Monday, October 3, 2011

Rural Indiana - circa 1750

This year's Feast of the Hunter's Moon was at the end of September.   It's held at Fort Ouiatenon [we-aht-non] just outside Lafayette, Indiana, every year - sometimes at the end of September, sometimes the first weekend in October.  Check the site for dates.

This gathering is a recreation of the annual gathering of fur traders and native Americans at Fort Ouiatenon during the middle of the 18th century.   It's a wonderful combination of wood smoke, food, musket fire, bagpipes, role playing and education all rolled into one weekend.

Yes, people do dress up.   No, not everyone.   It's fun if you do and it's fun if you don't.

There is so much to see there and the experience is so rich on so many levels, that I'm going to do a series of posts, just so I can break it down into [sort of] manageable topics. 

The event prides itself on being as authentic as is practical.   All food is cooked on fires.   All vendors are in costume.  All tents are canvas and any tricks used to keep things up and dry are well camouflaged.

Tents and camps at the voyageur camp.  These often had tables and chairs and china.  
We arrived in the morning at opening - it was cloudy and misty and the air was full of woodsmoke.  The vast majority of people there at that hour are in costume.  Our kids were in costume, too.  Visually, it was amazing.  [Amazing is a completely inadequate word, but I can't think of anything else that remotely comes close.]   

[Photo: In the center of the voyageur camp was a large campfire, where a lot of the traders and children gathered.  It was chilly, so the fires were larger to provide some much needed heat.   These participants sleep in these tents, on site.   The fires are necessary.]

I can't tell you how much fun this event was.   The sights, the smells, the meals, the set up, the costumes, the wonderful demonstrations - I haven't had that much fun in ages.

There were HUNDREDS of people in costume.   Here are a few:

One of the things that caught my eye right away was the fact that people of all ages dressed up and participated.   This was a family event.  

How cute is this?  Notice her wooden shoes.

Another family, there for the day to play.  

There was an abundance of soldiers.  If I were a great blogger, I'd tell you what each of these companies was, but I wasn't paying attention and don't know the costumes well enough to tell you.    My apologies.

 Soldiers with blue and red uniforms.

 Soldiers with fur uniforms

Soldiers with grey and green uniforms.

Soldiers with blue and white uniforms.

Each group of soldiers had its follwers - the women and families who cook and follow the camps.  [This was true historically, as well.]

We saw some great characters in these groups.  Look at her!

I wish I had gotten a better picture of the families in these groups.   Little ones in homemade wagons, toddlers led by the hand - everyone in costume. 

Part of the Indian encampment. 

K2 saw this and said it looked like a turkey exploded on his head.   You can't see the red and black face paint on this Indian.   Or the bare, tattooed legs and loin cloth.

Some of the Indian costumes were very elaborate.

So were some of the ladies' costumes.  There were fine ladies out and about, walking in groups, visiting the shops and food vendors.

These girls spent most of a year making their own costumes. 

More ladies in the encampments

There were fur traders.  A lot of these were in the voyageur camps.   [More on these and the canoes in the next post.]

We thought this guy's furs were pretty spectacular.  

I want to emphasize the family nature of the event.    Families participated at every level of the event - participants and visitors. 

Historically, boys as young as 11 years old enlisted with the soldiers.

You'll note here the number of women dressed up as soldiers.  This, of course, was NOT done historically, except in rare cases.  One famous case of a woman impersonating a male soldier during the Revolutionary war was Deborah Sampson.   She worked hard to not get caught.  [Forgive the split infinite.  It's a rural Indiana thing.]

Part of a teen drum and fife corp
As we watched one fine drum and fife corp in the drum and fife competition, I thought about the teens who formed their own corp, got costumes, learned the pieces, learned the formations, found others to be in the group and then took the time to practice for the event.  That's a lot of time and effort.  How often do you see that?  My husband said, 'There is a world of kids out there that you never see on TV.'     Very true.

There is a whole world of all sorts of things out there that you never see on TV.


  1. My husband and I go to this every year! Very fun!

  2. Hey Robin!!so long after you gave me the name of your blog I finally got here... you have an amazing blog! I love the variety of topics... I'll have to seat and read for ages!!! :o)
    The girls costumes are fan-tas-tic!!! they look great on them!!! I sure they felt very happy after spending all that time making them.
    Hope C is better today!!


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