The narrator pauses in his description of Heyward’s party, and turns to a white man and a Mohican native talking, in a native language, not far off, by a stream. The white man is dressed in a scout’s attire and carries a long rifle; the native, called Chingachgook, is wearing only a small strip of cloth, and he carries a tomahawk and knife. The white scout, called Hawkeye (or Natty Bumppo), and Chingachgook talk of their family histories; Chingachgook relates that his tribe, the Mohicans, were the most powerful of the Americas, but Dutch settlers in New York gave them “fire water” (alcohol), and took over much of their land, driving Chingachgook and his family into the forests.
Although Chingachgook does not speak much in the novel, he is one of its moral centers, a character around whom a great deal of action revolves. Chingachgook is the father of Uncas, the novel’s native hero, and Chingachgook is considered, by Hawkeye and other natives, to be a man of great personal loyalty and bravery. Chingachgook’s story explains how the noble Mohicans were corrupted by the arrival of the white men, and gestures at the way the New World is changing as European powers gain sway.
Chingachgook also states that the Mohicans have long been enemies of the Iroquois, also known as the Maquas or Mingos. Another native named Uncas, son of Chingachgook, arrives, and asks Hawkeye whether he will help Uncas and Chingachgook fight the Maquas and the French, their allies, the next day. Hawkeye says that he will, but that they must eat first and bed down for the night, to have strength for battle. Uncas kills a deer with his bow and arrow, and after he does so, Hawkeye and the Mohicans hear the “hooves of white horses”—Heyward’s party, drawing near in the forest.
Another refrain in the novel will be the kind of patience that Hawkeye, Uncas, and Chingachgook exhibit when faced with difficult decisions. It appears to be a native custom that, once one must decide what to do, one has a meal, talks, and sleeps on the decision, then resolves to a course of action early the next morning. This means that none of these three warriors tend to act impulsively, or to make decisions they then regret later.