For the Love of History
by Erica Hartwell

This essay was submitted to seven colleges during the author's application
process.  The purpose of the essay was to describe a significant life
experience.  All seven colleges, including Cornell University, accepted the
author's application for admission.
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When I was three years old my father, stepmother, and I embarked on a
historical journey in New Hampshire back 150 years- to the days of Western
pioneers and mountain men.  We attended our first Northeastern Primitive
Rendezvous, an annual gathering of men, women, and children who enjoy
camping historically and reliving their history.  Every year thousands of people,
not only at the NEPR, but all over the country and all summer long, dress and
live like their historical counterparts.  I never realized what a worthwhile
obsession it was until 1996 when my family went to our first reenactment.  Living
History is different from rendezvouses in that they are held at historical forts
instead of rented field, and the attendees “reenact” battles that took place there
instead of just relaxing and socializing.  Living History is also strictly focused on
a specific war instead of a span of 200 years.  
Inspired by the dedicated individuals who surrounded us, I fell in love at my first
Living History event.  I was impressed by the stone strongholds of the fortresses
and barricades.  I was excited to watch the enthusiastically executed battles.  I
grew to admire and respect every person there- whether they be a perfect
stranger or my closest friends.  I loved them all because they spent their
weekends enduring 90 degree sun, torrential downpours, and relentless
mosquitoes while wearing awkward layers of leather, wool, and linen and
sleeping on the ground inside a canvas tent.  Some of them do it for the physical
challenge- to test their will and stamina.  Some do it because they want to pay
homage to their ancestors, the creators of their past and present.  Some do it
because they simply like to play dress-up- whether it’s the gallant soldier, the
unorthodox Indian, or the inviting peddler.  I do it for all of those reasons.  
For a majority of the weekends of my summers since 1996 I have traveled all
over New England participating in the Living History of the French and Indian
War Battles and encampments, as an Abenaki girl.  I’ve made some of the best
friends I’ll ever have at those events; it’s easy to make new friends at these
events because you know that everyone has something in common with you- a
deep reverence for their heritage and the passion to recreate it.  It is this
reverence that draws all sorts of people from business executives to
construction workers to become reenactors.  There is a proud and awesome
feeling in wearing the same gear your ancestors had worn, whether it be
moccasins or a petticoat, looking out across the same expansive garrison that
they fought so hard to control.  While your eyes roam through the clusters of
people, dressed historically and talking amicably amongst themselves, you can
smell the smoke seeping from the fires as dinner is prepared, and watch it drift
upward, past sanctified mountain peaks which have witnessed so much sorrow
and even more triumph.  Finally, the smoke and your eyes meet the sky, where
the souls of every individual you are honoring is watching, guarding you.  It is
then that your heart smiles, and you are reminded in that moment what they
fought for, what you are living for, and what you are passing on to the future.

ELNU Abenaki
 © 2006 Elnu Abenaki Tribe