Knap-In event honors American Indian traditions

About 15 years ago, Mark Bracken turned his interest in flint knapping into a full-time business selling tools and educating people on the process.

Although the Bald Eagle Knap-In at Bald Eagle State Park this weekend celebrates the American Indian tradition, Bracken said this kind of handcrafted toolmaking was not limited to them.

“It’s in everyone’s culture. It goes back to everyone roots, not just Native Americans,” Bracken said.

Bracken said flint knapping is a way to shape flint or stone through a manual process. Once shaped appropriately, the stone could be used for a variety of different ways including ones that act as knives or arrowheads.

Bald Eagle State Park partnered with the Susquehanna Flint Knappers Association to provide attendees with hands-on education about stone toolmaking along with viewing demonstrations, live encampment displays, arrowhead collections, an open atlatl and archery range, and information about how American Indians lived.

“It’s kind of our job to educate the public and show them the process of flint knapping,” said Susquehanna Flint Knappers Association President Dale Bookhammer.

Matt Truesdale, environmental educational specialist at the park, said there isn’t a large American Indian population in Centre County, but the park area has a long history.

“Contrary to popular belief, Bald Eagle State Park wasn’t named after the bird, although we do have an active bald eagle nest for the last 11 years,” he said. “Bald Eagle was named after Chief Waupelani who utilized the valley — Waupelani meaning bald eagle.”

Truesdale expected the event to bring in 300 people and vendors from as far as Indiana and New York.

“I think our mission is to make connections to the past,” Truesdale said. “People had to live off the land and by the use of their hands.”

Truesdale saidhe hopes to eventually turn the Bald Eagle Knap-In into a cultural history event.

“I think it’s important to connect with our past and see how far we have come and appreciate the past,” Truesdale said.

The event continues Saturday from dawn to dusk at the park’s beach area.