Cleveland Metroparks sponsors a day-long event called “Winteriffic” every year at the Chalet in the Mill Stream Run Reservation near Strongsville, OH. My role was to interpret to the public techniques of surviving in a wilderness situation in the winter. Here’s how it went.
Here’s a new model I came up with for both of my practices in facilitation and interpretation of Native American culture. It’s about an event I did with the Cleveland Metroparks outdoors on the coldest day of the winter so far this year.
Actually, this is an example of how I incorporated both practices into the same event. Cleveland Metroparks sponsors a day-long event called “Winteriffic” every year at the Chalet in the Mill Stream Run Reservation near Strongsville, OH. My role was to interpret to the public techniques of surviving in a wilderness situation in the winter. Here’s how it went.
Set up a shelter first!
I set up a shelter on the ground using a 11X17-foot tarpaulin, or tarp. In order to do this, I harvested (with Cleveland Metroparks permission), four sugar maple saplings from the nearby forest. I cut the saplings to the appropriate lengths and used them to raise the tarp so that it was open on one side. Then I staked down the other three sides as best I could, considering that the ground was frozen in the 20-degree weather.
Under the shelter, I laid a bed of spruce bows for a mattress and unrolled my mountain sleeping bag on them. That’s all there was to it!
Now the public comes by my station in small spurts over the five hours I was there. Whenever anyone comes near, I project my voice and they come by to see what I’m doing.
I explain that in a survival situation, the first thing anyone has to do is find or make shelter. That’s because night or weather is coming to come up faster than they think. I just turn around and point to my shelter. Voila!
Dress for success
Having dealt with my static display, I look around to see how people are dress. A young adult woman is standing there fairly well dressed for the weather, but has nothing on her head.
I ask, “Where is your hat?” She says, “It’s in the car.” I say, “Go put it on and come back.” She does. High marks for her!
Then I ask someone to not be offended if I ask how many layers they are wearing on their feet. They say one or two, and they’re standing there shivering. I say I have four layers on my feet and I am not cold and will not get cold.
I say I have four layers of clothing on my legs and five layers on my upper body. I have two layers on my hands and feet. They get the point.
It’s about attitude
Then I go into my talk about five requirements of survival. Since we already discussed shelter (one of them), I get the people hovering around to tick off the other four. They get food, water, and fire right away. We discuss how we’re going to do those. That’s the facilitation part of what I’m doing.
I explain that even if they can’t figure out how to do the first four things, they can survive if they have the fifth one. Who can name it? No one!
I say, “It’s attitude.” If they have the attitude that they can survive, they will. If they don’t, they won’t.
They say, “It’s so hard.” They don’t know what plants to eat, how to purify water, how to make fire, how to kill for meat.
I tell them that the animals of the forest have no idea when or how they’re going to get their next meal. But they trust Mother Nature to provide for them, and she does. We can, too.
This is the Native American interpretative part of my day. I explain that primitive people figured all this out by themselves long before Europeans ever came here.
So what are we going to eat?
They say, “Okay, just what are we supposed to do for food? We didn’t bring jerky, granola, or power bars.”
I talk about foraging for plants, nuts, and roots, throwing them into some receptacle, and cooking a nutritious stew over a fire. Of course, this involves finding and purifying water and building the fire. All beyond the scope of what I can say in the ten minutes they’re going to stick around listening to me in the cold.
Then I say, “See that tin can behind you in the field?” They turn around and spot the can, about 40 feet away. I pick up my primitive throwing stick, another Native American or Ice Age invention. I fling the stick and it sails to the mark, hitting the can with a satisfying thud. I yell, “Meat for the pot!”
Then we discuss that they stun a small animal the same way. No, they can’t just eat it. They know they have to kill it, skin it, gut it, and cook it. Also beyond the scope of this event.
What a day!
By this time, they are shivering so hard that they begin to drift away. Another group stops by and the show begins again, about 15 times that day.
I personally engaged about 100 people in all of the 700 people that attended Winteriffic 2017.
Will I do it again next year? You bet! Only better, with other props and more information to impart.
See you there!
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Tom Romito is an interpreter of Native American Culture, a facilitator of organizations who want to grow, and a Reiki practitioner dedicated to helping people heal. Tom shares stories and skills to help you energize your world.