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NYC “Skywalker” Population Dwindles
Posted by Tasha Weiss on April 30, 2012 at 2:18 PM.

Did you know that some of the country’s most iconic steel structures, including the Empire State Building and the original World Trade Center, were built by generations of Mohawk tribe ironworkers (also known as “Indian Skywalkers”)?  


According to a NPR story, aired earier this month, for the past century a small Indian reserve in Kahnawake, Quebec (near Montreal) has supplied the U.S. with a proud lineage of Mohawk ironworkers. But with fewer Mohawks going into the trade, the tradition may be on the wane.


At the peak, in the 1950s, there were as many as 800 Mohawks living in New York City; many were likely drawn to the high-rise ironworker trade for its pay and benefits, according to the article. Today, however, there are only about 200 Mohawk ironworkers building NYC skyscrapers.


Mike Delisle, the grand chief of Kahnawake, says one reason for the decline is that young tribal workers are taking more jobs in the thriving tobacco industry on the reserve rather than choosing to apprentice as ironworkers. He hopes more of the tribe will return to the trade that helped build not only the New York City skyline, but also the tribe’s own town in Canada.


You can listen to the full audio news story, as well as read the print version, on NPR’s website, (direct link: The article also includes a link to a three-minute video that profiles a Mohawk ironworker, Kaniehtakeron “Geggs” Martin, who’s been climbing steel for 15 years.

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