Monday, September 12, 2011

Fort Verde Arizona State Park

As the mining industry drew more and more people away from the cities of the East, to the still fairly 'wild' West; support industries grew in the wake of the demand for produce that this burgeoning population required. Of these, the most controversial was farming - encroaching as it did on the land and livelihoods of Native Americans. When the inevitable conflicts arose, the US Army was dispatched to build forts to protect the white farmers. To the Native Americans this was perceived as an armed invasion; to the army and farmer-settlers, this was a justifiable 'war on terror'.
Fort Verde was established in Apace territory in the 1880s, and has been remarkably preserved, with many of its original buildings intact around its parade ground. They have made it into a great museum, stuffed full of information and artefacts, detailing the difficulties of life on the frontier for these soldiers and their families. Excellent worksheets for kids, got our three really engaging with the history, one element of which got them to work out which 'facts' were real history and which were 'movie-myths'. The most glaring myth was the idea that US forts had stockade fences as a defensive shield for gun-fights. The reality was that the Apache never attacked the fort, never would, and so it had no need for a fence. Army patrols in small numbers in remote areas were far more likely to become involved in skirmishes.

On completion of their worksheets, the unbelievably enthusiastic park ranger signed the children up in the junior ranger programme, and managed to make them say a pledge to 'protect the park' with undimmed ebullience and no hint of irony. Our two younger children were very taken with this, while older son (while co-operating) had a "I don't quite believe I'm actually doing this" look across his brow!

Despite the almost suffocating heat, we had a really enjoyable and educational couple of hours at Campe Verde -which very nicely fired-up our whole family's historical imagination.

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