Saturday, January 12, 2013

Reenacting the the past...

I have been running a living history event at Ganondagan for the past 6 years. It was my attempt at bring the world of "re-enacting" to my site. It was a real education for me in regards to the logistical and interpersonal political aspects of assembling some seriously dedicated and obviously deranged folks who dedicated their lives to understanding the past. It was a recipe for total success.

Mssr. Ryan Clarke as a hired gun.

I had attended some of the northeasts largest events at Ft Niagara and Ft. Ticonderoga and knew that I didn't want to try and replicate that scene. Besides, my own narrow time period had far fewer participants and it would be impossible to even try and come close to the same numbers. I decided to go for quality as opposed to quantity. This was a good choice. We have a dedicated group of professional re-enactors that assemble like a team of superheroes from all corners of the Northeast each year, add to that the small group of Native people who have come to love living history (I'll post in the future on our newly formed society of Haudenosaunee living historians) and we have a pretty cool thing happening. 

The LaSalle event is focused around the 1669 encounter between the Seneca's living at Ganondagan and a small exploratory group of French lead by the famous Marquis de LaSalle. The entire story is recounted by Galinee in his journal which is conveniently online. if you care to learn more about the events you can find it here: Galinee's journal

Mssr. Garrett MacAdams(L) as LaSalle and Mssr David Ledoyen (R) as the interpreter
Belinda Patterson (Tuscarora) and Nathan Kobuck (Bellwood, PA)

One of the most interesting aspect of our event is that the Native participants are the ancestors of the folks who were there and furthermore, we have French Canadian participants who are also the descendants of the people of New France as well. Amazing right? But, as I have learned recently, we are far from unique. 

Back in 1937, the Rochester Museum and Science center put on it's own reenactment of the LaSalle encounter as well as the Denonville invasion of 1687. in fact, it was more designed to commemorate the 1687 invasion as it was the 250th year anniversary of that attack. Want more about Denonville? 

Ain't the internet grand? de Baugy's journal

The RMSC event took place in Ellison Park and the crowds were very good. I wish there were more people these days interested in their past. 

I think sometimes people want to believe that reenacting is something new or that they were at the inception of the whole thing when they dressed up as riflemen during the bicentennial of the Revolutionary War. That is hardly the truth. In fact, Americans have been dressing up as their ancestors almost as soon as those ancestors put them in trunks! There were civil war parades going on where the children of the veterans wore their fathers clothes! 

I do think there is a certain unhealthy obsession in America for war and the remembrance of wars. Our history is all too often punctuated by war. Our historic sites are overwhelmingly battlefields and forts. Which is why the LaSalle encounter was so perfect for my site. We are a domestic site at heart. Where for the majority of the time it was occupied no battles took place. In fact, when the French did decide to implement their plan of attacking the Haudenosaunee's western door, the battle didn't happen in the town. It took place a couple of miles away! 

So, maybe the LaSalle story wasn't enough for the Rochester crowds of 1935. They had to include the French invasion to bring the crowds?

These images are pulled directly from the RMSC collections website. I want to promote their work so please go visit the website, but be sure to put both Ganondagan and the RMSC on your "to-see" list of places when you get to upstate NY. You won't regret it. 

Freeman Johnson - Seneca
 These images of the participant are so amazing to me. I find it so comforting to see that I am continuing  a tradition that people thought so much of 80 years ago. 
LaSalle? or Denonville? 
One ki, 


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