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Re-Enactments and Living History Why do it and the philosophy, Your Persona, Your Clothing and Outfit, Guns, Hawks, Knives and traps, Shelter, Plans-Designs and How-To’s, Sources

Why Re-enact and the Philosophy: 

Re-Enacting is recreating a specific historical event as closely as possible, generally at or near the site of the original event.  Living history is more general, recreating living and life for a specific period of time without being tied to any specific event.  Re-enactors and living historians are a group of people with an interest (which can in time grow to be a fanatical obsession) in a particular historical event or period.  Unlike a historian, a re-enactor or living historian, however, is not satisfied with merely the dry facts, dates and narratives available from history books, diaries and journals and the artifacts seen on display in museums.  The living historian wants to experience life as it was during the time of interest, from the smells of campfires and cooking foods in the evening, the feel of buckskin clothing against the skin, the satisfaction of a well thrown tomahawk or knife sticking in a target, to starting a campfire with flint and steel, or the shock from a muzzle-loading rifle being fired.  Re-enacting is a celebration of our past and those qualities-independence, courage and self-reliance-that we admire in our ancestors.  Re-enacting also provides the opportunity to share ones historical interests with other enthusiasts, as well as those skills and knowledge sets that go with it. 

A caution though, the past was not all glamour and our forebears were not all heroes.  They were, like us, human, and deeds of greatness are mingled with dark deeds, the ruthless slaughter of wildlife, and senseless atrocities against native peoples.  Also, our ancestors viewed living very differently than we do today.  Shear survival was often the goal, and there was no assurance of a long and healthy life.  Anything that could be done to assure survival was considered fair. 

If you are considering re-enacting or living history, one of the best places to start is by looking around at the events which took place locally or in your region.  Re-enactments will most often reflect events or the history of that area.  It might not be possible to do French and Indian War re-enactments if you live in Colorado, unless you can budget for the travel expenses.  However, in Colorado, the fur trade is very appropriate to the state’s history, and there are many so-called re-enactments of “Rendezvous” held throughout the state (historically, there never was a rendezvous within Colorado).  Before you start gathering clothing and gear, attend a couple of rendezvous to see what its like.  Most rendezvous are open to “Pilgrims” during the day and you can learn a lot by observation, and by talking to the participants.  Participants may seem like a cliquish lot, and to a certain extent they are.  They are trying, as best they can, to recreate a time in history, and to block out those things which do not fit in.  They already know each other, and in some cases have friendships which may go back for decades.  However, ask questions!  These people didn’t put hundreds of hours into research, sewing and construction of clothing and purchase or building of equipment and development of skills to keep it all to themselves.  They are proud of what they’ve done and the times they represent, and are only to happy to share what they know with anyone who demonstrates an interest. 

Take a camera with you and take lots of pictures.  Pictures can be an immense aid when you start putting your own outfit together. 

Although the re-enactor strives for as much historical accuracy as is possible, exceptions are made in some matters.  It is no longer possible to ride out and bring down a buffalo before dinner, and so the convenience of the modern cooler (of course properly disguised, or hidden) is usually allowed.  Other exceptions for sanitation, and for health and safety reasons, are also overlooked.  Different rendezvous will have different rules regarding what is acceptable or not, and different ways of enforcing those rules.  It might behoove one to question the rendezvous booshway prior to attending a specific event.  Also, be aware that many "Rendezvous" would be better characterized as "theme camping" rather than truly historically accurate.


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