Uncas, who died in 1683, led the Mohegans after they split from the Pequot tribe over issues including strategies for responding to the arrival of English settlers and tribal succession planning. Uncas favored collaborating with the settlers, while a faction of Pequots led by Sachem (head chief) Sassacus preferring fighting over land and control of the local fur trade.
The Uncas monument sits in a small burial ground on Sachem Street. The square base of the monument was dedicated in 1833, with President Andrew Jackson participating in the dedication ceremonies. The granite column was dedicated nine years later in 1842, after organizers had resolved several problems with the monument, including quarrying granite that met their specifications and reaching a consensus on the proper spelling of “Uncas.”
The dedication ceremony was marked by several speeches praising Uncas for his cooperation with the settlers, but for some reason, no Mohegans were invited to participate. Organizers apparently assumed the tribe was extinct, and didn’t know that survivors were living in nearby Montville.
“Buffalo Bill” Cody laid a wreath at the Uncas monument in 1907 when his Wild West stunt show visited Norwich.
The Mohegan’s burial ground may have covered as many as 16 acres over what is now a well-developed residential neighborhood. Today, a sixteenth of an acre remains.
In 2008, the Mohegans dedicated a memorial to ancestors whose graves were lost to redevelopment of the burial ground on the site of a former Masonic lodge near the Uncas monument.
Uncas and Miantonomoh: A Historical Discourse, Delivered at Norwich, (Conn.,) on the Fourth Day of July, 1842, on the Occasion of the Erection of a Monument to the Memory of Uncas, the White Man’s Friend, and First Chief of the Mohegans