A Canadian Family

First Nations, French Canadians & Acadians

Indians Camped On Delaware River Wear Plastic Helmet Headdresses (1950) | Surnames: Montour

Index: Newspaper Clippings & Other Extracts Related To Kahnawà:ke

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Indians Camped On Delaware River Wear Plastic Helmet Headdresses

Wilmington, Del. –  A band of Canadian Indians gathered on the banks of the Delaware river today wearing plastic helmets in place of their tribal headdress. And the “weapons“ they carried were rivet hammers rather than tomahawks.

The redmen in this case are veteran “high steel men“ employed by the American Bridge company to work on the huge span to be erected across the river from a point south of Wilmington to New Jersey. The Indians coming here are mostly from the Caughnawaga reservation on the St. Lawrence river in Quebec province.

According to Fred Montour, one of the first to arrive, Caughnawagas have been building bridges since 1886 when their skill was discovered during the construction of a Canadian-Pacific ridge over the St. Lawrence.

The story goes that the bridge company on the St.Lawrence project agreed to hire reservation Indians as common laborers – depending on wind-jammer sailors for the rivet work aloft.

As work progressed, the Caughnawagas demonstrated their catlike ability in scaling the bridge`s uppermost girders as well as an uncanny sens of handling the rivet hammers.

Since then, as the story has it, scarcely a major span has been erected without the help of Indian rivet crews.

Montour, who is only 27 now, has been working as a bridge riveter for 10 years. Before coming to Wilmington, he was employed on the Mystic river bridge project in Massachusetts.

Montour says that, while the Indians can walk a girder 500 feet in the air with the same ease the average person feels on a city sidewalk, safety is still the watchword with the “high steel“ men.

He wears a stout pair of rubber soled shoes, a sort of cross between the American schoolboy`s “sneakers“ and bowling shoes. A plastic helmet offers protection from falling rivets.

the rivet crew is made up of four men – a riveter, a “heater“, a “sticker-in“, and a “bucker-up“. the crews usually have worked together for a long time and move from one job to another as a team.

The eater operates the small forge in which the rets are heated. The bucker-up removes the temporary bolt from the girder hole. the sticker-in jams the rivet in place and holds a special anvil while the riveter applies the pneumatic hammer form the opposite side to form a second head on the glowing rvet.

Like many of the Caughnawagas, Montour travels with his wife, setting up housekeeping near each job.

Between jobs, he and his wife return to the reservation on the banks of the St. Lawrence.


Source: Ludington Daily News, Mar 23rd, 1950


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March 14, 2014 - Posted by | . |

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