"I learned that the Native American women, some up to 90 years old, would carry heavy animal hides on their head. I also learned that they respected the animals that they hunted," said junior Joey Anania.
The transportation of things also made an impact on Alex Pennington. "Carrying deerskins and equipment on their backs seemed weird, but it was fascinating," the seventh-grader said.
Charlie Vogel, an eighth-grader, said, "Ostenaco's garments were neat, and I learned a lot about Native American culture. One my favorite stories was how they hunted a sleeping bear."
The realistic attire also grabbed the attention of sophomore Nate Wright. "That bird feather through his nose was something else."
It wasn't just students who learned something. Our teacher, Judie Smith, told Wood, "It's funny; you learn the colonists won the Revolutionary War because they knew how to fight and the Redcoats didn't adapt their military style to the rugged terrain of the colonies, but none of the history books I read explained that the colonists learned those fighting techniques from Native American warriors such as Ostenaco during the French and Indian War."
Ostenaco is one of 15 characters in the History Alive! program developed by the Humanities Council, a private, nonprofit organization dedicated to sharing history with West Virginians throughout the state. Presenters are available to nonprofit organizations, including libraries, schools, museums, historical societies and civic groups. The presenters make approximately 200 appearances every year.
Mark Payne, the Humanities Council's program director, explained how the presenters are selected: "It's a two-step process. They will send us a written proposal, which will then be reviewed by three people in a committee. Those who are selected will come in and audition in character for another committee. The potential character must be a historian and have some theatrical experience."
There is no doubt that at the Minerva Center in downtown Charleston, a period of American history did come alive for a few hours. Wouldn't it be great if all history lessons could be learned through the characterizations made possible by the Humanities Council's program?
MaryKathryn Sheets is a sophomore at the Minerva Center for Academic Success, a private, non-traditional middle school and high school in Charleston.