A Canadian Family

First Nations, French Canadians & Acadians

Caughnawaga Entertainers – The “Wild West”, Vaudeville And Hollywood Years

Caughnawaga | Kahnawake | Indian Museum | sideshowThere’s a great book  at the Chateauguay Library called “Kahnawake: A Mohawk look at Canada”  by Johnny Beauvais (ISBN 0-1234-567-8, 1985) which gives much insight into how the significance of the Chief Poking Fire Museum in Caughnawaga, and the place of Kahnawake in the entertainment industry (among many other subjects).

In his  “Show Biz” chapter, Beauvais explains that as the Fur Trade declined in the mid-19th century many natives of Caughnawaga began to earn income by sharing some of their Iroquois traditions such as  handicrafts, lacrosse, dance and music. Beginning in the early 1880s with the wildly popular Buffalo Bill Cody Wild West Show, the European and American public were entranced with the American Wild West and – of course – Wild West Indians.

On a personal note I have a family memory about that. My husband is Italian and grew up  in Milan in the 40s/50s.  During his childhood, his Italian nonno would often regale him with stories about having seen the Buffalo Bill Cody Show and “real live indians”. He was very proud of having seen them in the flesh. When Italian children pictured Canada, they picture red-coated mounties, Eskimos and igloos and the type of indians that they had seen in the Cody’s shows.

Returning to the main topic, it’s important to note that although Caughnawaga had a truly rich indigenous culture to share, the entertainers soon realized that what the paying  public wanted was their image of the Indian, which was actually the culture of the Sioux, so Mohawk natives had to set aside their own traditions. This is why many pictures of the time – and the look of the Chief Poking Fire Museum – do not accurately reflect Iroquois culture. It was a commercial decision and not some ignorance of their own culture.

So where did they perform? Beauvais says that besides the Buffalo Bill shows, Caughnawaga (and Akwesasne) natives performed in the Texas Jack Show, the Buffalo Centennial Exposition and then in various productions on Vaudeville and Broadway. They were also in the movies – including the famous Hiawatha. Besides this, they often appeared in local celebrations such as Columbus Day. I wonder how many pictures of these performers might still be tucked away in historical local newspapers?

Johnny Beauvais included photographs for many of the entertainers. Here is a list

Adams, Sateriia | Champlain Tercentenary | 1909

American Horse | on horseback | undated

Beauge | on horseback | undated

Beauvais Emma | undated | 1909

Beauvais,   | on horseback | undated

Beauvais, Angus | Champlain Tercentenary | 1909

Beauvais, John | undated |1909

Beauvais, Joseph Akwiwanoron | Hiawatha movie  | undated

Beauvais, Karoniatens and family  | undated

Beauvais, Louis Kenwenteson aka J.B. Talikeno  | undated

Beauvais, Louise Aonwenstakera   | undated

Beauvais, Mr.  | Windsor Pow Wow | 1930

Beauvais, Noah | Champlain Tercentenary | 1909

Beauvais, Sarah | New York City Hippodrome | 1910

Casey, John | New York City Hippodrome | 1910

Cross, Jim  | undated

Deer, Katsirakeron  | Windsor Pow Wow | 1930

Deer, Louis  | undated

Deer, Louis  | undated

Deer, Louis | undated

Deer, Princess White | undated

Delisle, Cecelia  | Windsor Pow Wow | 1930

Delormier  | Windsor Pow Wow | 1930

Delormier, Angelique  | Windsor Pow Wow | 1930

Delormier, Louis and Mrs. | New York City Hippodrome | 1910

Diabo, Kahionhakeron  | Windsor Pow Wow | 1930

Dkye, Helen  | Windsor Pow Wow | 1930

French, Eleanor  | undated

French, Isobel  aka Princess Gardenia  |undated

Hill, Jack | Windsor Pow Wow | 1930

Jacobs, Angus  | Windsor Pow Wow | 1930

Jacobs, Angus Enniaskowa | undated

Jacobs, Enniaskoia | New York City Hippodrome | 1910

Jacobs, Enniaskoia | on horseback | undated

Jacobs, Peter  | Windsor Pow Wow | 1930

Kanatasa  |Windsor Pow wow | 1930

Kane, Annie | on horseback | undated

Karonhinonha   | Windsor Pow Wow | 1930

Keso,  undated

Lazare, Mathew  | Windsor Pow Wow | 1930

Marquis, Kanatase and family  | undated

Martin Children | Champlain Tercentenary |1909

Martin, Sakowihe  | Windsor Pow Wow | 1930

Mayo, Joe | Windsor Pow Wow | 1930

Mayo, Joe “White Swan”  | undated

Monique, Joe “White Eagle” | New York City Hippodrome | 1910

Montour, Angus “American Horse” | undated

Montour, Evelyn | undated

Montour, Mrs. | on horseback | undated

Nelson, Mary  | undated

Nelson, Mary  | undated

Norton, Ann Foster | Champlain Tercentenary |

Poking Fire | undated

Red Boy  | undated

Skye, Helen  | undated

Skye, Helen | child  | undated

Skye, Josephine  | undated

Skye, Josephine  | Windsor Pow Wow | 1930

Skye, Josie  | Windsor Pow Wow | 1930

Stacey, Kanatakeniate  | Windsor  Pow Wow| 1930

Tahoira, Sawatis | undated

Tharorathe | New York City Hippodrome | 1910

Tsiorhakwente | Windsor Pow Wow | 1930


Related Posts:

William Smith, son of Louis Smith – Caughnawaga Entertainer – Query

Index: Kahnawa:ke & the Iroquois | QC/ON

March 6, 2011 - Posted by | . | , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. I am Akwirahnoron”s grandaughter…lynn beauvais 450-636_6842 or lynnbeauvais@hotmail.ca

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Lynn Beauvais | October 19, 2012 | Reply

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