The Mohegan Chief Buried at Southwark Cathedral
In the shadow of Southwark Cathedral there is a curious-shaped memorial stone which remembers a Mohegan Chief who travelled to London in the 18th Century.
The Mohegan Tribe
The Mohegan Tribe is a sovereign, federally-recognised Indian Nation. It has its own constitution and government and gained federal recognition on 7 March 1994.
Their reservation is in Connecticut, on the banks of the Thames River.
The name was changed when the English invaded their territory in the 17th century. From 1658 the town was renamed New London and the river was renamed Thames.
You can read more about their heritage here.
Despite providing support for English settlers, they encroached on land and stole resources. Queen Anne had sent messages of support but it came to nothing.
In 1735 Mahomet Weyonomon, the Mohegan Chief travelled to London. At 36 years old Mahomet was the great-grandson of Uncas who had originally agreed to collaborate with the English settlers.
He was fluent in several languages and could write in English and Latin. They stayed in the City of London near the church of St Mary Aldermanbury while they prepared a petition to King George II. However, while waiting on a response from the Lords Commissioners on Foreign Trade and Plantations Mahomet along with one of his companions died of smallpox.
Despite his status as a Chief, as a foreigner he wasn’t allowed to be buried within the City and so was buried in an unmarked grave at St Mary Overie, present-day Southwark Cathedral.
On 22 November 2006, Queen Elizabeth II dedicated a memorial sculpture by Peter Randall-Page to Mahomet Weyonomon which was accompanied with a funereal led by members of the Mohegan tribe. The tribal chairman; Bruce Two Dogs Bozsum, was met by the US Ambassador, The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh, symbolically granting the audience denied 270 years previously. You can see images from the day here.
The stone is granite and was quarried from land local to the Mohegan Reservation and is carved with traditional motifs. At the top has a four-domed rosette, symbol of the Mohegan Tribe and a symbol of the spiritual force that flows through all living things. It’s surrounded by concentric wavy lines – trail motifs – that represent the paths we make through life.
To have a visitor to London treated so shamefully gave me pause for thought as I contemplated this memorial amidst the hubbub of Borough Market. It serves as a reminder of injustices and exploitation and deserves to be more widely known.
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