Sunday, August 11, 2013

The Media Day and Open House: A Great Ending to a Memorable Experience

A view of the site from the entrance

Wow, what a fast, but fun weekend! On Media Day we had the opportunity to show off our progress to the local news services in the morning, attending eight speakers, each of which gave short but heartfelt speeches. I was fortunate enough to be chosen as this year’s Media Day student speaker so I joined in the fun of speaking in front of the crowd of about 50 people. Because I am a Native American of the Ojibwa people, I gave my speech from the Native American perspective of Fort Saint Joseph, its history, and the results of the archeological work done at Fort Saint Joseph. To paraphrase, the Fort and its inhabitants were unique in that they shared French culture with the local Native Americans. The cultural mixing of religious beliefs, art, clothing, food ways, medicines, etc…, was done in such a way that the Fort becomes an inspiration for those who wish to see present and future generations not only tolerate each other’s cultures, but share them as well. The media and attending officials took all of the speeches to heart, and it was a great way to advertise and begin the Open House.
18th-centrury food being cooked and provided by TartTown
Saturday and Sunday were both very busy, with about 1,500 excited and curious visitors attending, as well as plenty of re-enactors of 18th century life on the frontier of New France. Each morning was spent in preparation and set up for the event, as well as wrapping up some work in our respective excavation units. From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. we manned stations showcasing our work for the public to circulate between, including: an artifacts table displaying this and previous year’s finds, a zoo-archeological table with Dr. Terry Martin describing the significance of animal bones, and a children’s station where kids could play with wooden muskets, walk on stilts, put sherds together to make a complete ceramic plate, and even sift through a “unit” of dirt and find interesting “artifacts” related to the site, such as ceramics, bones, or seeds. We also stood near the excavations and wet screens, explaining the processes of excavation, wet-screening, artifact preservation, and interpretation of artifacts and features. Every station held its own excitement, due to the curiosity and engagement of the public.
I once again had the opportunity to speak to the public on Saturday, this time on the subject of Native American Food Ways. Rather than speak from the podium, however, I decided to lead a guided discussion on the subject, inviting the participants to engage my knowledge of the dig site and the history and culture of Fort Saint Joseph, while bringing our thought process back to Food Ways. Interesting topics of discussion were the location of bones in relation to living spaces, the types of bones and the significance of large amounts of deer bone, and Native agricultural methods, such as the “three sisters” system of farming.
Che explaining the interpretation of a few units
While the purpose of the Open House itself was to invite the public to see our work and explain the importance of archaeological study at Fort Saint Joseph, I always believe that the end goal of any study of human activity, whether it be historical, cultural, or a mixture of both, should be for the good of the public and the public’s education. It is quite obvious that visitors grasped the importance of Fort Saint Joseph as a site of cultural and historical significance, where the French and Native Americans were able to form a unique community from people of different social, economic, cultural, and linguistic and subsistence backgrounds. The research, in the end, informed the public as to the realities for French and Native American, as well as later inhabitants of the region. In short—there was a lot of learning going on, and not all of it from the public.
The participation of the public and their appreciation for the work at Fort Saint Joseph was amazing. We are all truly grateful for a public that values the importance of discovering our past, especially when we can use our knowledge to inspire a better future. They truly embody the mantra of the Field School:




Heather said...

Great post Seth! Congratulations to the whole project for another very successful Open House!

ME said...

Nice job--as I have come know to expect from you! Always sad to see the end of the Season!