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Travel log for the Living History Camp


Article contributed by: Western Advantures

Plains Indian life was carried out at 4 levels: the family, the community, the tribe and the society. Everyone agreed that for the general good of the community it is better to give than to receive.

Day 1

Arrival in the Laramie airport, or you can be picked up at DIA-Denver airport on a special request. Staying one day in Laramie and resting in the Annie Moore's Guest House (...a continental style bed and breakfast), visiting Wyoming Territorial Park, and tour of Laramie. Yes, finally you reached Wyoming. The last frontier, and wild west, where cowboys are walking on a streets of small towns, where children are riding horses along dirt roads, and wild horses are quietly feeding on a prairie. Even driving from Denver, will give you a taste of open spaces, beautiful mountains, and seeing antelope you will enjoy this ride.

Laramie is called the "Gem City of the Plains". Laramie was established in 1868 during a time of the building the Union Pacific Railroad route westward. It is also well known from women's suffrage activities, as the place where the first women in the nation voted in an open and public election and the world first jury to have women members. This small university town has several attractions worth of seeing, they are the Geology Museum, Art Museum, Laramie Plains Museum and Territorial Prison. The restore 19th century Wyoming Territorial Prison was once a home for Butch Cassidy. Butch was imprisoned on July 15, 1894 for steeling horses. The park includes a recreated Wyoming Frontier Town featuring living history interpreters, period crafts/trade demonstrations and Western- style entertainment. Children will have a lot of fun, trying to help a sheriff catch "escapees from the prison". And this is just the beginning of our activities to reenact life from the 1860's.

Day 2 "Tepee day"

Arriving at the Living History Camp. Our camp is located approximately 40 miles/60 km northeast from Laramie on the 32000 acre (128 km2) Vale Ranch, in the Laramie Mountains. The area has spectacular granite outcrops, mountain meadows, creeks and the Laramie River. You will be surrounded by incredible beauty of one of the largest and undisturbed shortgrass prairies in the U.S.

Each family will be located in a separate tepee. Bison or other wild animal skins will be furnished for your bed for a few days. Everybody will be introduced to our instructors. Dave Wilson (Ph.D.) has specialized in Indian traditions, historical perspectives, and Indian society and culture. He has presented over 500 historical talks, including seminars at the Northern Tribal Association Pow Wow to Cheyenne, Sioux, Crow, and Comanche tribes. Roy Martin (M.S.) is a recognized expert in the making and decorating of Indian clothing and accoutrements. He participated in several films including a film starring Kevin Costner and has been a model for western artists. He will be teaching bead work and how to make moccasins. Brian Waitkus (B.A.) an archeologist, will present a talk on Indian culture through time. Pat Stoddard trains wild horses and is an expert at horseback warfare. He will be teaching how to make authentic Indian weapons. Our cook, Kathleen Clymer will prepare traditional Indian foods including wild game dishes and will have lectures about Indian cooking.After lunch we will have seminars and discussions about life in a tepee. Topics include: "The Indian tepee, its history, construction and use"; "Manners of daily Plains Indian life"; Lesson on making fire using flint and steel; Construction and discussion of an Indian altar.

Presently, Indian's tepees are made of canvas, because one made of bison skins would cost about $8000. Tepees in our Camp will be of the Crow Indian style. Crow Indians liked a white unpainted tepee with white flags flapping in a wind. The color of the flags on a top of the pools and the shape of masts were important indications of specific tribes, and from far distances they could be recognized. Everything in a tepee had specific meanings and its own place. The man of the family was sitting on a buffalo skin in a the back center, women were sitting on a left side, guest on a right side and in a middle was fire. Nobody could walk between fire and people, but they could walk between people and the tepee wall. Keeping fires was a very important role of women, besides cooking, collecting plants and herbs, cleaning and working on hides. Soil dug out to make fire pit was used for the construction of altar, which was kept on a left side of the man. It contained four feathers thrusted into the soil which indicated the different directions of the world. Everybody participates in setting up a Plains Indian tepee and making arrangements inside the tepee (e.g. making beds, hanging the tepee liner etc.). The use of a liner provides a source for air circulation and plays a role of a shade or blinder. Prior to dinner we will have a seminar about the XIX century history of Plains Indians, their population, achievements, and traditions. Certain tribes were always on the Plains-Apache, Blackfoot, Arapaho and Kiowa. From approximately 1775, the land dominated by the various Plains tribes were set and with the spread of the horse, a common buffalo-and horse oriented pattern of life had emerged which lasted till about 1875. Many of the tribes had to form alliances with each other in order to survive against the elements and hostile attacks. The Crows kept good relationship with Hidatsas. The Sioux, Cheyenne and Arapaho were close enough to combine their forces against the US army when circumstances demanded it.

Because of its central location the Great Plains became a natural storage and redistribution shed for prehistoric and historic tribes. Trade occurred even between enemy tribes such as Sioux and the Crow who used neutral tribes to exchange goods. At their population peak, around 1800, all of the Plains tribes together counted for no more than 200,000 people with the totaling Crow about 4000.

After dinner (we will serve wild game dishes) there will be a show of sign language, and camp dances. Sign language was well developed for Plains Indians. Some authorities argue that the need for trade led to the development of sign language. This allowed tribes with different languages to communicate. Also the sign language could be seen from a distance past hearing range.

