Little Caughnawaga: To Brooklyn and Back

Reaghan TarbellReaghan's GrandmotherReaghan's Aunt

Length: 48 min. (documentary)
Release: 2008
Language Versions: English (original), French and Mohawk
Director/Writer: Reaghan Tarbell
Producers: Paul M Rickard and George Hargrave
Produced by: Mushkeg Media Inc. and the NFB in association with APTN
Purchase: Home and public viewing versions available for purchase through the NFB. US residents can purchase the film through VisionMaker.

Little Caughnawaga: To Brooklyn and Back is an hour-long documentary about the personal story of Mohawk filmmaker Reaghan Tarbell from Kahnawake, Quebec, as she explores her roots and traces the connections of her family to the Mohawk community in Brooklyn, New York.

For over 50 years, the Kahnawake Mohawks, of Quebec, Canada occupied a 10 square block area in the North Gowanus section of Brooklyn, which became known as Little Caughnawaga. The men, skilled ironworkers, came to New York in search of work and brought their wives, children and often, extended family with them. The story of the Mohawk ironworkers is an important one and is one that has been told and continues to be told through documentaries, newspaper and magazine articles. Yet the stories of Kahnawake Mohawk women who lived in Brooklyn have gone untold.


"I grew up at 375 State St in the 50s-60s, one of a few non-Mohawks in the building and neighborhood. I really want to tell you how much I am relishing the film: I am learning so much about my own neighbors and neighborhood that I, sadly, did not know being outside the culture. E.g. I was surprised to learn of the Cuyler Church, as most of my Mohawk friends were Catholic and devotedly attended St. Charles Borrommeo RC Church. Likewise, I did not have a sense of when the community had begun or why. I just wanted to tell you how personally your film touched me. The names and voices are all so familiar. Terrific job and congratulations on your accomplishment. And thank you!" - L. Lavora

"A small anecdote about these Indians is that I am a Brooklyn native and as young men my friends and I would often have drinks at the Doray Tavern which is on Atlantic Ave. The sign on the wall on the outside of the bar said, 'where good friends meet.' This was a real dive bar but we were underage and they would serve us. In 1976 we drove up to Montreal to try and see the Olympics but we were unable to see any of the events but we found ourselves one evening at a Knights of Columbus outside of Montreal where we met this tribe of Indians who were drinking at the same establishment we were jokingly referring to the K of C as the Doray north when one of the Tribesman spoke up and said, 'where good friends meet'. You could imagine our shock when we found this community of people who knew our turf better than we did, they knew every bar, store and restaurant in town. Since we were long lost Brooklyn brothers and Doray drinkers in good standing we were taken to a lacrosse game that we were told their team always won or the other team would have to fight their way out of the long house. They shared their homes, their food. Your story was great, thanks for sharing it brought back a great story and a little bit of history for me." P. Infante