Stephanie “Morning Fire” Fielding is known for her work in linguistics, especially for her work in resurrecting the Mohegan language. A member of the Mohegan Tribal Council of Elders, she lives on the Mohegan reservation in southeastern Connecticut. Fielding holds a Bachelor of Arts in linguistics and anthropology from the University of Connecticut, as well as a Master of Science in linguistics from MIT. Her Master's thesis, The Phonology of Mohegan-Pequot, includes diary excerpts written in Mohegan from her relative Fidelia Fielding, the last fluent speaker of the Mohegan language. In 2006, Stephanie Fielding published A Modern Mohegan Dictionary. She also created the online Mohegan Language Project, a central part of her efforts to keep her native language alive. Of this project, Fielding states that “the goal is fluency,” and offers links to a Mohegan-English dictionary, phrase book, pronunciation guide, exercises, and an audio option. The webpage incorporates her Master’s thesis as well as her Mohegan dictionary. Fielding’s use of technology in restoring the Mohegan language is paramount; creating an online resource makes the language available to everyone, and the audio option allows one to learn the language from home. Besides making her work in linguistics readily available on the Internet, Fielding teaches Mohegan language classes. She also translates English into Mohegan for speakers at traditional Mohegan ceremonies. Fielding is weaving the Mohegan language back into modern Mohegan life in as many ways as she can. Her efforts in Mohegan language revival are unparalleled today, and in history are tied tightly to her ancestor, the determined Fidelia Fielding. Beyond her dictionary, phonology, webpage, and Mohegan community service, Fielding revives the Mohegan language through her creative writing.
Fielding’s children’s story, Uyasunôqak Cits: Leading Bird, incorporates the values of the Mohegan people. In the story, Fielding emphasizes a core value of the Mohegan people that is rooted in the backbone of their language: sharing. Delving into the world of linguistics, one can better understand how a language overlaps with its speakers’ perception of human connections. Fielding discovered an overlap between the virtue of sharing and the structure of the Mohegan language. In English, for instance, we say “I love you” or “I want you to do well." In the Mohegan language, however, the "you" always comes first. Fielding says, "In Mohegan when 'you and I' are both in the equation, 'you' always come first, whether 'you' is the subject or the direct object. Can you imagine what kind of society it would be like if everyone always put 'you' before 'me'?" The make-up of the Mohegan language thus exemplifies a value of the Mohegan people- to always think and care about others before worrying over oneself- with which Fielding concludes her children’s story:
Everyone’s tears watered his grave that day and for many days to come. Then one day in the spring chipmunk saw a little plant growing from that very place where they had laid him to rest. The animals kept watch over the plant carefully, knowing that this was Uyasunôqak’s remembrance for them. It was a low growing plant with dark green leaves. No one had ever seen anything like it before. Later it sprouted little white blossoms with yellow centers and later those blossoms turned into little red hearts. We call them wutah-berries, but most others call them strawberries. No one had to say it, but all the animals knew that this was Uyasunôqak’s heart being born again and again with the blooming of each strawberry. And when they tasted the berries, and they knew they should, they could tell the sweetness of Uyasunôqak would be with them still. Now this would be a good way to end the story, but there is one thing more. Because chipmunk was the first to taste a berry, and because there were so few in the beginning, he left part of it on a stone nearby for the next animal to taste. It is said that chipmunks, all the way until today, still do this. They are remembering Uyasunôqak’s lesson of sharing when they do.
Fielding is a follower of the Baha’i faith, which is a faith centered on the oneness of humanity. While separate from the Mohegan culture, the Baha’i faith’s core beliefs - equality of men and women, the elimination of prejudice, and a spiritual solution to economic problems- closely parallel the core beliefs of the Mohegan culture. Fielding writes about her religion in her fiction piece The Seven Cities. The epigraph of the story is from a Baha’i sacred writing, The Seven Valleys. Fielding’s The Seven Cities is analogous to this sacred writing; her story is divided into seven parts, all of which mirror the seven sections of the sacred writing. The “seven valleys” in the sacred writing include the valley of search, of love, of knowledge, of unity, of contentment, of wonderment, and of true poverty. Fielding’s story offers a contemporary look into the meanings of these valleys.
The spiritual journey of Baha’is is centered on learning the importance of unity and the wrongness of discrimination. The religion Fielding chose to follow could not be more fitting for one who belongs to a people who faced such significant prejudice. Fielding has devoted a large portion of her life to the re-unification of her people. Through her work in reviving the Mohegan language, Fielding is reviving a part of her heritage that was stripped away. She is reuniting her people- her people that were made foreigners in their own land when they lost their language.
“Stephanie Fielding Interview.” Telephone Interview. 19 April 2013.
Fielding, Stephanie Mugford. The Phonology of Mohegan-Pequot. N.p.: n.p., 2005. Print.
Fielding, Stephanie Mugford. A Modern Mohegan Dictionary. Uncasville, CT: Mohegan Tribe, 2006. Print.
Speck, Frank G. Native Tribes and Dialects of Connecticut: A Mohegan-Pequot Diary. Washington: G.P.O., 1928. Print.
Ni Ya Yo: Mohegan Newsletter
Writing of Indigenous New England: An Article on The Mohegan-Pequot Diary
Canku Ota: A Newsletter Celebrating Native Americans
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