The Native¹s Perspective on Lake George
by Tory Longtoe Sheehan
Age: 17
Program: Forestry &
Natural Resources
Town of Residence: Jamaica
Hobbies: Kayaking and camping

If you think a weekend French and Indian War, Revolutionary War or Civil War
reenactment is cool, you should definitely check out the Lake Event!  You¹re
probably thinking, “Hmm, Lake Event, that¹s not
interesting.” Well,it¹s actually called the Lake George Battle Tactical Event but
we call it the “Lake Event” for short. It¹s a week-long, trek/tactical event, that is
based on the French and Indian War. Every year it starts in October on
Columbus Day, and takes place on Lake George in New York.  All of the natives
that re-enact, including me, participate in this living history event and try to
dress, think and live as close as possible to the way our native ancestors did. It
is based around the 1750 Battle Tactical.  For the natives, it has more
importance because our ancestors lived and died on the land and waters of
Lake George.  The borders of the area we use are from St. Sacrament Island to
the north, ten miles south down the lake to Shelving Rock, the east and west
shores, and all the land and waters within those borders.
Now, as most people know, October is a bit chilly, so what we natives carry for
warmth are linen long sleeved shirts, wool long sleeved shirts, wool capotes (a
French style coat), wool or buckskin breach clout, a pair of wool or buckskin
leggings, wool or leather mittens, a pair of wool socks, a pair of moccasins or a
pair of French style shoes that would have been traded in the 1700s, an oilskin
canvas, and one to two wool blankets. All of the clothing I just mentioned we
wear for a whole week, sometimes longer.
The canvases are used for making our shelters. The most common shelter set
up is the diamond shelter. One corner of the canvas is tied about five feet up in
a tree, and the other three corners spread out to the ground and are staked.  
Sometimes when we don¹t want to be too high profile we just roll up in our wool
blankets and canvases, and when we especially wouldn¹t have a fire going, we
call this ³cold camping.²
The foods we bring on the lake are the types of food that would have been
eaten three hundred years ago, or at least we try getting them as close as
possible. We eat foods such as crushed hominy, smoked jerky, apples, salted
pork, dried peas, and chocolate, you can¹t forget chocolate! These types of
foods can last up to a week or two without going bad. Also, most of the foods
would have been given by the French, like the salted pork, dried peas, apples
and chocolate.
For the natives the lake is a special place where we get to practice Native skills
that we don¹t get to do any other time, such as tracking, old time camping,
canoeing, and old time traditional war tactics. Have you ever heard the term
“Indian File”? This is when you need to move fast down a path to make time.
Each man is spaced out about fifteen to twenty feet. The men don¹t bunch up
because if a shot is fired at them, hopefully only one man gets hit. This way the
rest of the men could break up and scatter or hinge in on the enemy.  Another
technique is to move in an extended line. This is much safer, but a slower way
to move through the woods. Every man is spaced out fifty or more feet a part
keeping eye contact to the man left and right of them. The line moves forward
like a broom sweeping the forest. Only hand signals and bird calls direct the
line. When the enemy is found the line moves in such away to encircle them. In
the old days the natives were known to extend these lines up to a mile or more.
In addition to tracking, whenever we come up on a stream bed or a muddy area
my dad has us fan out and look for tracks, both animals and humans because it
tells us who and what is out there with us.  
It¹s not just all maneuvering through the woods or sitting on guard duty. On
some nights, we sit around the fire or canoe down the lake on a star lit night
singing Abenaki songs and listening to the echoes bounce off the mountains.
Sometimes we tell traditional stories, which is a way for us to get closer to our
heritage. I have been going to this living history event now for five years with
members from my family and tribe (EL-NU). What I enjoy most of all about
participating in this event is learning the history of my people, and the history of
Lake George and the French and Indian War, especially with it all being in one
If this at all interests you, I encourage that you do more research on this event
and the French and Indian War itself. Also, you can participate on the other
sides, such as the French or the British, as there are several groups of British
and French units if the native side doesn¹t quite match you. If you ever do get
into it, I¹m sure you¹ll enjoy it as much as I do!

                                                  © 2006 Elnu Abenaki Tribe
This story was originally printed in the Vermont Observer on Friday April 20,2007

ELNU Abenaki