Marcy Lui has learned many new things working as a volunteer re-enactor at the Fort Langley Historic Site.
As part of stepping back in time to portray a Métis woman from the 1800s, Lui, a retired bookkeeper, has learned how to play the spoons, how to bead, to knit, to weave and how to use a black powder musket, among other skills.
Lately she’s been working with bullrush plants, learning how use them for traditional crafts, food and medicine.
In the process, she has also discovered that she is allergic to the plants, but not enough to force her into abandoning her investigation.
“I come home and I’m sneezing,” she laughs.
The plants are just too fascinating.
Among other things, Lui has learned the dried pollen from a bullrush plant can be used on wounds to remove blood clots, their stems can be used for whooping cough, and the roots have diuretic properties.
Pounded to a jelly, the plants can be used as a poultice for wounds, cuts, burns and scalds.
“Eating the young flower heads is supposed to stop diarrhea.”
Lui has been a volunteer at Fort Langley since 2010, putting in 1,500 hours during that time, much of it in character as a Métis person of mixed Hawaiian and First Nations ancestry, wearing traditional garments that include a cedar hat made for her by a Kwantlen elder.
This was not how she imagined spending her retirement, Lui says.
“I just sort of fell into it.”
The only reason she came to the fort in the first place was to take a one-day blacksmithing course that looked like it would be fun.
The idea of going back in time did not particularly interest her.
“It’s history,” she recalls saying at the time.
“It’s dull. It’s boring.”
She has a different view now.
“Living history is so much more vibrant and is totally intriguing,” Lui says.
“There are endless opportunities to learn new historic skills and to share these passions.”
Lui would love to go back during the time the fort was active to truly see and experience what it was like to live in those times.
Back then, it was said people could walk across the river on the backs of salmon.
The Fraser river was so full of the fish you could put your hand in and touch them easily.
“To be able to see this would be awesome,” Lui says.
“(And) to see the giant trees of the 1800s.”
During Brigade Days, Lui will be one many re-enactors gathered in Fort Langley for the August long weekend.
Representing Hudson’s Bay Company workers, aboriginal traders and trappers, they will play music and demonstrate traditional skills such as spinning wool and musketry.
The weekend features the arrival of the fur brigades canoe re-enactment at 1 p.m. on Monday, Aug. 3.
Re-enactors will unload their cargo of furs, barrels and dignitaries at Fort Langley’s Marina Park. The arrival of the brigade portrays an annual event dating from 1848, when Langley became the main depot for the Hudson’s Bay Company on the west coast.
Every summer, the brigades traveled down the rivers to Fort Langley in canoes filled with furs and other goods that had been traded from aboriginal people at interior forts.
They would unpack the goods for shipment to England, then repack their canoes with supplies to take back to the interior.
Plenty to do in Fort Langley on B.C. Day Long weekend
Fort Langley National Historic Site is celebrating Brigade Days each day of the B.C. long weekend, with the arrival of the fur Brigade to Marina Park at 1 p.m. on Monday, Aug. 3.
A bagpipe procession will meet the brigadiers at the water, where a procession will go to the James Douglas statue and then inside the Fort.
To celebrate B.C. Day, the fort will open the doors for a free concert which begins at 7 p.m. on Monday.
Saturday through Monday, the fort will bustle with activities, where visitors can take in weapons, spinning and trapping demonstrations, farm and garden tours, gold panning and more.
On Sunday, there is a ladies high tea from noon to 2 p.m. and a ladies layers fashion show of the 1800s at 1:30 p.m.