Most of us reenact because we love history but on a recent but on a recent trip to Oklahoma, I met a man who reenacts events of the 19th Century for a completely different and perhaps more practical. To teach his children of their heritage and to teach them COMMON SENSE.
The man I met was Osage and his ancestors marched the Trail of Tears to Oklahoma – NOT one of America’s finest moments! Clearly, he wants not just his children but everyone’s children to remember that the Osage are a great nation and have had an advanced culture with literature, art, music, law and all the things that make a society great for well over 5000 years. Like many of us, he is out there debunking the decades of American Mythology that paint the Native Americans as savages. They don’t consider it “re-enacting” for the Native Americans its simply living their cultural heritage. For those of you who have not been, I strongly encourage you to attend a Pow Wow or other gathering of Native Americans. It’s as important as a trip to Williamsburg, Independence Hall, and the Alamo if you want to really understand who we are (should be) as Americans.
When I met this man, we were not at an event, and the fact that we were near an Indian Reservation was coincidental. He was my taxi driver and he was driving me for nearly an hour to the airport so ours was a conversation about shared passions not a discussion. For the most part we shared similar experiences but I found his remarks on “common sense” to be most interesting.
Having grown up in the Western US, I take a lot of my early life’s experience for granted. He reminded me of the self-sufficiency and self-reliance that were common in my childhood but not my kids. We didn’t have cellphones and were commonly “just out” for hours at a time on our own. We carried knives and made our own tools. We rode horses and bicycles for miles without GPS guidance (or even compasses) – on the prairie and in the forest. And we worked, not at the local fast food restaurant or retail store, but on the farm, building fences and barns, tending to large animals, cutting wood, and all the tasks needed to make our lives. All of these tasks were demanding and some were dangerous.
As a consequence of having to do for ourselves, of having to “figure out” all the things we needed to learn, not having an “out” when things got tough, we developed what we all consider to be “common sense” or the ability to judge what is likely to happen as a consequence of our actions. Every day we lament the fact that “common sense is not as common as it should be” but common sense is learned. Reenacting gives us the opportunity to teach common sense to our children.
In modern society, they are not allowed to carve things with knives and fell trees. They are forbidden to make fires and shoot guns. Rarely do we not know exactly where we are and where we are going. We tell them what they need to know and what they don’t know they look up on the internet. These, however, are great ways to learn common sense.
Common sense is learned from hardship. It is acquired by making mistakes and then dealing with the consequences. Reenacting allows us to live in world where our day to day experience is so different from the day to day of what was typical in 18th Century that we must relearn skills and this creates enough hardship to teach basic common sense. There are other ways but then we lose our cultural heritage…
Let go to a Pow Wow and learn… ?