Mi’kmaq – Also simplified to Micmac, this tribe was indigenous to Canada’s Atlantic Provinces and the Gaspé Peninsula of Quebec as well as the northeastern region of Maine. Together with the Beothuk on Newfoundland, the Mi’kmaq were probably the first Native Americans to have regular contact with Europeans. This may have occurred as early as the 11th century with the early Viking settlements on the coast of North America, or perhaps with Basque fishermen who visited the Grand Banks before Columbus’ voyage in 1492 but kept quiet about where they were catching all their fish. The Mi’kmaq people still live in their original homeland in Nova Scotia today, where they are fighting for the right to fish and hunt as their ancestors used to.
Missouri – A Siouan tribe, they lived in and gave their name to the state of Missouri. Their name means “one who has dugout canoes” in the Illinois language. In their own language, the Missouri called themselves Niúachi. In the 17th Century, they lived on the river after which they were named and extended as far north as the Platte River. In a war against the Sac and Fox, in 1798, they were soundly defeated, and were scattered among the Kanza, Osage, and Otoe; but in time they recovered and were again established in their own villages. They suffered greatly from smallpox and from a war with the Osage, so that by 1885 only 40 were known to have survived. Today they remain part of the Otoe-Missouria Tribe of Oklahoma.
Miwok, also spelled Miwuk or Me-Wuk – this refers to a number of Native American groups who spoke the Miwokan language and lived in northern California. The word “Miwok” means people in their native language. Generally the Miwok were a hunting and gathering people who lived in small bands without centralized political authority before contact with white settlers.
Modoc – The Modoc, meaning “southerners,” were a warlike and aggressive offshoot from the Klamath tribe of southeast Oregon, occupying the territory immediately to the south of the latter, extending across the California border and including the Lost River Country and the famous Lava-bed region. After the Modoc War, they were confined to reservations in Oregon and Oklahoma.
Mogollon – One of four major prehistoric archaeological culture areas of the American Southwest and Northern Mexico, the Mogollon lived in the southwest from approximately 150 A.D. until about 1450 A.D. The name Mogollon comes from the Mogollon Mountains, which were named after Don Juan Ignacio Flores Mogollón, the Spanish Governor of New Mexico from 1712-1715. They are thought to be the first of the southwestern peoples to farm, build shelters, and make pottery. To supplement their diet they also harvested wild plants and hunted small game. When they took up the bow and arrow about 500 A.D., hunting became more prevalent. They lived a sedentary village life-style near streams, often in canyons or other easily defendable locations. Their homes were similar to Hohokam pit houses though smaller and taller. The largest structure called kiva served as the social and ceremonial center of the village.
Mohegan – Mohegan means wolf. So does Mahican, but these are the names of two distinct Algonquin tribes with different locations and histories. It is all too common for the Mohegan of the Thames River in eastern Connecticut to be confused with the Mahican from the middle Hudson Valley in New York (a distance of about 100 miles). Frequently confused with the Mohicans due to a poorly-researched literary classic, the Mohegan people consist of many originally independent tribes including the Pequot and Montauk.
Mohawk – Of the Iroquoian linguistic stock and Eastern Woodlands area, the Mohawk were once the chief people of the Five Nations of the Iroquoian Confederacy. Their first contact with the European settlers came in the form of conflict, fighting against Samuel De Champlain. Dutch explorers managed to trade with the Mohawk, exchanging rifles for furs. In later years, the British formed an alliance with the Mohawk, to fight the French and American colonists. After the American Revolution, most of the Mohawk relocated to Canada, where the vast majority still reside today.
Mohican – Frequently confused with the Mohegans due to a poorly-researched literary classic, the Mohican tribe was not driven to extinction, merely exiled to Wisconsin.
Mojave – Living along the banks of the Lower Colorado River in California and Arizona, their tribal structure was based on the family unit. They practiced agriculture, growing corn and beans amongst other things, and were also skilled at fishing and hunting. Their belief system was based on a singular supreme entity, and their own personal value system revolved around courage in battle. There are currently around fifteen hundred Mojave Indians living on reservations in Arizona.
Montagnais – Nitassinan, the Montagnais homeland, is a vast area which includes most of Quebec east of the St. Maurice River extending along the north side of the St. Lawrence to the Atlantic Ocean in Labrador. Diet relied heavily on the hunting of moose and seal but with a heavy reliance on fishing for salmon and eel. Montagnais considered porcupine a delicacy. So much so, they were sometimes referred to as the “Porcupine Indians.” Currently, there are almost 13,000 Montagnais in Quebec with another 800 living in Labrador.
Munsee – The name derives from the people’s original band name, Minisink, which means “from the rocky land.” The Munsees originally lived in the mid-Atlantic, in areas that are now southern New York, northern New Jersey, and southeastern Connecticut. Dutch and British colonists forced them to leave their homeland in the 1700s. Some of them retreated to Canada, where most Munsee live today. Others joined the Mahican Indians in New York; the two tribes were eventually deported to Wisconsin, where they live together today. Still, others sought shelter with their relatives the Delaware (Lenape) and continue to live among them now.
Muscogean – A language family containing Alabama, Apalachee, Calusa, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Coushatta, Creek, Hitchiti, Seminole, and Yamasee tribes. Originally they were confined chiefly to the Gulf states east of almost all of Mississippi and Alabama, and parts of Tennessee, Georgia, Florida, and South Carolina. According to a tradition held in common by most of their tribes, they had reached their historic seats from some starting point west of the Mississippi, usually placed, somewhere on the upper Red River. Later, most were moved to Indian Territory.
By Kathy Weiser-Alexander, updated December 2018.