11 Things You Should Know About Mohawks

Vincent Schilling

Perhaps one of the most known Native American tribes – for a hairstyle are the Mohawks. In as much as the hairstyle of warriors going into battle with the sides of their heads shaved is a distinction - for the Mohawks, there are many other interesting tidbits that set them apart from other tribes on Turtle Island than just their locks – or lack thereof.

Thanks to Public Information officer Aimee Benedict and tribal historian Arnold Printup at the St. Regis Mohawk tribe who made themselves available to answers questions about Mohawks. As a result of their contributions they were able to help us at ICTMN compile 11 things you should know about the Mohawks.

(Not including correspondent Vincent Schilling is also an enrolled member of the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe)

Mohawk Warriors and those cool haircuts. To address the namesake of the Mohawk people, it goes without saying that we should recognize the haircuts of the warriors preparing to go into battle. History dictates Mohawk warriors cut the sides of their heads with a strip of hair remaining in the familiar shape of today’s Mohawk. This style is also called the scalplock.

What history doesn’t say however is that this was NOT the only style of hair and as in any culture, styles varied. Many warriors did cut their hair, but in various ways such as cut on one side, in front and more. According to Arnold Printup – who himself sports a scalplock, “Our ancestors wore several styles to their liking. According to our oral traditions one historian said there was a warrior who also had a strip down the middle shaved out. The majority shaved our heads in some way. We valued the length of hair for its strength, spirituality and power,” said Printup.


Warriors shaved heads to protect women and children. Mohawk Tribal historian Printup also says at a time when scalps were desired by settlers for bounty, Mohawk warriors decided to cut their hair in various ways to make their scalps more desirable to bounty hunters. “It was an in your face bold move as if to dare bounty hunters to seek their scalps. It was a distinction and a way to protect women and children.”

To throw a bit more confusion into the fire, Mohawk author and historian Darren Bonaparte says Mohawk isn’t a Mohawk word, because “M isn’t one of our letters.” Bonaparte says the hairstyle was originally Huron, yet old movies and Mohawk warrior paratroopers shaving their heads on D-Day inspired the namesake attached to the haircut.


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Michael Madrid's picture
Michael Madrid
Submitted by Michael Madrid on
Being from the Southwest, I've never met any of my Mohawk cousins, but I love to read anything Mr. Schilling writes and am interested in all things Native. I'm always pleasantly surprised at the contributions of all my relations. We've done pretty well for a bunch of "savages."

builds-the-fire's picture
Submitted by builds-the-fire on
Thank you, Vincent. I am learning about my Native heritage, and love these types of articles.

Wanda Carr
Wanda Carr
Submitted by Wanda Carr on
I liked this article. My mother was from akwesasne and my dad from six nations, ohswekan, Ontario. Yes we are a rich culture and it's to bad the schools don't teach more about us. We are an important part of this world and it seems we never get recognized for our beautiful ways of life. I could write a book about the things I was told and I could go on and on about our lives but I just wanted to say I loved the article and I'm very proud of my Mohawk people.

Opichi's picture
Submitted by Opichi on
Great article. Just one thing, that is by far not the first Native newspaper. There was The Progress (White Earth) started 1886, and the Phoenix (Cherokee), 1828. Maybe more I didn't hear about yet.

vincentschilling's picture
Submitted by vincentschilling on
Thanks so much for your kind words Michael and builds-the-fire - Ona...

verncox's picture
Submitted by verncox on
I watched and read the book "Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper. How accurate are they? And do the Mohicans have an opinion about the "theory" that they may have been responsible for the disappearance of Jamestown? I say theory because there is no archaeological evidence only logs describing what they found left behind and that's inconclusive.