From spinning thread to spinning yarns, keepers of the old ways will help West Virginia University celebrate Appalachian heritage during Mountaineer Week, which kicks off today (Nov. 11) and runs through Nov. 21.

Presenting various aspects of Appalachian life from bygone days is the mission of the educational programs made possible by support from the West Virginia Humanities Council.

The Humanities Council programs are an important component of Mountaineer Week because they remind us of our rich past,said Sonja Wilson, coordinator.

Historic interpreters from Pricketts Fort State Park will be on the first floor of the Mountainlair from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Monday, Nov. 15, to show what life was like in the late 1700s when Indian attacks were common and settlers sought refuge in forts.

Melissa May Dobbins, executive director of the Pricketts Fort Memorial Foundation, will be on hand to explain the history behind the frontier-era fort and the various activities and educational outreach programs offered there throughout the year.

Meanwhile, Judith Wilson, wearing period costume, will demonstrate 18 th century spinning as she has done the past 12 years at the fort.

Were real pleased to be a part of Mountaineer Week,Dobbins said.Appalachian heritage is what we do every day, so its a logical tie for us.

Steve Shaffer, a writer, filmmaker and expert on prehistoric rock art, will speak at 7:30 p.m. Monday in the Greenbrier Room as part of the second annual Mountaineer Week West Virginia Native American Heritage Series.

Shaffer will discussWritten in Stone: The Prehistoric Native American Rock Art of the Ohio Valley,a one-hour documentary he is producing for public television. Shaffer will discuss several petroglyphs (rock carvings) in West Virginia and show photos of many of these sites. He will also describe what it is like to search for ancient art, some of which is underwater and requires the aid of scuba divers to study.

The West Virginia Native American Heritage Series was established to encourage and highlight the scholarship, research and development of American Indian materials and arts concerning American Indian heritage in West Virginia. Additional support for the series comes from the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences, Native American Studies Program and coordinator Ellesa High.

David Ferguson, owner of D-Whittlings Woodcarving in Williamstown, will demonstrate his unusual talent for making wood sculptures with a chainsaw from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 16, in front of theLair.

Ferguson became interested in woodcarving 13 years ago while whittling a walking stick during a hike through the woods along the Little Kanahwa River. He soon

was whittling walking sticks and spirits to sell at festivals and flea markets.

As he honed his skills, Ferguson set his sights on bigger barks. He formerly cut timber with a chainsaw for Ohio Edison, so it seemed natural to make that his chisel of choice. His first large-scale projecta 4-foot beartook two weeks to make. Now he can sculpt the same thing in 35 to 40 minutes.

Besides bears, Fergusons extensive collection includes fish, totems, Indians and life-size figures.

Karen Vuranch will take people back to an early 1900s union hall when she portrays labor leader Mother Jones at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 17, in the Gluck Theatre.

I talk about her experiences and integrate some of her speeches into the presentation,said Vuranch, who has been portraying Mother Jones since 1989.

Vuranch, of Fayetteville, said portraying the fiery orator combines her flair for the dramatic and commitment to social justice. She has bachelors degrees in social work and theater and a masters degree in humanities.

I love doing Mother Jones because she stands for social justice and humanitarian causes,she said.The things she believed in, I believe in.

Vuranch also portrays author Pearl Buck, frontier heroine Mary Draper Ingles, American Red Cross founder Clara Barton, Union Army soldier Emma Edmonds and Irish pirate Grace OMalley. She is also a storyteller and playwright.

JoAnn Dadisman and June Riffle will fill the Vandalia Lounge with tall tales of the animal variety from 2-3 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 20, when they presentCritters from the Hills.

Dadisman and Riffle practice the Appalachian art of storytelling, a standard form of entertainment in the regions hills and hollows long before television and video games came on the scene. They perform as Mountain Echoes, West Virginia Storytellers.

Weve been doing this for 10 years,said Dadisman, a lecturer in the WVU Department of English.We had been teachers together and realized the need to help students understand and appreciate their mountain heritage.

Most of their stories have an Appalachian flavor to them, and many are West Virginian, she added. The yarns run the gamut from tall tales and ghost stories to legends and myths.

One of their most popular stories, Dadisman said, is an interactive tale that teaches children about West Virginias state symbols such as the cardinal and black bear.

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