Day 3 "Casual" day

After breakfast we will build a sweat lodge (Indian sauna). Sioux, the Crows, the Cheyenne, and Mandans had a custom of washing each morning and evening. The sweat lodge was used quite intensively, and it played a central role in the Indian life.

After lunch there will be seminar about quillwork and beadwork, clothing, hair styles, and jewelry of Plains Indians. Discussion will include different tribal designs and colors of beadwork.

Before the European traders came to the Plains country with their glass beads, the quill of the porcupine was used for decoration. The other native beads were fashioned out of shell, stone, bones of fish and animals, deer hoofs or toes, teeth, and seeds. "The modern style" of beadwork came into Plains Indian between 1870 and lasted until 1900. The Sioux, Cheyenne and Arapaho confined themselves to the lazy stitch; the Blackfoot, Plains Crees, and Flatheads made exclusive use of overlay.

After the seminar everybody will begin to make their own moccasins, bead work, and try to paint faces. Cheyenne Indians painted their faces every day to show their feelings. Crow Indians seldom painted their faces except for special ceremonies or battles. Painting has several meaning including way to scare enemy and for its power as a medicine/magic. After dinner featuring a main dish made of wild game (elk, deer, or moose) everybody can take a sweat bath.

Day 4 "Warrior day"

After breakfast there will be a discussion on Indian warfare and demonstration of war tactics by instructors with and without the use of horses.

All Indian men were trained to become a warrior. There were two main types of trips made into an enemy territory. Some journeys were to fight with the enemy, but majority was to capture horses. Horse-raiding groups consisted of up to twenty persons while war parties ranged from fifteen up to several hundred men. Each group included young men for the training purposes. Raiding trips were usually short lasting for two weeks. Some lasted for several months. On foot or horseback the war party traveled on a prairie, with the war leader always in front and the youngest men last. (Picture: Pat)

After lunch, a seminar and discussion about Indian war weapons and their uses: bows, arrows, lances, knives, clubs, hatchets and guns will be presented. The primary weapon was the bow and arrow. Two type of lances were used by Plains Indians, the hunting and the war lance. War lance was more decorated than hunting lance and many were wrapped with strips of animal fur, such as otter, beaver, mink and weasel. It was thought that a lance wrapped with their fur would manifest the same abilities to fight the enemy. (PICTURE: bigbow)

Later we will learn how to make ("knap") your own arrow head or knife using authentic Indian stone tools (antler and stone). (PICTURE: tools). Before dinner we will play a game which was a way to learn how to participate in battle (the way of Indian "war" training). Instructors will be demonstrating the warfare skills (tracking, camouflage, etc.) in a simulated Indian battle. After dinner (featuring wild game dishes) the seminar about battles of Plains Indians and about the life of typical Plains Indian warrior will be presented.

Day 5 "Hunting and Gathering" day

After breakfast we will have a seminar about "Indian and the buffalo" including how the Indian hunted and procured buffalo. Hide preparation methods and the uses made of the buffalo will be presented. The major part of Indian life revolve around buffalo. (PICTURE: bison2.jpg) They moved with them during all but the winter months. All of Plains tribes had special songs which in they believe would make a buffalo approach their camp areas. Buffalo was a main diet of the Plains Indian. They make many uses of each buffalo part. The preparation of hide was a role of women. They used urine and brain of buffalo which contained a special type of acids and oil good for skin preparation. The buffalo also played an important role in Indian religion.

After lunch we will show the way a buffalo was hunted. Later, our cook will have seminar on the Indian's way of cooking, type of foods and everybody will help to prepared real Indian meal. After a traditional Indian dinner everybody will work on crafts and bead work and try to finish their own moccasins.

Day 6 "Indian game" day

After breakfast there will be a seminar on the social customs of Warrior Societies and Indian games.

Indian parents and grandparents often expressed a great love and fondness for their children and they never abused them in any way. When children were four or five years old, they received their own clothing, utensils for eating, tools for use in their activities and a separate bed. They have also received fine clothing for participating in festivals. Children's game were educational and played a significant role in their development. We will play some Indian games such as hoop and stick, hand and plum pit. After lunch we will hike to an 80 foot (24 m) water fall. On a way we will have opportunity to see Wyoming wildlife such as mountain sheep, mule deer, elk, antelope, golden eagles, and coyotes.

Day 7 "Archeology" day

During this day we will have a possible expedition to the archeological excavation site and visit other archeological sites e.g. stone circles in Sybille Canyon. The archeological site is on of the oldest in Wyoming and may dated back 10,000 years old. We will go for a hike and on a way we will see Indian artifacts such as flakes, which are the stone chips removed during the making of arrow heads.

In a evening we will have a seminar about the prehistory of the Plains Indian. We will discuss the life ways (hunting styles, projectile points, housing etc.) of various tribes and how they changed through time

Day 8 "Final" day

After breakfast everybody will finish Indian crafts, weapons, moccasins. During this last half day of free time everybody can consult our instructors and ask as many questions as possible. After dinner we will depart to Laramie and it depends on your own schedule of you will stay in the Annie Moore's Guest House or depart.