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History comes to life

Phillip Lacy ChestertInd. (second from left white shirt) watches as OuiatenBrigade works start campfire as part 'History Comes Alive' weekend

Phillip Lacy of Chesterton, Ind., (second from left, white shirt) watches as the Ouiatenon Brigade works to start a campfire as part of the "History Comes Alive" weekend at the Indiana Dunes State Park in Chesterton. | Stephanie Dowell~Sun-Times Media

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Learn more

For more on programs at the Indiana Dunes
State Park, call 926-1390, or go to www.in.gov/dnr/parklake/2980.htm.

Updated: October 15, 2012 9:20AM



“Hi, guys,” Mike Murr said to the boys standing before him. “Bring any furs to trade?”

The boys didn’t have any furs, but they did have sticks, which Murr said could be used to club a beaver.

So began a brief history lesson on early French fur traders, who Murr, who is a member of the Ouiatenon Brigade in Lafayette, said came to the area from Montreal for beaver pelts. The traders took the pelts back to Montreal, where they were made into hats and then sold in Europe.

“By the 1600s, they had trapped all the beavers out of Europe,” Murr said, adding the traders turned their efforts to this area.

He and the handful of other historical re-enactors recreated a time period from the second half of the 18th century on the beach of Indiana Dunes State Park, just east of the pavilion, for the park’s “History Comes Alive” weekend, held Sept. 8 and 9.

Murr told Liam Rankin, 11, of Wanatah, and his cousins, Riley Joyce, 9, and Casey Joyce, 8, both of Chicago, that the fur traders traveled along the shoreline by canoe to the dunes shore, and then used the canoe for shelter. The canoes were made of birch bark, because the trees were readily available.

The traders brought European goods with them from Montreal, including wool, linen, beads and metals, and took the beaver pelts back with them.

“We were basically like the truck drivers of the time,” said Murr, who added the brigade has been participating in the history program at the dunes for at least 10 years.

Amy Rankin, Liam’s mom, said the family frequently comes to the state park because it’s close and, with family also in Chicago and South Bend, it’s a good meeting spot, especially for the camping.

“I think it’s amazing they set things up for the kids,” she said of the encampment.



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