Marcy Lui initially stepped inside the Fort National Historic Site palisade walls to learn how to blacksmith.
Since that day, Lui discovered she could volunteer at the fort as a re-enactor, and now considers those who work and volunteer there as a part of her family.
For a seventh year, Lui will don mid-19th century garb and welcome visitors to the fort’s Brigade Days which run Saturday, July 30 to holiday Monday, Aug. 1.
“I’ve had great staff mentors for education,” Lui said. “I just absolutely love the crafts I’m doing and being able to share that with the public.”
Lui said Brigade Days is “like coming home to see relatives. We are all a big family. It’s just wonderful to be here.”
Lui said historical re-enactors such as herself re-enact the brigades coming in with their furs, “but there is a parallel in that we actually live it.”
Historical re-enactors arrive from the U.S., Vancouver Island, the Interior, and the Lower Mainland to trade stories, learn new skills or techniques, exchange ideas, and catch up with who Lui describes as their “extended Brigade family whom we haven’t seen in a year.”
“That’s something the real Brigaders might have done during their once a year visit to the Fort,” she added.
This weekend, Lui will be showing traditional finger weaving while sharing her knowledge of finger weaving projects such as garters and belts.
Such accessories were used for more than fashion back in the days of young French voyageurs carrying heavy bales long distances – they helped save lives.
Lui said voyageurs started work between the ages of 10 to 12. The boys carried 100-pound fur bales along with their own personal belongings.
The more bales they were able to carry, the higher their bonuses.
“What happened to these young boys was, they would discover a bruise on their abdomen and they’d be dead in a week,” Lui related. “They discovered it was from strangulated hernia.”
Because the boys were still growing, they’d die from burst organs caused by all the weight they were carrying.
“The belt was to protect their organs so they wouldn’t die: it acted like a weight belt or a kidney belt,” Lui said. “The garters were worn along the legs and along the sleeves. They all had a purpose.”
Lui said the children of First Nations and European marriages incorporated weaving techniques and made their own patterns.
Brigade Days offers Lui an opportunity to pass on her historical knowledge to others, plus the site is a comfortable 10 minute walk from where she lives.
She’s of Japanese descent, and she’d blend in seamlessly at the fort during its formative years.
“They had 500 Hawaiian labourers, called Kanakas,” Lui explained. “The Kanakas might inter-marry with First Nations so you perhaps might find someone like myself at the fort.”