Living History

Ever wonder what it'd be like to live in the early 19th century? Every year the Grand Portage National Monument organizes a reenactment of a fur trade rendezvous, a gathering where much trading of furs for goods happened in slightly less wild parts of the wilderness. The Grand Portage site is a historically important rendezvous site and this event seeks to commemorate that and help educate the public on an important part of US and Canadian history. And it provides a great way to have some fun for those who take part.

So what does this have to do with me? Well, several of my friends from Thunder Bay happen to have worked at the Fort William Historical Park. This is a similar site to the Grand Portage National Monument set up by the Canadian government. Last year they invited me to join them and, having so much fun before, I came back this year for a second filling.

So what does this event involve? Well, people dress up in historical attire and set up historically accurate campsites. During the day, various events are planned to help people learn about the history of Grand Portage and the fur trade in general. One such event, showing what could happen when new traders tried to move in on established territory (and showing some of the hostility between the US and Canada in the early 19th century) can be seen here:

Many competitions and workshops help show off various skills used by the people of the time, as well as tours and simple discussions with interested guests. And at night even more fun, both planned and unplanned, happens for the reenactors. Special events like historical dances provide a nice way for everyone there to have fun. People play historical drinking games like Snapdragon, appropriate for the hardcore voyageurs hanging out in camp. While the gameplay itself can be hard to see, even just the flames (that people stick their hands into to grab out flaming fruit to eat) are a joy to watch:

And, with the drinking, comes the singing and smoking by the campfire. Sadly, the spontaneous nature of this song limited what I captured (and, even more sadly, the best songs recorded poorly) to a very limited subset of the whole night:


Overall, a fantastic way to spend the weekend with a combination of learning, teaching and simple, good (really) old-fashioned fun.

Also, not all the pictures would fit in this post. Being a bit lazy (or should that really be "busy"?), I took the easy route out and just put the remainder in a second post. Go here if you want to see the rest (or open the image gallery and pick an appropriate subselection).