Mohawks, Mohicans: Who was where is focus of Algonquin conference

Since Native American history began being taught in schools, the experts have discussed and debated

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Since Native American history began being taught in schools, the experts have discussed and debated just where exactly in upstate New York Mohawk territory ended and the Mohicans’ started.

Wayne Lenig thinks he has a pretty good idea.

A lifelong history buff with a keen interest in the Mohawk Valley, Lenig will offer a 30-minute lecture titled “16th Century Native American Sites on the Lower Mohawk: Were they Mohican?” as part of the 2013 Algonquian Peoples Conference on Saturday at the Carol Huxley Auditorium in the New York State Museum.

“There are a number of archaeological sites on the river between Schenectady and Waterford, and people assumed that any kind of pottery found in the river was probably Mohawk,” said Lenig, a St. Johnsville native and Fort Johnson resident. “But we’ve learned that there isn’t that much difference between the Mohawks’ pottery and the Mohicans’, and we know that when the Dutch first came to the area pretty much all of the upper Hudson River Valley was claimed by the Mohicans. What I’m going to suggest is that all the sites along that section of the Mohawk River were not Mohawk sites, but Mohican.”

‘2013 Algonquian Peoples Conference’

WHERE: Carol Huxley Auditorium, New York State Museum, Albany

WHEN: 9 a.m.-4:15 p.m. Saturday

HOW MUCH: $50 per person, $90 for couples; $35 for students

MORE INFO: 715-793-3970 or -845-758-4145

Lenig, who recently retired from the social welfare field, originally got a degree in anthropology from the University of Buffalo and then a master’s in museum studies from SUNY Oneonta’s Cooperstown Graduate Program. He is a research associate at the New York State Museum, where he has worked extensively with its artifact collection. Lenig also is an active member of the Van Epps-Hartley Chapter of the New York State Archaeology Association as well as a trustee with the Fort Plain Museum.

“The Mohawks claimed the land around Schenectady, but the Mohicans were in the upper Hudson Valley from Catskill all the way up to Lake George,” said Lenig. “The Mohawks lived in larger villages while the Mohicans had smaller bands living on both sides of the Hudson, and I’m only suggesting that the Mohicans were living on the lower Mohawk River. I can’t say that for sure.”

Lenig said he has gleaned much of his knowledge of Native American history from earlier archaeologists such as Schenectady’s Vincent Schaefer, Glenville’s John Swart and Troy native and science fiction writer P. Schuyler Miller, a Union College graduate.

Panel discussion set

Lenig’s talk will be at 1:45 p.m. Saturday. After a short break, a panel discussion will follow from 2:30 to 4 p.m. Included on the panel, which will discuss “Mohican Territorial Boundaries,” will be James W. Bradley, author of the 2007 book “Before Albany: An Archaeology of Native-Dutch Relations in the Capital Region, 1600-1664”; former Oneonta anthropology professor William Starna; and Lisa Anderson, curator of bioarchaeology at the New York State Museum.

Along with “Before Albany,” Bradley wrote “Archaeology of the Bostonian Hotel Site” (1983) and “Evolution of the Onondaga Iroquois: Accommodating Change, 1500-1655” (1987).

Starna recently published “From Homeland to New Land: A History of the Mahican Indians, 1600-1830,” and was co-author of a 1991 book, “A Journey Into Mohawk and Oneida Country, 1634-1635: The Journal of Harmen Meyndertsz van den Bogaert,” with New Netherland scholar Charles Gehring.

Anderson, meanwhile, along with specializing in bioarchaeology, the study of human remains from archaeological sites, is also the State Museum’s coordinator for the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act.

Among the other speakers will be East Greenbush’s Shirley Dunn, who in 2012 was given a special proclamation from the Stockbridge-Munsee Tribal Community Band of Mohican Indians for her outstanding contribution toward educating readers about Native Americans. Dunn will talk at 1:15 p.m. Saturday on “Mohican Indians, Mill Streams, and Fortified Villages.”

On Sunday, the conference will continue with a visit to the replica ship the Half Moon, which will be anchored at the south end of the Corning Preserve between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m.

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