Photo Courtesy Marc Wanamaker/Bison Archives.
Lillian St. Cyr with co-star Dustin Farnum in the 1914 silent film 'The Squaw Man.'

The Lillian St. Cyr Story, Part 3: New York City

Angela Aleiss
3/6/14

Nearly ten years after The Squaw Man, Native actress Lillian St. Cyr left Hollywood and  headed toward New York City.

“We all knew each other,” says Lillian’s great nephew Louis Mofsie of the city’s then-growing Indian population. 

Mofsie’s older sister Josephine was a close friend to Muriel Miguel of the Spiderwoman Theater, a group of three urban Native women who continue to perform using storytelling mixed with humor and personal experience. 

RELATED: The Lillian St. Cyr Story, Part I
RELATED: The Lillian St. Cyr Story, Part II

Lillian St Cyr with Cecil B. DeMille at a 'Squaw Man' reunion, 1953. Photo Courtesy Marc Wanamaker/Bison Archives.

But except for a sizable Caugnawaga Mohawk population of steelworkers who had settled in Brooklyn, the city’s Indian people lacked a unified presence.  Initially, only two groups in the city, the Indian League of the Americas and the Thunderbird American Indian Dancers, offered Natives a community. 

Years later, the American Indian Community House would emerge as the leading urban Native resource in the New York City tri-state area.  Mofsie was one of its founders.  “Lillian was actively involved in helping us start it,” he explains.

Lillian eventually settled in Manhattan’s Upper West Side, and Mofsie’s family lived nearby.  He recalls that she remained active and “would keep herself quite busy” making Indian outfits and entertaining children.  For a while, she worked on Indian costumes for FAO Schwarz and Eaves Costume Company.

“My impression of my aunt is she would take on things.  She wasn’t held back by herself.  She wasn’t shy or anything,” Mofsie says.

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