Thursday, February 19, 2009

Beaver editorial considers the Plains of Abraham battle battle

My friends at The Beaver sent along a press release for the editorial that will run in the forthcoming issue. I don't usually hit you with long documents here, but it's not up anywhere yet... and it's damned well written.
Beaver Magazine Editor responds to cancellation of reenactments on the Plains of Abraham:

“Remembering the Past should transcend Politics”
(WINNIPEG February 18, 2009)
Mark Reid, Editor of The Beaver: Canada’s History Magazine has used his regular editorial page in the upcoming issue of the magazine to reflect on the decision to cancel the reenactments on the Plains of Abraham. A transcript of the editorial follows:

It was a crisp winter’s day in Winnipeg and Fort Gibraltar was abuzz as visitors at the Festival du Voyageur enjoyed a host of historical activities.
Ice carvers were finishing their frosty creations, while nearby, two women swathed in woolen dresses bent over an outdoor fire cooking pemmican.
As I walked with my family through the old North West Company fort — located on the Red River in the largely francophone community of Saint Boniface — I noticed a crowd gathering along the aspen-lined riverbank.
Suddenly, gunshots ran out. My son and I scrambled down the embankment to investigate — and were transported back in time.
Before us, two bands of men were engaged in a firefight.
On one side were voyageurs from La Compagnie de La VĂ©rendrye, muskets blasting as they hid behind trees and snow-dusted knolls. At least two voyageurs lay wounded or dead on the ground. Through the trees, we could see their enemies — the forces of Lord Selkirk. As the crack of the muskets echoed, they too sacrificed lives for this frozen patch of earth.
After several more volleys, the voyageurs put the run to their English opponents. For a few moments, all was silent. Then, as if on cue, the “slain” men from both factions got up, dusted snow off their period costumes, and gave each other a friendly nod. The crowd cheered.
A little later, the re-enactors gathered in a nearby bunkhouse to share a toast. Coming on the eve of Louis Riel Day, it seemed a poignant and fitting way to celebrate the province’s rich history.
As we headed back inside the fort, my seven-year-old son brimmed with questions. He knew a little about the background of the Red River Colony — that’s what passes for bedtime stories when your dad runs a history magazine. But this was different. This was history come to life.
Colin Mackie, Fort Gibraltar’s heritage program manager, isn’t surprised. He says historical re-enactments of battles and of scenes from everyday life capture our imaginations in a way the written word cannot.
“It personalizes history,” he says. “You come to our site, head to the blacksmith shop and see the sparks flying as he hits the metal. Your ears ring. Here, you smell the stew cooking over a fire.”
As I write this, federal officials have just been forced to cancel a planned reenactment of the Battle of the Plains of Abraham meant to mark the 250th anniversary of the event in September 2009. The two-thousand-plus people who had hoped to take part in the event are looking for another venue outside of Quebec, but it’s clear there will be no re-enactment at the actual scene of the battle. Should the re-enactment go ahead? It’s a difficult question — one that provokes intense emotions on both sides.
All I know is this: in Winnipeg, on a crisp winter’s day, a seven-year-old boy saw dry, dusty history come alive before his eyes. Later that evening, as the boy sat with a crayon, trying his best to recreate “the battle of Fort Gibraltar,” a certain history magazine editor understood that there is an intrinsic value to remembering — nd reenacting — our shared past that transcends politics or personal agendas.

For more information or to arrange an interview contact:
Mark Reid
Editor, The Beaver
(204) 988-9300 ext 218

The Beaver's own online newsline is called News Splash. Worth bookmarking. 'Course when you subscribe, you get beauty things like the big flight poster in the current issue -- copied here in teeny-weeny form.

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