Wow multiple posts in a week this is Crazy! Actually I blame the fact I ran out of powder, lead and beads all at the same time. This with the fact my family is now sprawled around the house Jonestown style in front of the air conditioners has cut back on my weaving. So I thought this was a perfect time to do a post about a new magazine some of you may have heard of “The Journal of the Early Americas”.
An old friend Gene contacted me some time ago and let me know about the magazine and asked if I’d be interested in submitting some articles. Of course I said yes (this is my standard answer when asked for an article) Then in typical me fashion I went thru my files reworked a few things I’ve written up , found a new subject to look into and then watched Mystery Science Theatre 3000 (I’ve got the ADD bad…Sorry Gene and Jason) want to ride bikes?
So….I decided after seeing Gene at Fort Niagara and going thru some issues of the magazine myself to get a better idea of what its all about to drop him an email with some questions on the journal to help spread the word.
Buffalo Trace Interview with Ph.D. Candidate, Publishing Juggernaut, and
N’er do Well of the Pays d’em Haut:
Eugene R.H. Tesdahl or Henri François Letannier
Buffalo Trace: You are one of the few people from academia that embraces the ideas of living history. How do you think this is an asset? IS it ever a hindrance?
Gene/Henri – Indeed, serving as a bridge between historical re-enactors and academics is one of my main life goals. I even wrote an article about this in Issue I of Journal of the Early Americas entitle “What an Amateur: Or, Why I love Re-enacting.” Re-enactors often feel academics are stuffy know-it-alls living high above society in their ivory towers, but never actually living enough to consider how some in colonial America would light a fire or catch a fish. Similarly, many academics feel living history participants are ignorant, self-appointed experts, with hokey clothing, who perhaps have never before cracked a book in their lives. Of course, both of these stereotypes are wrong. And yet, we all know enough in either camp to understand why such perceptions still exist. The truth is that re-enactors, academics, museum professionals, and historic site staff are all on the same team. We all love history and aim to share the most accurate and complete presentation of these stories to the public in insightful and hopefully, entertaining ways.
BT: Does Fred Anderson beat you with Crucible of War if you disagree with him? No really, you can share with us this is a safe place.
G/H – Choosing to study with Dr. Fred Anderson at the University of Colorado at Boulder was one of the best decisions I have made. Dr. Anderson is not only a brilliant historian, but an engaging and compassionate teacher, and a well-balanced and approachable person. In my experience, to get all these traits in one professor is truly remarkable. Dr. Anderson is proud yet humble of his works: A People’s Army, Crucible of War, Dominion of War, George Washington, and The War that Made America (This was the companion to the PBS mini-series about the Seven Years’ War). I read and re-read People’s Army and Crucible before I even applied to study with Dr. Anderson. I am able to speak my mind with my advisor. He genuinely listens to me and dedicates more time to me, than I think he should with such a rigorous teaching them more clearly, but with the same intent I had in mind. This all started when I traveled to the department to meet Drs. Fred Anderson and Virginia Anderson. She has also been inspirational in my time here at CU. One of her works should be on everyone’s shelves Creatures of Empire: How Domesticated Animals Transformed Early America. It is an artfully written mind blower. I encourage anyone interested in a graduate program to base that decision on the advisor – not the program or the name of the university alone. A graduate program is like an intimate relationship. When you meet the person, ask yourself if you will enjoy the next two to six years with this person? If you cannot answer yes, then grad school may not be for you. In my case, the past five years invested in Dr. Fred Anderson and the history department at the University of Colorado – Boulder is a decision well made. I do, however, look forward to graduation in May 2012.
BT: SO what is the main focus of your magazine?
G/H – Journal of the Early Americas is something I feel the re-enactment community has needed for over ten years. Interestingly, I never intended, nor imagined that I would be part of such a change. The idea to actually launch such a magazine only took form last summer. This is a family affair. It is the brainchild of my father-in-law Casey Criswell who has dabbled in muzzleloading and re-enacting since 1974. My sister-in-law Summer is the designer with a degree in graphic design. My wife Jasmine is the Public Relations department. I am the historical consultant who does the historical editing and fact-checking. Our friend David designed and maintains our wedsite and my mother-in-law Peggy puts up with our shenanigans. We launched in February 2011. We were even featured on National Public Radio – a link is still available on our website www.journaloftheearlyamericas.com with a file of that interview. Our mission is to be the premier publication for the history enthusiast and re-enactor portraying 1521-1848. We chose these dates to give concreteness to our scope: the founding of Mexico City to the end of the Mexican American War.
BT: What sets your magazine apart from the other re-enactor magazines out there?
