Late summer was busy time for native W.Va. inhabitants

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Ostenaco prepares for council on New River, West Virginia
“Ostenaco” prepares for council on New River

SANDSTONE,  W.Va. — Native inhabitants of what would become West Virginia were preparing in late summer for the onslaught of winter — the subject of a September 5 program at the National Park Service’s Sandstone Visitor Center off I-64.

The 10 a.m.-4 p.m. interactive program is free and open to the public and will feature reenactors renowned for interpreting life in West Virginia before and during its habitation by European explorers and settlers.

Dave Bieri, an interpretive ranger for the New River Gorge National River, said the program will focus on survival skills of used by 18th-century Mingo, Shawnee, Delaware, and Cherokee hunting parties.

“In late summer they were often engaged in harvesting and preserving garden foods and wild foods, while at the same time preparing for their winter hunts,” Bieri said.

“Some ancient skills changed when European-manufactured metal and cloth goods became available, but others remained important to survival.”

Program topics will include finding water, making fire and shelter, useful wild plants and animal products, and an overview of tools of stone, bone, and wood.

At 3 p.m.,  Cherokee war leader Ostenaco (portrayed by historian Doug Wood), will council with visitors and discuss how his army and Virginia militia survived the winter of 1756-57 in the campaign against the Shawnee.

Wood, supported by the W.Va. Humanities Council, and  Dianne Anestis will be joined by local living-history educators Ronald, Gwendolyn, and Roslyn McAllister.

For more information call Sandstone Visitor Center at 304-466-0417. The center is located off Interstate 64 at Sandstone, 16 miles west of Beckley, WV.