A lesson from the past

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 14, 2012

By ROBIN SHANNON

L’Observateur

GARYVILLE – Fourth-grade students from schools across St. John the Baptist Parish took a trip back in time on the grounds of San Francisco Plantation last week to get an idea of what life might have been like for some of the early settlers of the River Region.

Students got a lesson in blacksmithing, listened to field songs and other music, learned to make nets and grind file´ and embraced the toys and tools of Native Americans as part of the three-day event at the plantation home.

“It gives the students some idea of how the men and women who lived on the plantations got along in their daily lives,” said Kim Fontenot, general manager of San Francisco Plantation. “Most of the activities were hands-on. The artisans we arranged really got the students involved.”

Fontenot said the event showed the students a world without the comforts and quick fixes they are familiar with. Many of the presenters, like Native American Tom “Strong Buffalo” Varnado, went out of their way to make the students understand how much people had to live off the land.

“I’ve showed you tools, toys, weapons and blankets, and none of it came from any store,” Varnado said. “Have I mentioned Wal-Mart yet? Everything the Native American used in his daily life came from the earth or from an animal.”

Across the yard, blacksmith Phil Love used fire and hammers to bend iron into various kitchen utensils for cooking and preparing food, while inside the barn, singer Judy Davis gave a lesson in “field songs.”

“You will have a hard time naming a singer of today that didn’t get some inspiration from the songs sung by slaves in the field,” Davis said. “The songs were the inspiration for blues, which evolved into rock ‘n’ roll and popular music of today.”

The morning’s events culminated with guided tours of the plantation home.

“We have found that a lot of the students really enjoy the tour the most,” Fontenot said. “They get a lot out of it.”