By MaryKathryn Sheets
The Minerva Center for Academic Success
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- For students such as myself, who have a difficult time relating to events that happened very long ago, seeing a Cherokee warrior from the 1700s in "real life" can help understand an important period in American history. Thanks to History Alive!, sponsored by the West Virginia Humanities Council, Ostenaco recently paid a visit to my school.
Portrayed by Nitro resident Doug Wood, Ostenaco was a Cherokee warrior who played an important role in the French and Indian War. Having earned the rank "Mankiller" (the second-highest fighting rank among the Cherokees), Ostenaco recruited warriors, led war parties and conducted diplomatic missions. Despite his unremitting attempts, the Cherokee war campaign failed largely in part because of the slow-moving, hunger-ridden Virginian allies.
The French and Indian War, a bloody battle that went on for seven years (much right here in our backyards) began May 18, 1756, when the British formally declared war on the French. When I read about it in my history textbooks, I really never gave it much thought.
However, when you listen to an Indian in full period dress talk to you about the battles and how the colonists would not heed the advice of the Cherokees who led the war parties, you get a pretty good picture of the events that transpired in the wooded frontier west of the Appalachian Mountains.
At the end of his talk, when Wood asked for questions, he often said that, as Ostenaco, he didn't know the answers. However, he was quick to point out that while his character wouldn't know the answers, he could go out of character to answer our questions.
Wood had full bearskins that some of us put on; they were warmer than any down parka on the market today. Some of us carried the entire equipment pack the Cherokees toted on their backs.
After the presentation, Wood joined our parents, teachers, visitors and us for lunch, and he continued to share stories about Ostenaco's life, family and adventures. His passion for the character he portrayed was contagious.
My classmates were in unison in our enjoyment of the presentation. They expressed interest in different aspects of Wood's performance, though.