I see two kinds of publications emerging from this event. Since there are so many sides to what took place, I would like us to solicit papers from as many viewpoints as possible and have them presented at the event to the extent possible or reasonable, and complied in a scholarly collection. It would mark our understanding of this history at this time; contain references to a broad range of works that are currently available and become a reference work for generations to come. Another – or maybe more than one – publication would be more of the memento/coffee table book kind. Something that people would want as a souvenir or history book for their family collection.
The scholarly collection would probably need financial support from wherever we can find it. I’m not sure how that usually works but think that we need to investigate how to make it happen. If we can find funding, we can look to both local and academic authors for input and compensate them. Much of the information we gather should also be made available online.
The more popular types of books should be able to support themselves and hopefully provide some income for the project itself. Finding authors and publishers willing to help with that will probably be a challenge, but should be explored.
Listening to scholarly talks should be part of the production, but I doubt it would draw many people. I think that building and using the different kinds of boats involved: canoes, dugouts, sturgeon-nosed kayaks, bateaux and the cedar planked kind developed by David Thompson are all interesting and could be one kind of event.
The lifestyles of both native people and the fur traders provide chances to cook and serve many kinds of food, show survival techniques and build housing examples. Music and dancing fit well into this kind of event.
If we want to attract tourists, providing tours would be a nice kind of event. That is a little hard to imagine during a global pandemic, but hopefully we will get past that soon.
Artists of many kinds could get involved. Life at the Falls involved a lot of trading too. Tastefully curated, booths for crafts and foods would fit into the model. Demonstrations and workshops on fishing, knapping arrowheads and knives, weaving baskets etc. would fit well. Ironwork and other crafts would also be of interest. We already have community celebrations that include these kinds of things. Coordinating with them would be well worth while.
Of course no matter what we plan and do, it amounts to nothing if people don’t know about it. Because it is hard to promote something still in the planning stages, full blow publicity will ramp up the year before the events when people can plan ahead, make reservations etc. But before that forming alliances with other historical, economic, governmental and tribal organizations will leverage what publicity we produce to a much wider audience. Also making video clips, writing press releases, sending bits about the bicentennial regularly can start very soon. In the early stages we will want to find volunteers and contributors of other kinds. So I think of publicity as an integral part of the process but also one that can be handled separately from the other parts. I’m sure there are people who are very good and experienced at this kind of thing and we need to find them.
As with the original founding of the fort, a lot of people and groups have been impacted over generations and will have something to say about the bicentennial. I think job one is to find these people and listen to their ideas, opinions and stories. Not everyone is going to jump into telling those stories but in this brainstorming and exploratory stage, we need to get as good an idea as possible what they are. Beyond that we need to establish communications with key individuals in each group that we can keep in the loop as things develop. There is a good chance those communications will build around some of the tasks outlined here with the people who take on those tasks, but reaching out and making the original contacts will be a big job. Every time I have an idea about what could happen I start to think of people we need to talk to about it first. Hopefully this document will reach some of those people and they will help us build a network to make this happen to everyone’s benefit. I think each of us needs to start listing people who we think should have a say. We can compare those lists so no one is getting contacts from multiple directions.
Last, but certainly not least, finance will be critical. The Heritage Network has always operated on a shoestring budget. This doesn’t look like something that will work without significant funds and accurate accounting. We will not only need to find resources and allocate budgets over timelines, we will need to be transparent about what we want to do, who we want to pay to do it and how that is working out. No matter how good, cool and important we think this project is, others will be putting it under a microscope. For every idea pursued in the previous tasks there will be ways and means to find for doing it. Then there will be documentation, security and justification needed to spend money, some of it even before we get it. So again this is a task that will need some dedicated attention.
On that cheery note, I’ll cut this off. I’ve always been proud of the high quality of people retaining our local history. The discussion is open. Let’s agree on some places to start.