Image of Leon Tekarihoken Rice (b. 1899 in Kahnawake).
Photo Credit: Judy Rice Family Collection
Camille D’Amours & Mabel Rice (1932), Israel Tekarihoken Rice & Marie-Anne/Mary Ann Karonhiaroroks [Stuart] | Rice Family of Caughnawaga Visual Dictionary
Mable Rice and her new husband Camille D’Amours standing in their wedding pose next to her parents Israel Tekarihoken Rice and Marie-Anne Karonhiaroroks (aka Mary-Anne Steward). The couple had married in Gogoma (Sudbury, Ontario) in 1932 in Notre-Dame-du-Rosaire parish.
What a great-looking couple AND a wonderful view of Gogoma.
There’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.
Today I’m delighted to introduce you to a new guest author – American family historian Melody Morgan. As you will read below, Melody has a connection to Kahnawake through her beloved step-father William Smith, son of Mohawk entertainer – Louis Smith. She spins her tale below, and ends with a request for anyone with information about this family to contact her. You can do so by leaving a message in the comment box below, and I will send you her email information. Thanks!
Guest Post by Melody Morgan
When I was a young woman, my father died and my mother remarried. My new step-father was William Smith and he used to tell marvelous stories about his parents – mostly his father, Louis Smith.
Bill would proudly boast that Louis Smith was an Iroquois Indian from Caughnawaga. He was very proud of this heritage and he wore the genes of this heritage like a badge . There was no mistaking his Native origins. Unfortunately, Bill died about 20 years ago, before I became interested in genealogy. I never asked him the questions I should have. Now I search for the facts necessary to make a place for him and his ancestors in our family tree.
I know a little about William’s mother. She had been ill with tuberculosis for many years and was in and out of hospitals and tucked away in sun porches for healing air. She died when he was only 10 years old so I don’t think he had many real memories of her at all. His mother’s name was Terese Kaherotonkwas. She was apparently a performer too and used the name Weeping Corn Husk.
I have managed to uncover a few facts about Louis Smith, which led to a few more facts, but I don’t even know the details of the accident that took his life or where he is buried. I cannot confirm his possibly German father or his Native mother, don’t know when they died or where they are buried and am not sure where else to turn.
Fortunately, several stories of the Canadian Mohawk and Iroquois who performed in Vaudeville or traveling shows have turned up on the internet so I have learned quite a bit about Louis’ associates and the life they lived. There are stories and photographs on the web about both of the witnesses at his marriage. It is quite a fascinating time in history. Below is a summary of what I know about Louis Smith. I have also attached a piece from the 1897 New York Times which tells a bit about him and shows his picture.
Caughnawaga’s historic St-Francois-Xavier Church
where the soon-to be Saint Kateri is entombed.