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Languages in Last of the Mohicans

Q: In the movie Last of the Mohicans, the characters say many words in a Native American language. Is this really Mohican? Or did they make these words up for the movie?

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A: The characters in the movie were supposed to be speaking either Mahican or Mohegan (no one has ever figured out exactly which of those two tribes Cooper intended to be writing about) and Huron/Wyandot. But in actual fact, they're not. None of these three languages are natively spoken any more. Huron/Wyandot is still being actively learned by tribal children as a heritage language, like Latin. Mahican and Mohegan are not even very well attested and most members of those tribes don't know the language at all except for a greeting or maybe an old prayer.

Anyway, the "Huron" characters in that movie were actually speaking two different languages, Cherokee and Mohawk (two living Iroquoian languages related to Huron). I think they used two different languages because Wes Studi already speaks Cherokee and some of the other actors are Mohawk, so it was probably easier to get the actors to fluently speak languages which they already knew.

The "Mohican" characters were speaking Delaware/Lenape, which is related to both Mohican and Mohegan and is probably a good compromise. None of the actors were native speakers of Lenape and our volunteers say that it doesn't sound especially authentic, but at least they are trying. I'm always happy to see indigenous languages in the movies.

Hope that helps, have a good day!
Native Languages of the Americas

Related Links

 Mohegan language
 Mahican language
 Huron language
 Cherokee language
 Lenape language
 Mohawk language
 Native American movies



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