Native American language groups
Native American genealogy
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?
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!
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