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Native American village on display in Clark County

George Rogers Clark Park event offers a look beyond battles.


George Rogers Clark Park is named for a warrior.

It’s located on land adjacent to where a battle fought between American pioneers and Native Americans during the American Revolution.

But from 6-8 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 8, the park’s focus will not be on the “Clash of Cultures” highlighted in the display at the park’s Davidson Interpretive Center.

Instead, the Clark County Park District’s Fireside History Chat series will move outdoors past the Hertzler House and historic barn at the park’s edge to a series of Native American structures.

There, with campfires glowing and with the help of guides and 10 or more historic re-enactors, visitors can get a look at the structure of Native Americans’ lives in the way Amy Henry does — as people who had much in common with settlers and people who lived in peace.

“I’ve been involved in Native American re-enacting for about 18, 19 years,” said Henry, who works on the physical plant staff at Wittenberg University.

While her son, now 27, was honing his re-enacting skills as a pioneer, “I was always with the Native American contingent,” she said. “I tired to do the other side once or twice, but it never felt right.”

Nor, in her early days volunteering at the Fair at New Boston, also held at the park, did the focus on the warrior culture and violent aspects of Native American life appeal to her.

As a result, when she was invited to take a leadership role, “I wanted to change the emphasis … to show that (Native American) men and women were interested in having food and shelter” and a life that usually didn’t involve “going to war every other day.”

Bill Smith, a re-enactor and retired history teacher who arranges programs at the park, said it offers “a different kind of twist” and a healthy one.

“For so many of us growing up, it was cowboys and Indians,” he said.

Henry said that in the course of re-enacting, “I had dragged around different shelters to different events. So when we started this project, I got the OK to start setting up some permanent structures.”

She’s had plenty of help, from the Parks District, the George Rogers Clark Heritage Association and particularly from volunteers Justin Houston, Cindy Jackson and Gary Bayard.

“We all came from different parts of the re-enacting world,” Henry said.

In like fashion, the structures on display at the Native American village are from different locales in the Eastern United States.

The newest and most prominent structure, the Council House, is a long house, “which is more (associated) with Upstate New York and down the East Coast,” said Henry. “But it was one we could get the materials to build.”

That’s a real consideration in a world in which stripping the bark of trees, as American Indians did, is frowned upon.

Closer to home for the park are the series of wigwams, “the tradition Shawnee structure of the Ohio Valley,” Henry explained.

Although many will want to call the bark-and-pole structures on the site tepees, they go under the more generic name “conicals,” which Henry explained are “a structure from the Great Lakes tribes that are easily set up.”

So are the fish drying racks, and the new lean-to, a space in which women of the village to work and talk.

“The women were the farmers, which everybody gets tired of hearing,” Henry said.

They did their farming without the help of horse power and did it well enough that when George Rogers Clark destroyed the Village of Peckuwe at the battle site, it had 800 acres of corn, beans and squash on hand.

The village includes a pair of posts with veed tops from which a baby hammock would have hung, and what Henry with a smile calls her Monongahela Crockpot. It’s a stone pit in which fires are built, the burned wood removed, and the heat absorbed by the rocks used to cook food.

Henry, who is used to maintenance work at Wittenberg, needs those skills working in the village.

“Last year, I spent half the winter hauling locust logs up from Sidney” to salvage the log cabin on the site.

“I completely tore it apart and rebuilt it,” she said, using locust for two reasons: one, she got it free; two, it’s a wood that will last.

The structures aren’t 100 percent true to their historical counterparts. But the modern conveniences and materials, largely hidden, are necessary to keep the buildings from have to be constantly rebuilt.

Still, as their skills have grown, volunteers have done their best to approximate what Native Americans used.

“A lot of what we (build) comes from earlier pictures,” Henry explained, some of which will be on display Oct. 8.

Although those who attended the Fair at New Boston this year may have walked by the village, “we hope this is a big introduction” to it as “a really neat feature of the park,” said Smith.

That’s Henry’s hope, too.

“This is a passion,” she said. “We spend a lot of volunteer hours out there, and we’d like people to really understand what we’re doing” — and what Native Americans were doing more than 200 years ago.


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