Some good things in life will be lost due to the COVID pandemic. The people in my generation grew tired and lacked the energy to put on important events and work jobs with little return. No one in the following age group is stepping forward to take up the slack. This year will be the last year for KohKohMah and Foster Living History Encampment at its current location.
The man who owns the property where the event takes place every year won’t be doing it anymore. There is talk of holding the event at a city park, but it will lack the authenticity of the current location. Rooster and I knew if our granddaughters were ever going to experience this important reenactment of history, we had to make the trip this year. We traveled through country roads until we discovered the signs directing us to the KohKohMah and Foster Living History Encampment.
The KohKohMah and Foster Living History Encampment represent the period of Indiana’s past where many cultures clashed. The fur trade brought the peoples of France, England, and the native population of the Great Lakes together for trade. Beaver hats were all the rage in Europe. Having one or more became a symbol of wealth and prestige. Competition for these coveted furs created conflict between trappers, traders, and local native populations. Obtaining these precious commodities often resulted in open warfare.
KoKoMah takes the participants and visitors to a time before the French left the Great lakes region in 1753. The end of the French and Indian War forced them to leave the Great Lakes Region of the United States. The British became the sole trade avenue left open to the native population, and they introduced whiskey as the main currency for the purchase of furs. The fur trade spun out of control. Beaver became extinct in Indian due to overhunting. KohKohMah’s timeline takes the participants back to the time of the French and Indian War.
Why KohKohMah and Foster Living History Encampment is so important
This living history encampment takes both the visitor and the participant back to an age before television, automobiles, and cell phones. The event, filled with the rich history of the early settlers coming into contact with the native population, becomes an important link to our nation’s past. It demonstrates the way a conflict taking place beyond the sea affected people on the uncharted frontier. The current location is the perfect natural setting in which the story can best be told.
The site is off the beaten path in dense woods with a creek running through it. There isn’t the sound of a single car passing or amplified music from radios. The only modern piece of technology was the cell phones used to take pictures. The imagination could easily place the people wearing period clothing in the 1700s. I fear moving the reenactment to a city park will cause it to lose much of its historic atmosphere.
Our experience at KohKohMah and Foster Living History Encampment
Our adventure crew had to stand in line to get into the event. The women working the front table dressed in period clothing made us feel welcome. We walked down a dirt path and entered a world of fur trappers, traders, and people of the First Nation.
A lady working a booth at what resembled a makeshift trading post helped our oldest granddaughter make a trade neckless. The younger one wanted to move on because she heard they had sheep. Her main goal in life is to see animals. While we stood there, a teenage boy dressed in period clothing came to the camp to enjoy a soft drink. I found the contrast between the old and the modern shocking.
We found the sheep. Both girls had to stop and pet the furry animals. A young woman sitting at a spinning wheel made yarn out of sheep’s wool. We saw a man singing folk songs and playing guitar on an earth stage down below. On our way to the Native American encampment, a young man showed us how to play a popular gambling game. We decided the odds were in his favor and decided not to waste a dollar.
First Nation village at KohKohMah and Foster Living History Encampment
We strolled through the makeshift fort and entered the First Nation village. Wigwams constructed traditionally caught our eye. The girls met an interesting young woman. She knew a lot about Native American life. They became entertained with the inside of the wigwam and learning how to grind corn. One of the actors talked to Rooster and me about relationships between the First Nation and trappers. He found roadkill and processed their fur traditionally. The youngest granddaughter wanted nothing to do with the recycled fur since they were made from dead animals.
An area set up with logs represented a meeting spot between the French and Natives held to discuss their role in the upcoming conflict. The girls found a bridge to walk across. The First Nation camp was the most tree-covered section of the entire KohKohMah and Foster Living History Encampment.
Before we left KohKohMah and Foster Living History Encampment
We returned to the encampments on the other side of the fort. We wandered through the various displays. The most interesting exhibit ended up being the oxen. These beasts of burden pulled wagons loaded with items needed for life on the frontier. The man conducting the event told us space on the wagon belonged to items needed for settlement. Families walked hundreds of miles to get to where they were going. The girls visited the sheep again, and we listened to some bagpipe players. Everyone was hot and tired. We decided to call it a day.
The KohKohMah and Foster Living History Encampment proved to be a unique historical experience. I hope they find a way to keep this event at its current location. It is ideal to have the activities take place in this wooded area than in a city park. I don’t think the event will have the same original feel. I think many important things will be lost because of COVID and my generation growing tired. It’s part of human nature not to miss a person or activity until they are gone. I think KohKohMah and Foster Living History Encampment will be one of those things we take for granted and later long for its return.
Who is Molly Shea?
Molly Shea is an accomplished fictional short story writer from Indiana who writes short stories and novels about a fictional town called Tecumseh. To read more of her short stories and adventures, click here.
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