd person singular) K’pumseh-=you walk
  • (3rd person singular) Pumisoo= he/she walks

There is no gender difference in third person speech.


Instead of "he" or" she", it could be looked at as "that person".


The "oo" on this word relates to the 3rd person "uwa" but suffixed. (Put on the end)

  • (Exclusive) 1st person plural) N'pumsehnuh = We walk
  • (2nd person plural) K’pumsehmuh= you walk
  • (Inclusive) 1st person plural) K’pumsehnuh= we walk
  • (3rd person plural) Pumissoouk= they walk


Observe the 3rd person "oo" on this word with the "k" being the pluralized suffix.

Note the differences in 1st person plural (exclusive) "Npumsehnuh", and 2nd person plural "Kpumsehmuh". Then see how they are combined to make 1st person (inclusive) "kpumsehnuh"

Below are some more conjugations of another verb. Sometimes a "t" is placed right after the prefix to separate the vowels. Like the "n" in "an". We wouldn’t say in English "a apple" we place the "n" in between to separate the vowel such as in "an apple"; the same in Mohican but with a "t".

  • Animse = "go off" (leave, head back, take off)
  • N’tanimse =" I go off"
  • K’tanimse = "you go off"
  • N’tanimsehnuh = "we (excl) go off"
  • K’tanimsehmuh = "yous go off"
  • K’tanimsehnuh = "we (incl) go off"
  • Animsoo = he/she go back. Or can be conjugated as otanimse.

The 3rd person singular "o" can sometimes be prefixed or suffixed.

  • Animsouk = "they go off"

There are many more ways to conjugate verbs by using a pair of 1st, 2nd, or 3rd persons; but I just want to start with the very basics.

Now that I’ve showed you how to basically conjugate prefixes and suffixes; here’s a test for you. I'll give you a verb and you try to conjugate it using what Ive shown you above. I will post the answers in a future issue of Mohican news.

The word is "Meze" (meet-see) = "Eat."

I'll give you the first one.

"N’meze" = "I eat."

For years; our ancestors’ language had been lost and forgotten by our people. It has not been habitually spoken since the late 1800s and its last known fluent speaker died in the mid- 1930s. Since then; only a few words were remembered by some families.

Unknowingly to the tribe was a vast amount of the Mohican language lying in old dictionaries; field notes, letters, and books written about the language. It wasn’t until the late 70s when some of these things written in the "Muhheconuk" language began to surface.

On this dawn of a new day for our people; the words of our ancestors are beginning to find the lips of our people once again. Our culture and our language is our identity among Native Americans.

I began studying the language for about two years now. I have learned much and have much more to learn as well. Hopefully this year we will begin having study groups working with the language to get more of our people involved with our own spelling and pronunciation systems. The language and culture board is open to all who wish to attend to participate, or learn.

In this article I will give the reader a very basic idea on how the Mohican Language structures words, in this case verbs (action words). If you are one wanting to learn more about the language, it would be wise to save this article for your studies.

To begin we will start with a word that is most familiar with our people." Mohican" (Muh-he-can).


Below is an excerpt from Carl Masthays’ "MAHICAN: the word as a dictionary entry". 

Mahican Words Compiled by Carl Masthay, 1998" with modifications: Abbreviations: E, Jonathan Edwards, 1788; Ho, Frederick Webb Hodge, 1907; R, Edward M. Ruttenber, 1872; R1, Ruttenber, 1906; V, C.F. and F.M. Voegelin, 1977.


The primary form:
Muhheakanneuw [R1], Mukkekaneew [E]; plural Muhhekaneok [E], Muhheakunnuk [R1], Muhheakunneyuk [R], meaning ‘the great tidal river of the Muhheakan′neuw nation’ [R1] or ‘those dwelling on the great tidewater’, from Mah. machche ‘great’ + hekan, akin to Del. hikan ‘ebb-tide’ + -eew ‘he/she is’, or -ok ‘(plural)’. Further translations are ‘the people of the waters that are never still’ (Davidson 1893, p. 45) and ‘seaside people’. There is only one original, constant pronunciation for "Mahican/Mohican" and that is like the first syllable in "mother" /muh-/, not /mo-/.


Chief Hendrick Aupaumut in [R1] wrote: Muhheakun′nuk, "The great waters or sea, which are constantly in motion, either ebbing or flowing." [R1] added: "Muhheakun was the national name . . . and -nuk, the equivalent of Massachusetts -tuk, Lenape -ittuck, ‘tidal river, or estuary’." This is not true; instead -[n]uk is really a form of the plural [C.M.].

Carl Masthay, 838 Larkin Ave., Saint Louis, Missouri 63141, 16 May 2005

There is what is called 1st, 2nd, and 3rd persons in language. This must be remembered for future learning. 1st person is the person speaking. 1st person, words begin, or end with I, me, we, us etc. 2nd person(s) are the person or persons that the first person is talking to. 2nd person words begin or end with the words "you" or 2nd person plural such as "yous". (Ye) 3rd person is the one or ones that the first person is telling the second person about. Such as "he", "she"," him," "her"," it" "that" or plural "they", "those" etc.

Here are the basic 1st – 3rd person(s) in Mohican.

1st person singular

  • I, me, my= "Nia". Or "Ne" when used with another word ("e" sounds like in "be")

2nd person singular

  • You = "Kia", or "Ke" when used with another word.

3rdt person singular

  • He/she/it/that person or thing = "Uwa". "Nahkma" is used usually when referring to a person.

1st person plural (Exclusive)

  • We = "Niana"
  • When this form of "we" is used it does not include the listener(s).

2nd person plural

  • Ye, yous (you plural) =" kiawa"

1st person plural (inclusive)

  • We = "Kiana"
  • When this form of "we" is used it includes the listener(s)

3rd person plural

  • They/ them/those people = "Nahkmawa"

Recommended Links

Language & Culture Committee News


Language and Culture Meetings are held here at the Arvid. E. Miller Memorial Library Museum, every 3nd Wednesday of each month at 4:45 pm. All are welcome to join these meetings!


Our goal is to create an opportunity for our community (especially youth) to be immersed into our language and culture through traditional activities. By passing on our traditional knowledge and values we are looking to promote pride and motivation to keep our community and culture strong! 


The Stockbridge-Munsee Language and Culture committee members in 2018 are:  Vera “Judy” Huebel, Yvette Malone, JoAnne Schedler, Molly Miller and Shawn Stevens. 


Stockbridge-Munsee Language & Culture Camp 2019 will be held on August 13th - 15th. 

Click Here for more information!