Moffat County students immerse themselves in the 1800s |

Moffat County students immerse themselves in the 1800s

Maybell and Ridgeview Elementary School students re-enact the rendezvous

Michael Neary
AT MAYBELL ELEMENTARY SCHOOL: Hunter Minica, second from left, and Cactus Barnes talk about a trade, as Alana McIntire and Ethan Vasquez look on. Hunter and Ethan, from Ridgeview Elementary School, and Cactus and Alana, from Maybell Elementary, were among about 50 students re-enacting the early 1800s.
Michael Neary

The art of trading was among many activities students at Maybell and Ridgeview Elementary schoolRidgeview Elementary schools practiced on Wednesday, just as if they lived in the early 1800s.s practiced on Wednesday, just as if they lived in the early 1800s.

Ridgeview Elementary schools practiced on Wednesday, just as if they lived in the early 1800s.

“I like that sometimes if you trade a lot of little things, you can get a big thing,” said Alana McIntyre, a Maybell Elementary School fourth-grader.

The students were re-enacting the practice of the rendezvous starting in the 1820s in Northwest Colorado, in which settlers were engaging in trades with Native populations.

Carol Kilmer, the teacher at Maybell Elementary, described the way the children liked to imagine themselves living in a different time — and in the same place.

“They’re actually re-enacting life long ago,” she said. “They just think it’s exciting — the culture and the way of life were different, and they’re glad they can participate.”

Darvy Christiansen, teacher aide at Maybell, noted some realistic touches during the day’s events.

“I brought Play-Doh, and the kids made their own bowls because mountain men couldn’t just come up with their own plastic ware,” she said.

Kilmer and Christiansen, talking as the day’s activities were winding down, described a variety of stations that the children visited. Rachel Portwood, a wildlife refuge specialist with the Browns Park National Wildlife Refuge, presented a station with furs and skulls and other items.

Gonk Jacobs brought a tepee that generated much interest, and Howdy Davis demonstrated use of a tomahawk, Kilmer said. There was also a skillet toss, along with additional information on Native American culture presented by Christiansen. Students also played an “old-time game,” as Kilmer put it, of fox and geese.

Davis, a member of the American Mountain Men, said he wanted to let the students know that their ancestors were hunters and gatherers. He brought beaver pelts and beaver hats and other items people used to survive back in the early 1800s.

“My primary goal was to get across to them that In survival it was fire, water, shelter, food,” he said.

He also noted that survival in Northwest Colorado today harbors challenges that didn’t exist in the 1820s.

“One of the things I pointed out to the kids is that today there is no way you could go and drink out of a stream or lake or river because the water was so polluted,” he said, noting that he tells them that water has to be boiled in a pot for 20 minutes before drinking.

Davis characterized the tepee as a supremely livable dwelling — a point confirmed by Jacobs.

“You’d be surprised,” Jacobs said, “how many people in Craig have spent a year in them.”

Gary Hertzog came in from Steamboat Springs to talk to the students about tepees and the history of the rendezvous period. Hertzog attended school in Maybell, and his family history there reaches back to 1909. He still owns property in Maybell.

“The trappers spent a lot of time with the Native American tribes every chance they got because that was a big part of survival,” Hertzog said after the events, describing a message he wanted to communicate to the students.

Hertzog, who’s built tepees for about 20 years, said Jacobs’ three-pole tepee, 22 feet in diameter, is akin to the kind used by Sioux tribes. The students, he said, were largely familiar with the concept of the tepee, having seen plenty of them set up in the area.

He said they also asked good questions.

“Most knew what they were, and several had been in them,” he said.

Heather Trapp, a fourth-grade teacher at Ridgeview Elementary School, described some ways the day re-enforced classroom lessons.

“At rendezvous in the 1800s the mountain men and the Native Americans would go and trade,” she said, noting that students learn about that practice in the economics unit of third-grade social studies.

By the time Wednesday’s rendezvous activities rolled around, Trapp noted, the students were ready.

“They all knew how to barter and trade,” she said.

Contact Michael Neary at 970-875-1794 or Contact Michael Neary at 970-875-1794 or or follow him on Twitter @CDP_Education.Contact Michael Neary at 970-875-1794 or or follow him on Twitter @CDP_Education.

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