National Geographic : 1967 May
the giant cross made of structural steel that guards the village entrance, I made my way among the unmarked streets-the Indians have stoutly resisted all efforts to label their thoroughfares-to 242-year-old Fort St. Louis. There, in the mission church, an Indian choir has been singing the Roman Catholic liturgy in Mohawk every Sunday for centuries. During the Mass, with the haunting po lyphony of the Indian chants in my ears, I looked at a life-size crucifix above the altar where a bleeding, fainting Jesus suffers without surcease. The women of Caughnawaga gave it to the church in memory of 35 of their men who died when the Quebec Bridge-which spans the St. Lawrence south of Quebec City -c ollapsed while under construction in 1907. After Mass, Pere J. Leandre Plante showed me through the mission. We leafed through the brittle pages of 18th-century volumes, wherein the priests of Fort St. Louis had re corded the births and deaths of their Indian parishioners. After a descent into the musty powder magazine, we walked idly atop the thick wall that had protected this bastion of God in the wilderness. Pere Plante pointed to the wall's raised convex edge-perhaps two feet wide, exceed ingly rich in right angles, and with a 12-foot drop on the river side. "The Indian boys ride their bicycles along there," he said. "It's a terrifying spectacle. They do it to prove that they're worthy to work in high steel when they grow up." I had heard myriad explanations for the Mohawks' mastery of high-altitude construc tion. According to one theory, a genetic freak had removed their fear of height; another held that their ancestors' ability to slink through narrow forest trails had been inherited and applied to equally narrow girders. I put the question to Caughnawaga's elec tive chief, Andrew Tanahokate Delisle. "It's simply a matter of pride," he said. "We (Continued on page 662) As if digging an icy grave, Danish-born Troy Friis hacks out a swimming hole by his Quebec apartment, then plunges in for an early-morning dip. Temperature: minus 5° F. Stoutly maintaining that a brief im mersion promotes good health, this hardy human polar bear stays in only an instant, then scrambles out and sprints across the ice to his home. Now 56, he has done it every winter of his adult life. 657 KODACHROMES © N.G.S.