Don’t know much about history

Posted: February 14, 2023 by chrisharper in Uncategorized
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By Christopher Harper

In a bow to political nonsense, a new Pennsylvania law will likely curtail the reenactment of historic battles in the state, a key battleground in the French and Indian War, the Revolutionary War, and the Civil War significantly.

Without a public vote, the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission restricted reenactments, including any battles with blank ammunition or physical altercations.

Gee, folks, you mean people can reenact a battle without guns, bullets, knives, or people playing dead? That sounds rather unhistorical.

The so-called “no force-on-force standard” maintains such reenactments are “disrespectful” to the memory of those who died in or were affected by the conflicts.

“There are more impactful and safer educational methods through which we can teach the public about the complex mix of ideas, events, social structures, etc., that led to violent conflict,” PHMC official Howard Pollman wrote via email. Museum staff decided without a vote from the commission, which includes elected officials and other state leaders because the decision fell under the so-called “professional interpretation standard.”

That’s government-speak for the lower-case deep state knowing elected officials might actually listen to their constituents and stop such nonsense.

Furthermore, the staff determined that Native American reenactors must be Native Americans. The museum consulted representatives of the Seneca, Seneca-Cayuga, Shawnee, and Delaware tribes regarding its interpretation of Native American history. All of these tribes, which are located in New York, Oklahoma, and Wisconsin, consider Pennsylvania to be their ancestral homeland, Pollman said, but the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania does not recognize any Native American groupings in the state itself.

During conversations with representatives, Pollman said they have repeatedly shared concerns that museum sites lacked Native American perspectives on history. Also, the Native American tribes have refused to participate in the reenactment events in Pennsylvania.

“To continue this interpretive programming without evaluation and significant input from those tribes connected to Pennsylvania would go against the best practices of the public history field,” Pollman wrote. “It also undermines the Commonwealth’s efforts over the past two years to develop channels for communications and to establish trust with these sovereign nations.”

Although it’s unclear how many reenactments may suffer as a result of these actions, one significant event has already been canceled. The annual reenactment of the battle in August 1763 between British and Native Americans was halted in Penn Township, near my home in central Pennsylvania. The event took place on Bushy Run, a site under the control of the museum commission.

The battle reenactment was Bushy Run’s biggest fundraiser, drawing hundreds of historical reenactors and thousands of observers. But leaders of the reenactment decided that the lack of battlefield actions and Native American tribes’ prohibition against participation in the event made it impossible to move forward.

Fortunately, the new state regulations do not stop the annual reenactment at Gettysburg, which is held on private land.

Simply put, it’s incredible how much government can muck up good ideas.

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