This article is from the Recreational Figure Skating FAQ, by Karen Bryden with numerous contributions by others.
(posted by Saki Hasnal)
In the book "Figure Skating History: The Evolution of Dance on Ice" by
Lynn Copley-Graves she says:
In the 1800's the British were fascinated by stories of American
Indians. A few American Indians had been brought to England to
entertain the British with war dances. Some skaters who saw them
thought the spread-eagle pose done in Indian ceremonies resembled
the turned-out position of a turn they did on ice. The tracing made
by that turn resembled an Indian bow, so they named the turn the
"mohawk" after the visiting tribe from New York State. This analogy
fits the inside-to-inside mohawk. Skaters practiced mohawks in
repetition on a circle 8. Maxwell Witham and H. E. Vandervell
compiled the rules of English style in the first comprehensive
study of figure skating in any language in their book, A System of
Figure Skating, first published in 1869 and revised in 1880. In the
1880 version, they illustrated and described the outside-to-outside
mohawk, as done in the Foxtrot today: "A very pretty combination of
the outside forward with the outside backwards has lately come into
vogue, and it can be skated by every one who is capable of turning
out his toes sufficiently, so as to get into the 'Spread-eagle'
position. This figure was last year introduced into the Club
figures on ice and christened by the name of Mohawk." According to
Earnest Jones, writing in The Elements of Skating in 1931, the name
"mohawk" for this turn was derived from a cut-like step used by the
Mohawk indians in ther war dances. Two editions later Max Witham
described the choctaw, named for another Indian tribe: "A variation
of the Mohawk has lately been introduced, and is called a 'Choctaw'
... the skater goes from the outside foward of one foot to the
inside back of the other."