By John Campbell
February 14th 2016 Mikhail and I set out for a week of fun and primitive skills. Once we arrived, all that could be learned there immediately overwhelmed me. There where so many amazing instructors like Dave Wescott, Cody Lundin, Hazen Audel, and Peter Bigfoot just to name a few. Personally, I found it impossible to go to all the classes in the week that the gathering took place. I guess that is why there is always next year.
Fist night was very special. We paid respect to all the great teachers that passed away the previous year. This was a magical and beautiful ceremony. Lanterns made of rice paper were lit and allowed to float high in to the air. The photos in my opinion, just can’t give this justice.
The first class I took part in was working with gourds where I made a gourd canteen. This class was taught by the Gourd Lady from Hell. She and her husband are two of the most knowledgeable people on the subject of utilizing them as well as growing them. We where able to keep the seeds from the gourds we chose giving me the opportunity to grow them at home. This would further my education on making primitive crafts from these awesome materials. We started out by choosing the gourd we liked best. We then proceeded to clean the gourds by scrubbing and washing them thoroughly. We would then cut them in such a way to make our chosen tool. Many made gourd bowls while other made canteens and masks for the coming dance on the following Thursday. Note: I did not fully complete my gourd canteen. I am waiting until spring to harvest my favorite willow bark to make a net and sling to carry it in.
Once these were cut, we cleaned them out by removing the seeds and scraping the interior to remove any spongy material. We then coated them with butcher-block oil to aid in sealing them for use. Once finished they took on a one of a kind beauty that is unique to each gourd. The molds that grow on them during the initial drying process leave unique markings and stains that literally “pop” when sealed with oil.
Next, I went on to learn more about atlatls from Atlatl Bob. I gained a ton of knowledge on throwing these while listening to the instructors. They guided me in a proper stance and throwing style. Mikhail and I must have spent several hours just refining our throw. We also learned a very easy way of building and attaining the necessary materials to build our own powerful atlatls and darts.
For me it was on to flintknapping. I have always been able to turn out some good usable points. However, I have never had any type of formal training on the subject. Garry and I sat for a couple of hours talking about the different types of points and techniques that flintknappers use to make gorgeous points while we broke stone. He showed me more about the subject than I had ever picked up from watching videos and reading articles. I learned about specific differences in technique between obsidian and chert. He even explained in such detail about abrading techniques. I also had some great conversation with Larry Kinsella about many different types of primitive shell and stone tools. One in particular tool that grabbed my interest was the Mississippian shell hoe as seen in the photos.
Mikhail went over the bow making class with Paul Rodgers. As I was taking photos of the class, Paul was speaking to Mikhail and I about material removal and explaining growth rings and the importance of these fundamentals. Even though I did not attend this class, the amount of information I picked up was priceless and the amount of skill that Mikhail attained has given him the ability to make a bow the right way.
Among many other classes, I was able to Check out and photograph so you can see what was available at Winter Count included pottery. I have a very big interest in this skill. Unfortunately, I messed the first Monday class. I will be taking this class in the future. Check out the rest of these great shots from Winter Count 2016.