The 2nd Annual Montana Spring Knap-In: Yellowstone Gateway Museum Celebrates Primitive Arts and Crafts

The Montana Spring Knap-In is a free event held during the weekend of June 7 and 8 at the Yellowstone Gateway Museum in Livingston. It is a gathering of skilled artisans demonstrating the flint knapping and other primitive crafts. The event is from 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM on Saturday and 9:00 AM to 1:00 PM on Sunday. 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. Museum admission during the weekend is free.

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 anyone to try their hand at making a stone point. On Saturday flint knappers also compete in the “two inch goat game” that tests their percussion flaking skill as well as the “ten speed game” a contest of who can make the best point in only ten minutes.

Local resident Chris Newhouse demonstrates and teaches different fire-making techniques using the bow drill, hand drill, and other primitive methods on both Saturday and Sunday. He attended Tom Brown Jr.’s Tracker School in Jew Jersey in 2007 and has passionately practiced wilderness survival and primitive living skills since then. 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 in the area and region. He provides materials during the Knap-In weekend but if you’d like to make your own fire-starting kits please bring a knife.

On Saturday and Sunday Jack Reynolds demonstrates the process of making natural cordage using native plant materials and invites program attendees to learn the craft. He is a flint knapper and hide tanner from Butte, Montana.

Flint knapper Don Stafford is from Hot Springs, Montana, and demonstrates the art of atlatl spear throwing on both Saturday and Sunday. 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.

On Saturday only, two artisans demonstrate their craft. Barb Gunness, of Wolf Ridge Lamb and Wool, demonstrates spinning, knitting, and crocheting. She helps interested event participants try their hand at crocheting with large hooks using “roving,” wool that has been carded into a long continuous band of wool. Barb will offer some of her craft for sale including homespun yarn. She has worked with her family’s homegrown Icelandic Wool for 13 years. Karen Reinhart, weaver of baskets since 1980, uses willow and other materials she gathers along rivers and creeks in Montana. She demonstrates basket weaving Saturday afternoon. Karen taught classes in the Livingston area and the region for more than 20 years and showed her work at local galleries.

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. Museum admission is free during the weekend.

For more information, please contact Paul Shea or Karen Reinhart, Yellowstone Gateway Museum, 222-4184. Or find us on Facebook.