June 6/7: Montana Spring Knap-In Weekend

The 3rd Annual Montana Spring Knap-In is slated for the weekend of June 6 and 7 at the Yellowstone Gateway Museum in Livingston. Skilled artisans demonstrate flint knapping and other primitive crafts on the museum’s lawn under tents. The event is from 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM on Saturday and 9:00 AM to 1:00 PM on Sunday. Suggested donation of $3 per person; youth 18 and under are free.

Light breakfast and a hot lunch are available on Saturday from the Park County 4-H Shooting Sports group; the group is raising money for members to attend a National 4-H Shooting Competition.

The event draws expert flint knappers from Montana and the region, including local knappers Ray Alt and George Bryce. Experts give demonstrations and lessons, inviting all ages to try making a stone point. On Saturday flint knappers also compete in the “two inch goat game” that tests their percussion flaking skill.

Flint knapper Don Stafford, Hot Springs, Montana, demonstrates the art of atlatl spear throwing on both days. The atlatl is a throwing device that essentially extends the length of the arm, resulting in a more powerful throw. It’s more difficult than it looks but is fun to practice. This is a technology that native people developed before the advent of the bow and arrow.

Local resident Chris Newhouse demonstrates and teaches different fire-making techniques using the bow drill, hand drill, and other primitive methods on Saturday and Sunday. He attended Tom Brown Jr.’s Tracker School in Jew Jersey in 2007. Newhouse runs a local group called Scout Craft which is centered on minimalistic outdoor experiences and community nature gatherings. He is an instructor in various summer camps, including MAERA below. He provides materials during the Knap-In weekend but if you’d like to make your own fire-starting kits please bring a knife.

Sasha Squires, executive director of the Livingston-based Montana Awareness, Education, and Equine Rehab Association (MAERA), demonstrates the making of traditional bows on Saturday and Sunday. Using board bows, event attendees are also invited to practice shooting arrows at targets. She is an avid archer and hunter who hunts with a bow on horseback. MAERA offers survival skills and wilderness camps in the area for adults, children, families, and businesses.

On Saturday only, Jem Blueher, proprietor of Anvil Wagon Works located in Livingston, demonstrates the traditional art of blacksmithing using a portable forge. He and blacksmith Andy Olds will set up in front of the Vink Blacksmith Shop, an outdoor museum exhibit that Blueher and other volunteers helped restore over the winter. Blueher learned blacksmithing mostly for the practical purpose of learning how to replicate wagon wheel parts needed for his restoration work that includes horse-drawn wagons, coaches, and sleighs. Blueher has been a member of the Northern Rockies Blacksmith Association for 15 years—about as long as he’s been blacksmithing.

On Saturday only, museum staff and volunteers demonstrate the process of making natural cordage using dogbane, and invites program attendees to learn the craft.

An auction is scheduled for mid-afternoon on Saturday where event attendees can bid on replica projectile points and knives, jewelry, knitted items, beadwork, and more. All proceeds beyond the weekend’s expenses benefit the Yellowstone Gateway Museum. Knappers and other craftspeople display and sell their wares throughout the weekend.

The event is hosted by the museum and local flint knappers Ray Alt and George Bryce. A complimentary exhibit, Re-creating an Ancient Technology: Modern Day Flint Knapping, created by Alt and Bryce in collaboration with the museum, is located on the second floor. A new local art exhibit, Exploring Yellowstone through Art, is also displayed on the second floor.

For more information, please contact Paul Shea or Karen Reinhart, Yellowstone Gateway Museum, 222-4184. Or visit our website, www.yellowstonegatewaymuseum.org, or find us on Facebook.