Press-Republican

Local News

May 25, 2011

Film celebrates Mohawk ironworkers

AKWESASNE — St. Regis Mohawk ironworkers are the subject of a new documentary by Academy Award nominee and director Katja Essen.

A preview of the feature-length film, "Skydancer," will be shown at 1 p.m. Thursday at the Akwesasne Senior Center on Route 37.

The film looks at a 120-year tradition of Mohawk steelworkers, who have built some of the country's tallest and most recognizable structures, including the Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building, the George Washington Bridge and the World Trade Center.

The film presentation is free and open to the public.

DANGEROUS WORK

Members of Local 440 of the International Association of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental and Reinforcing Iron Workers union from Akwesasne are featured in the movie.

Mike Swamp, the union's former business manager, said he hopes many ironworkers will be available to see the film, "especially the guys in their 60s and 70s.

"This will probably be the first time people will get a chance to see the type of work we do. It's strenuous, it's dangerous, and it's hard work."

The apparent fearlessness and dedication to such high-risk jobs "is something that was passed down from our forefathers for the last 100 years. But it's not for everybody.

"But ironworkers do a lot of different jobs. Some do rebar. Some do structural steel on these buildings right on down to the windows. It's just that it's up in the air."

TRADE CENTER TIES

Swamp said Mohawk steelworkers got a lot of attention in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center.

"There were TV programs about our ironworkers because we built it and the demolition of it, and we got a lot of exposure," he said, but the furor soon died down.

The Essen film, he said, could rekindle interest in the ironworkers' legacy.

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