16. Gowanus and Boerum Hill

Carroll Street Bridge from the Gowanus Canal

The northwestern Brooklyn neighborhood of Gowanus takes its name from a Canarsee chief named Gauwane. The site was settled in 1635 by the Dutch, but the Canarsee had inhabited much of the coastline in the era prior. Gowanus, though, had a small but thriving Native population as late as the 1960s.

In 1916, Mohawk Native American ironworkers made their way to New York to work on the construction of the Hell Gate Bridge. By the 1930s, a Mohawk community of over 800 people lived in what was then known as North Gowanus, or Boerum Hill. The community earned the nickname “Downtown Kahnawake,” named for the reservation near Montreal. The Wigwam Bar at 75 Nevis Street was a Mohawk community hub in the neighborhood.