The Last Of the Mohicans

The film is set in 1757, the third year of war between England and France for the possession of the continent. The center of the story is the most notorious event of the French and Indian War; the s0-called 'massacre' of British troops, women and children by General Montcalm's Indian allies after the British surrender of Fort William Henry to the French on 9th August 1757.

The Struggle between the French and English for control of North America became apparent in the late 1600s. The buffer between the two imperial powers was the presence of the five Nations of Iroquois who controlled almost all of what is now New York State. From West to East the tribes were the Seneca, Cayuga, Onondaga, Oneida, and the Mohawk; these five were joined by the Tuscarora to form six Nations in 1711.

The film correctly portrays the Iroquois as ferocious warriors who practiced torture and covered their skins with bear grease and red ochre. The gathering of Indians in the temporary military camps of 1757 leads to a misrepresentation of the daily lives of northeastern Indian tribes. Neither the Iroquois, the Delaware, nor the Huron were nomadic hunter-warriors who only lived for battle. Iroquois tribes were fundamentally agricultural, and due to being inland people were less dependent upon British and French fur traders than were the Algonquin tribes.

English settlement West and North from Albany and French from the West and South from Montreal made it hard for the Iroquois to preserve both their independence from White nations and the league among themselves. The Mohawks were allied to the British, the Northern tribe called the Hurons, not allied to the Iroquois Nation, became undeclared supporters of the French. For all Iroquois, the danger of white incursion upon Iroquois lands and culture had to be balanced against the immediate benefits of acquiring the white mans' goods, the iron axe, the iron plough, iron guns as much as alcohol and trinkets.

Chingachgook and Uncas are descendants of Delaware as well as Mohican tribes, who are scouts and warriors who serve the British. Here historical allegiances have been altered through character association, the Delaware Indians were of Pro -French sympathies. Many nations had split allegiances to the French and British. Distinctions between tribes in the film are rather blurred and differences between Mohican and Delaware are erased. Chingachgook and Uncas are clearly idealized portraits, men of nearly every virtue, few limitations and no vices.

The portrayal of the character and conduct in the film of the principal historical figures is said to be accurate and fair. Colonel Monro was a brave and blunt commander who did everything possible to save his fort until he was informed no reinforcements were coming. Montcalm grants Munro a dignified condition of surrender, allowing the British troops to retain their colors, their arms, and their possessions in accord with the term of the 18th Century 'Parole of Honor'.

The last of the Mohicans although based on an historical event has been altered to create a successful film. Much in the film can prove useful to the historian such as references to indentured servitude, the portrayal of the war leaders and the belief of the English and French that they were rulers of the continent. The natives in the film appear as individuals rather than members of a wider community and little social organization is shown in the film. The portrayal of the Indian is not a hugely realistic, but has been romanticized to create either a hero or villain. It has been said that the idea of the noble savage is cliché but it must be remembered that Hawkeye is white. He is too proud of his origins to sink into the condition of the wild Indian. The Delawares' were attractive of the attention of missionaries so contact with whites would have continued for Hawkeye. The central character (hero) can be seen to represent the better qualities of both conditions, without pushing either to extremes. In all the film is useful in suggesting some of the issues in Anglo-Indian relations and has a certain historical element to it. Although it is the liberty of the director/writer that has allowed distortion in recreating the past, as can be seen of aspects of racial differences and racial politics.