For those non-committal people looking for something different to do this summer, Jefferson Patterson Park and Museum has the event for you.
JPPM is holding its inaugural Wigwam in a Week program.
Beginning Monday, July 15 and running through Friday, July 19, children ages 10 and older can participate. The week-long event runs every day from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. With the program’s drop-in policy, there is no commitment for a week. One can choose the day they want to attend. If they’re going to participate more than one day, the choice is theirs.
“The idea of the drop-in is that it is not a camp,” Debra Rantanen, director of education at the park, said. “You don’t need to commit to every day. You need to check-in at the visitors center, so we can monitor how many folks are there. Come with a snack, lunch, and a drink. We will have all the tools that people will need. We are saying ages 10 and up.
If you are bringing a child that is 10 and they don’t want to stay by themselves, and you are just monitoring them, we won’t charge the adult. However, if an adult wants to participate, they can, by all means. They can pay the drop-in fee and participate. If they like it, then they can come back another day.”
The goal of the program is pretty self-explanatory; it is to recreate an authentic wigwam in the park’s Eastern Woodland Indian Village.
“The village has got a number of wigwams, and they always need to be replaced as they are made of all-natural materials,” Rantanen said. “Our idea for this event is we have one wigwam that we would like to get completed. We have the frame, but we don’t have any of the covering for it.”
Participants will peel bark, bend tree limbs, and tie limbs together to make an exterior frame to hold the mat that will function as the covering for the wigwam.
“The event will be staffed by our village manager Nathaniel Salzman, who is very knowledgeable in what we call primitive technologies and experimental archaeology,” Rantanen said. “Nate is able to explain where these natural resources came from, how the whole process used to work, and how the process we are using works now.”
Salzman is knowledgeable on the subject, but he is also quick to point out that this wigwam building experience is not a difficult one.
“It just takes some time,” Salzman said. “If you can tie your shoes, you can participate. Tying things will be the biggest struggle. So, if you can tie your shoes, you can do any step in the process.”
Along with other members of the village staff, Salzman will walk participants through the process.
“Right now, we have a frame that is built, but we need to cover it, and that is the challenge,” Salzman said. “As we are coving it, you are going to learn about how we built the frame as well as the exterior frame that we will build to hold the covering.”
Rantanen said because the process is multi-step, people will not be repeating their experience if they come multiple days.
“So, someone could pick to come to the park on a day,” she said. “People could spend the morning weaving the mat that we are going to put up on the wigwam. Maybe they will be peeling trees, or they apply the bark. There are a number of steps that finishing up a wigwam entails. We thought we would give people some hands-on experience.”
Attendees will be replacing a weathered wigwam, and their finished product will be housed as part of the park’s permanent collection in the village.
“We had a wigwam in the spot where we are building the new one,” Salzman said. “It was starting to get old and a little sloppy looking. It was starting to get run down, so it was time to take it down. So, we did, and we are just building a new one in its spot.”
The program is an extension of the work the park does with the village.
“We had done a number of activities like native skills activities down in the village,” Rantanen said. “We run a very extensive field trip program for kids here. This the first time we have tried this drop-in program, it is kind of an experiment as we don’t know how many people will show up.”
While the inaugural wigwam building event has a lot of variables that are unknown to Rantanen and Salzman, both agree the end result is non-negotiable, a finished wigwam.
“By the end of the week,” Rantanen said, “we hope to have another completed wigwam that will become part of the permanent exhibit.”