October 25, 2008

Documentary about Brooklyn's Mohawks

Film at American Indian Museum Looks at Vanished Brooklyn Community

Mohawk Ironworkers Made Boerum Hill Their Home[B]ack in the 1920s, ’30s, ’40s and ’50s, if you wanted to meet real-life Mohawks, you didn’t have to go upstate. There was an entire community of members of this Native American tribe, many of whom worked as ironworkers on Manhattan skyscrapers, living in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn.

This now-almost-forgotten era is the subject of the film “Little Caughnawaga: From Brooklyn and Back,” to be shown at the Museum of the American Indian in Lower Manhattan on Thursday, Nov. 6 at 6 p.m. and Saturday, Nov. 8 at 1 p.m. in tandem with another film, “Club Native.”

“Little Caughnawaga: From Brooklyn and Back” by Reaghan Tarbell, herself a Mohawk, traces the director’s family from the Kahnawake Mohawk community of Quebec to Boerum Hill, where dozens of Mohawk families then resided while building Manhattan’s iconic skyscrapers.

Many of the Mohawks commuted back and forth between Brooklyn and the reservation, depending on the time of year. They were often featured in newspaper articles, but sometimes with mock-humorous derogatory headlines such as “Indian Ironworkers Make Heap Big Wampum.”
Comment:  This movie kind of reminds me of The Exiles.

Comment:  For more on the subject, see Native Documentaries and News.

1 comment:

Rob said...

For more on the subject, see:


Documentary Traces Brooklyn’s Mohawk Ironworkers

Reaghan Tarbell never set out to be a New Yorker, or a filmmaker, for that matter.

But eight years ago, this descendant of Mohawk ironworkers moved to New York from the Kahnawake Reserve near Montreal. She came to work in the Film and Video Center of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian. In the city, she found she had questions she’d never asked about the sojourns of her grandparents in a Brooklyn neighborhood called Little Caughnawaga.

Little Caughnawaga, as Tarbell explained in her 2008 documentary, To Brooklyn and Back: A Mohawk Journey, was a small neighborhood that was home in the 1950s to as many as 700 Mohawks, making it the largest Mohawk settlement outside of Canada.

“It is my family story,” she said. “When I first moved here, my experience was so different than what I had heard about, how my whole community was here, your aunties, sisters, all lived here within 10 square blocks.”