A (foreign soldier) is greeted by a pretty Mohee. She offers to take him into her tribe if he will stay with her. He will not stay; he has a sweetheart at home. Returning home, he find his girl has left him, and wishes himself back with the Mohee
Kittredge describes this as a "chastened" (i.e. de-bawdy-ized) American reworking of a British broadside, "The Indian Lass." It is agreed, though, that the American version is much superior to the British. [It may be agreed that this is superior to "The Indian Lass," but not by me. - PJS]
Barry, however, considers the American version original; it then became a sea song, with the girl transformed from a "Mohee" to a resident of Maui, and the British version descends from that. Belden concurs at least to the extent of calling it a sea song and saying "that the 'Indian lass' is a denizen not of America but of the South Seas."
Huntington splits the difference; he thinks the sea version is the original, and the source of the Native American version (he doesn't mention "The Indian Lass"). He offers no evidence for this view, except for the early dates of the whaling versions.
Just looking at the sundry texts, my (slight) inclination is to think "The Little Mohee" the original; "The Indian Lass" looks like this song with a little bit of "The Lake of Ponchartrain" mixed in and the Indian girl released from tribal affiliation.
Scarborough has a discussion of the matter, in which she supports Kittredge in calling it a British import. But she seems to consider the two still one song -- although her versions consistently mention the Mohee/Mauhee/Mawhee, she titles the song "The Indian Lass."
Whatever its origin, the song has become extremely popular in America (Laws lists in excess of two dozen versions, from more than a dozen states). Sundry tunes are used; many are close to "On Top of Old Smokey." - RBW