G/H – We carefully chose our title to welcome both Mexican and Canadian re-enactors into the conversation. We also welcome those who portray non—English-speaking groups: Native Peoples, Spanish, Swedes, French, Dutch, Germans, and others. We aim to cover a blend of topics, not simply muzzleloading firearms. We include: trekking, cooking, music, politics, religion, and crafts of the period documented with primary sources written in a style approachable and useful to all. We see everything we publish as a conversation, not as a monologue or tirade for the author or us, the staff. It is a conversation including author, staff, and readers. It does not end when an article is finished or an issue goes to press. It continues in conversations, debates, and research that our readers do later. We value subscriber feedback. This is why we are here and the only way we can grow into the future.
BT: Do you swear at other grad students in French?
G/H – No. . . I do sometimes think about bizarre colonial approaches to classroom management though.
BT: The first time we hung out (in 2001 at Faire at New Boston) you taught me how to make basswood cordage what other skills do you feel folks from the French realm of the hobby should be focusing on?
G/H – Even then, I was impressed and happy to meet a young college student (Nathan Kobuck) who was even more talented and passionate about living history than I was. I still consider him a credit the hobby. The main thing that any re-enactor should do is see their persona development as a conversation too. It is an on-going one that grows over the years through research, reproducing items, and knowledge gained from learning by doing experimental archaeology. The moment you say “I am done” is the day you shut off your learning valve. This also inhibits your ability to teach others. Keep your mind open. Always consider art, primary and secondary writings about your period of portrayal, the role of language, the use of period body painting (tattoos), piercings, hair-styles, dress. Aim to be average – not the exception. Even if you bought that cool 1755 pocket watch from Antiques Road Show does not mean that the average coureur de bois would have had one. A re-enactor new to the hobby recently deeply impressed me. Though she was new, she knew she had a modern tattoo on her foot that would not fit her persona. Rather than simply flaunt this, or to wear shoes or mocs. She chose to go barefoot, but cunningly bandaged her foot with linen rag as if she was lame. This was a great fix to the anachronism and gave her a common talking point with which to engage the public about the poor medical knowledge of colonial life.
BT: You have a killer first-person persona as “Henri.” Do you have any tips to help others build on their first-person portrayal?
G/H – A friend told me that he is impressed when either old-timers or those new to the hobby improve their kit by one thing each time they go out. I aspire to this goal in either historical knowledge, devices to educate and entertain the public, or historical accoutrements. I consider this question often and will give a presentation on it, entitled The Art of First-Person Interpretation: Building or Repairing your Persona at the Grand Rendezvous at Grand Portage National Monument in northern Minnesota on August 14. I love first-person historical interpretation. I think it adds a productive element that we do not get when we simply don historical attire. It should not be entered lightly and should be done responsibly. No re-enactor should be forced into first-person. It is not for everyone. I began Henri fifteen years ago with little more than Pepe le Pieu accent and my engage (voyageur) gear. You have to start somewhere. Years later, with years of study of French, working in France, work on an Ojibwe reservation, two and a half history degrees, work experience at museums and historical sites, and nearly 1000 birch bark canoe miles under my belt I feel I have a more believable portrayal because much of this I have lived. As we go, we must build a persona into something useful for the public and FUN for us. Why do it if it isn’t fun? One final thought of first-person or re-enacting in general is that even if we get to a high level of accuracy in dress, speech, etc. We will always be twenty-first-century minds and bodies in historic gear and settings. This does not mean we should give up, but that we should always walk humbly with a thirst to learn and teach more.
BT: Does it make you sad that your “little” brother Ike has started wearing orange buckskins and calling himself griz?
G/H – Ha! That would be news to me, but like many of us he has that Multiple Re-enactor Personality Disorder (MRPD). I am blessed to have met Isaac Walters in the summer of 1999 when we were both in college in the Midwest. I was working at the Villa Louis Wisconsin State Historic Site in Prairie du Chien, WI. It was an instant friendship and has endured over the years. Isaac is a talented and knowledgeable teacher, researcher, writer, and re-enactor. He is a loving daddy to Noelle and Lili, a caring husband to the wonderful Hillary, and a generous friend. He is so dedicated to their sustainable life in Blair, WI, these days that seeing him is like sighting the Yeti. Yet, you may read of his exploits on his blog http://frenchinwisconsin.yolasite.com/my-blog.php I will get to see him soon at our old stomping grounds, Grand Portage.
G/H – Thanks for including me in this conversation.
Votre serviteur obeisant,
So that this isn’t totally devoid of historical content Here is a link to the google books version of “John Long's voyages and travels in the years 1768-1788”
This narrative is full of a lot of great info and focuses a lot on the life of a great lakes trader. Little details like shooting loons in the neck at 150 yards, how to stuff a head with moss, why laudanum is useful for traders. It sounds like a weekend with Ike and Henri…..
Saturday, July 23, 2011
Henri can write, Who Knew! Journal of the Early Americas
This is why we keep guns out of the hands of table monkeys...friends dont let Neal shoot.