Report of the Committee on the Petition of Joseph Williams and Others concerning the Mohegan Tribe of Indians

The committee to whom was referred the petition of Joseph Williams and others relative to the Mohegan Tribe of Indians respectfully report that there still remains in the County of New London, on the west bank of the River Thames, remnant of this once powerful tribe of Indians.  That their numbers, which in 1765 were not less than two hundred and thirty-four, are now reduced to about eighty souls, including some half-bloods.1  That there yet remains in their possession about twenty-five hundred acres of valuable land.  That of this, about five hundred acres are held in common by the tribe and are called “tribe lands.”  That the remainder is held in severalty and is divided into farms which for the most part are not cultivated by their owners but are leased to white tenants.2

Your committee further finds that in the infancy of this state, when our ancestors, few and weak, were surrounded on almost every side by tribes of hostile savages, the Mohegans proved firm and undeviating friends.  Our early records fully show that this tribe afforded very important protection and defense to the infant settlements and guarded them with vigilance from the attacks of their more savage neighbors.  But as we became strong they became weak and in October 1726 we find by a resolve of the General Assembly that commissioners were appointed “with power of Guardianship over these Indians,” to manage their affairs and take care of their lands.3  From that time to the present, a period of more than one hundred years, these commissioners or overseers, as they are now termed, have been regularly appointed.4  The commissioners that were first appointed were directed to build a school house for the use of this tribe at the expense of the Colony, and an annual appropriation of fifteen pounds for the support of the school was likewise made.  At an earlier period public provision was made for the religious instruction of these Indians, but for near a century no appropriation whatever has been made by the State for the benefit of this tribe. For many years preceding the appointment of the present overseer in 1827, the Mohegans were sunk into the lowest state of degradation and wretchedness.  Intemperance was a prevailing vice among them.  Their lands were neglected.  Their fences were broken down.  Their habitations were decayed and ruinous.  By his persevering exertions their condition has been greatly improved.  Their lands have been put into a much better state and their dwellings are in comfortable repair.  By his exertions5 chiefly too, funds were raised by subscription for erecting, for the use of the tribe, a house of public worship which has been completed and religious instruction for the year past has been attended by the Indians, with the most salutary effects upon their habits and morals, especially those of the younger portion of the tribe.

Until within the past year, the education of the children of this tribe has been entirely neglected.

Nearly a year ago a Sabbath school for their instruction was established and taught by some benevolent young ladies of adjoining towns.6  Encouraged by the success of this effort and finding the children disposed to receive instruction and to improve the advantages afforded them, the same young ladies with a disinterestedness and a perseverance worthy of all praise, established a day school for the children of the tribe, of which for six months they were, themselves, the teachers.7  This school has been regularly attended by the children and their improvement has fully equaled, if it has not exceeded that usually made by the children of the whites in the same length of time.  The school house of the tribe has now been repaired and sufficient funds have been raised by benevolent individuals to support the school until the first of October next.

Your committee deem it very important that this school should be continued.  Its salutary influence has already been most obvious, But the Indians themselves are quite unable to provide for its support.  They are barely able to provide for their other necessities.  Under these circumstances, the aid of the legislature is solicited.  And from the change which has already been effected, it is believed that if the school and religious instruction in the tribe can be sustained for a few years so great an improvement in their condition, will have been made, that they will afterwards be themselves enabled to provide for their continuance.

With these views your committee recommend the adoption of the accompanying resolution.

All which is respectfully submitted,

Henry Woodward, Chairman

Legislative Action:

Report of Committee on petition of Joseph Williams and others relative to Mohegan Tribe of Indians / [ illegible ] / House of Representatives, May Session 1831, not accepted, Attest., Cyrus H. Beardsley, Clerk



  • 1. This figure, most likely, is based on a census taken in 1827 by Williams, who had just been appointed overseer. List of Mohegan Indians in 1827, May 1st as Taken by New Overseer, 1830.00.00.00.
  • 2. The 1827 census also showed that there were 60 white persons, tenants and their families residing on tribal lands.
  • 3. The 1726 act appointed James Wadsworth and John Hall overseers of the Mohegan, Act concerning Mohegan Indians.
  • 4. In 1821, the responsibilities of overseers were codified by statute. "An Act for the protection of Indians, and the preservation of their property." Title 51: Indians. The Public Statue Law of Connecticut (1821).
  • 5. Also instrumental in these efforts was Sarah L. Huntington. Edward William Hooker, Memoir of Mrs. Sarah L. Huntington Smith: Late of the American Mission in Syria (New York, NY: American Tract Society, 1845) 110, 123.
  • 6. Sarah L. Huntington (Norwich), Sarah Breed (Norwich), and Elizabeth Raymond (Montville)
  • 7. The daily school was held at Deacon William B. Dolbeare's house on the Mohegan's Fort Hill Farm. Hurd, History of New London County, 581.