"Little Caughnawaga" w/ filmmaker Reaghan Tarbell

Date/Time
Date(s) - Saturday 03/14/2009 - 03/15/2009
11:00 pm - 1:00 am

The Kahnawake Mohawk ironworkers who helped to build the famed bridges and skyscrapers of New York City lived with their families in 10 square blocks in Brooklyn—a neighborhood known as Little Caughnawaga. Reaghan Tarbell traces her family roots to create a portrait of this vibrant community and the women who sustained it.

Our press release:

Native American Filmmaker Visits the Sanctuary

Troy, NY – A young filmmaker will present her moving and surprising documentary “Little Caughnawaga: To Brooklyn and Back” on Saturday, March 14, 2008, at 7pm, at The Sanctuary for Independent Media (3361 6th Avenue in north Troy).   The film tells the little known story of a small but vibrant neighborhood of Mohawk Indians in Brooklyn during the Depression.  Admission to this event is by donation ($10 suggested, $5 student/low income). For directions to The Sanctuary for Independent Media: http://www.mediasanctuary.org/directions

The Kahnawake Mohawk ironworkers who helped to build the famed bridges and skyscrapers of New York City lived with their families in 10 square blocks in Brooklyn—a neighborhood known as Little Caughnawaga. Reaghan Tarbell traces her family roots to create a portrait of this vibrant community and the women who sustained it.

Some notice has been given to the men of Little Caughnawaga: Mohawk steel workers, whose work was exceptionally dangerous, helped to build the city’s most famous bridges and skyscrapers.  But Tarbell, who is from Kanhawake and whose grandmother migrated to Little Caughnawaga, wanted to switch the focus and to tell the stories of the women. They held the little Brooklyn community together by taking in boarders, running households during the Great Depression and caring for each other when one of their men fell to his death—which happened all too often.

The film touches on the tragic Quebec Bridge collapse in 1907. During this time, the structure of the bridge fell into the St. Lawrence River. The tragedy killed 75 people, those of which included 33 men from the Kahnawake community. A memorial was organized and served to remember and honor those who had perished on that day.

In making this interesting and beautifully-constructed documentary, Tarbell discovered a lot about her own family’s history. She also provided a rare gift to her community, which, she recalls, mobbed her with thanks after she premiered her film on the reservation. “But the greatest praise,” Tarbell says, “because it’s a very personal story, was when I showed an early cut to my mother and she called me, crying, and thanked me for giving her mother a voice.”

“Part of our desire to show this work was to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson’s ‘discovery’ of the Hudson River,” says Penny Lane, one of the programmers at the Sanctuary.  “We wanted to be sure that the statewide celebrations of this quadricentennial event include stories of the cultural and economic exchange between the white settlers and the Native people who met them here, and how those interactions over the past 400 years affect us today.”

“First and foremost, I made this documentary for my community and for my family,” Reaghan Tarbell.  “I never saw myself as a filmmaker, still don’t… but regardless of how you see yourself… I think if you’re destined to tell a story it will find you somehow. Telling the story about my family and my community was at the same time the most challenging and most rewarding time of my life.”

Tarbell is a staff Program Assistant in the National Museum of the American Indian’s Film and Video Center and lives in Brooklyn, not far from the neighborhood of Little Caughnawaga.

The Sanctuary for Independent Media is a telecommunications production facility dedicated to community media arts, located in an historic former church at 3361 6th Avenue in north Troy, NY.  The Sanctuary hosts screening, production and performance facilities, training in media production and a meeting space for artists, activists and independent media makers of all kinds.

This event is made possible by the Experimental Television Center’s Presentation Funds. The Experimental Television Center’s Presentation Funds program is supported by the New York State Council on the Arts.

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