DeKALB — Just west of the soccer fields at Kiwanis Park this weekend, Herb Heck’s tepee was hard to miss.
History educator Heck and the tall Native American tent were set up on the park grounds as part of a living history event that offered a glimpse into Native American and settler culture.
The event offered residents a chance to see what life was like for Native Americans and settlers in the 1830s to 1860s, and how the two groups worked and lived together, said Lori Tolliver, who owns Makwaj Trading in DeKalb and makes traditional Anishinabe crafts.
Heck, also known as “Dirty Kettle,” portrays a French trapper/mountain man that came West for fur trading. He said he enjoys exposing people to the Native American/mountain man culture in which he is well-versed.
“It’s called bringing history to life,” he said.
Tolliver worked with Boy Scout Troop 33 to organize the event.
“I’ve been wanting to do a living history event here in DeKalb because we don’t have one,” she said. “... To make a community really well-rounded, it needs to know who’s living there. This is an opportunity for [people] to come out and integrate themselves into that.”
The event featured Native American games and dancing, a wood carver and the Northern Illinois Outlaws, who dressed in period-appropriate cowboy gear.
With a living history event, “the education is the bottom line,” Tolliver said. She hopes to see it grow and become an annual event.
Cliff Golden, scoutmaster for Troop 33, said the weekend gives children an idea of what it was like to be a boy or girl in the 1800s. Some of the Boy Scouts camped at the park Saturday night.
“This is what we had before Xbox,” he said of the Game of Grace, which involves a hoop and sticks and teaches coordination and timing.
Heck shares information on the Northern Cheyenne nation of Native Americans. He showed off features of the tepee and explained the meaning behind the instruments and items within it.
Most people haven’t been in a tepee, he said, and he loves to see the awe on children’s faces when they step inside. Next to the tepee was a quartermaster tent, which Golden said white settlers who trapped and traded would have used.
Under blue skies Sunday, Heck and a few Boy Scouts practiced different beats on a drum, which is brought out for ceremonies or celebrations.
As part of the Anishinabe nation, Tolliver’s 16-year-old son, Brandon, is passionate about his family’s culture. He’s also a member of Troop 33 and believes it’s important to keep the history alive.
“We’re not in a reservation lifestyle-setting right now, so a lot of people don’t know about native culture,” he said.
The more often things like the living history event are held, the more people will realize “native people are very much alive,” he said.
By CAITLIN MULLEN - firstname.lastname@example.org