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By David C. King

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By 1791 New York State took over most Mohawk lands. 5 square kilometers) remained in Mohawk hands. For the next 150 years, the Mohawk struggled to survive. Their communities were scattered through reservations in eastern New York and reserves in southern Ontario Province. Many Mohawk suffered through years of poverty. In Canada, the government hoped to force or persuade them to melt into the majority population. Children were sent to English-speaking boarding schools. Separated from their families, they began to lose contact with their culture and the Mohawk language.

Their employers were amazed by their courage and skill in “walking the high steel” of the bridge frame. That started a practice that has continued into the twenty-first century. The Mohawk call it booming out from their reservations in search of their next job of working on another high-steel structure. In the 1920s Mohawk gained even greater fame by working on the towering structures that were to make up New York City’s skyline: the Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building, and the George Washington Bridge.

37 Walking the High Steel In 1886 several Mohawk men were hired to work as laborers on a bridge from Canada over the St. Lawrence River to Mohawk land in New York State. Their employers were amazed by their courage and skill in “walking the high steel” of the bridge frame. That started a practice that has continued into the twenty-first century. The Mohawk call it booming out from their reservations in search of their next job of working on another high-steel structure. In the 1920s Mohawk gained even greater fame by working on the towering structures that were to make up New York City’s skyline: the Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building, and the George Washington Bridge.

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