OUR COMMUNITY: Historical re-enactor Rick Herfst

"I think we can do a better job at teaching history, and that we can make it more interesting," says volunteer re-enactor, Rick Herfst.

Rick Herfst

Rick Herfst

A five day hike from Tulameen to Hope may not be a dream for everybody, but for Rick Herfst, it’s a major item on his bucket list.

Herfst has participated as a historical re-enactor in the Fort Langley Brigade Days Weekend for seven years, and his area of historical expertise is the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) Brigade Trail.

The trail was the primary route of transportation for the fur traders, who would pack and haul the year’s intake of furs, by horseback and canoe, from interior and northern trading posts all the way to Fort Langley, which then would be shipped to England.

Herfst has long been interested in the history of where he actually lived. “There’s this idea that, perhaps, Canadian history is dull,” Herfst explains, “so I started to investigate.” Throughout years of collecting a library of books and journals, Herfst realized that “the [northwest] fur trade has had a huge impact on us as a country.”

The annual Brigade Days event takes place in Fort Langley, the actual place where Governor Douglas proclaimed the Crown colony of British Columbia in 1858. Throughout the weekend, volunteer re-enactors don period (pioneer) attire, set-up camp, and reenact life in the 1800s, showing off all kinds of traditional skills.

Herfst first began volunteering at Brigade Days on a Chilliwack couple’s recommendation. After his first time reenacting, Herfst couldn’t wait to get back the next year, but he had a lot of collecting and skill-building to keep him busy in the meantime.

Herfst Trading PostOn his property, Herfst has built his own trading post, filled with a collection of replicas and collectibles to represent the belongings of pioneers. “I get enjoyment out of learning the skills that [pioneers] had,” he says as he points out the shooters bags, fur bales and wooden chests that he’s created.

Even basic survival skills like lighting a fire with one spark, drying meat, or cooking on a fire, “those things are unique, and a dying form.”

It’s been an educational journey for Herfst, and he strives to share this knowledge with the public during Brigade Days. “I think there’s a lack of historical knowledge out there,” Herfst says, and he wants to educate the locals about where we, as a province, came from.

“I think we can do a better job [at teaching history] and that we can make it more interesting.” Rather than looking at grainy pictures and dates in a textbook, re-enactors bring history to life. Particularly for young people, Herfst notes, it’s important to engage them through live demonstrations, let them create something, and inspire them to ask “why.”

Recently, Hope Mountain Centre for Outdoor Learning has rediscovered and reopened the Brigade Trail for public use. Looking forward, Herfst will not only be continuing to participate in Brigade Days, but he also hopes to serve as an educational trail guide, preserving the memory of the important exploration and adventure that took place on the Brigade Trail so many years ago.

See Rick Herfst and many more re-enactors in action at the annual Brigade Days at Fort Langley National Historic Site August 1-3.

Herfst with furs

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Stephanie Higginson, president of the B.C. School Trustees Association, says people need to focus their attention on the upcoming byelection in Chilliwack. (BCSTA image)
‘Let’s not talk about Barry’ says BCSTA president on Chilliwack trustee

Higginson says impending Chilliwack byelection will require ‘laser focus’ to ensure balance of power

New Chilliwack Chief Ray Fust.
Chilliwack Chief Ray Fust in the mix for Swiss U20 roster spot

Fust is hoping to make the team that will compete in the World Junior Hockey Championships

An employee at a Chilliwack McDonald’s location tested positive for COVID on Nov. 21 (File photo by The Associated Press)
Employee tests positive for COVID-19 at McDonald’s restaurant in Chilliwack

One case was detected at the Vedder Road location, which briefly closed its doors

Asbestos bag from 2011. (Chilliwack Progress file)
New limits coming for asbestos at the Bailey Landfill in Chilliwack

Restricted to 20 bags per day per property because they don’t have capacity for larger loads

Cascade Falls Regional Park is one of several Fraser Valley parks that saw record usage during the summer of 2020. (File photo)
Residents flock to Fraser Valley parks amid pandemic

Some trails saw usage double during summer months of 2020

Kyle Charles poses for a photo in Edmonton on Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. Marvel Entertainment, the biggest comic book publisher in the world, hired the 34-year-old First Nations illustrator as one of the artists involved in Marvel Voice: Indigenous Voices #1 in August. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
VIDEO: Indigenous illustrator of new Marvel comic hopes Aboriginal women feel inspired

Kyle Charles says Indigenous women around the world have reached out

B.C. Liberal MLA Shirley Bond questions NDP government ministers in the B.C. legislature, Feb. 19, 2020. (Hansard TV)
Cabinet veteran Shirley Bond chosen interim leader of B.C. Liberals

28-member opposition prepares for December legislature session

Motorists wait to enter a Fraser Health COVID-19 testing facility, in Surrey, B.C., on Monday, November 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
COVID-19: What do rising positivity rates mean for B.C.? It’s not entirely clear

Coronavirus cases are on the rise but the province has not unveiled clear thresholds for further measures

A rider carves a path on Yanks Peak Saturday, Nov. 21. Two men from Prince George went missing on the mountain the next day. One of them, Colin Jalbert, made it back after digging out his sled from four feet under the snow. The other, Mike Harbak, is still missing. Local search and rescue teams went out looking Monday, Nov. 23. (Sam Fait Photo)
‘I could still be the one out there’: Snowmobiler rescued, 1 missing on northern B.C. mountain

As Quesnel search and rescue teams search for the remaining rider, Colin Jalbert is resting at home

Care home staff are diligent about wearing personal protective equipment when they are in contact with residents, but less so when they interact with other staff members, B.C. Seniors Advocate says. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
More COVID-19 testing needed for senior home staff, B.C.’s advocate says

Employees mingling spotted as virus conductor in many workplaces

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

This 2019 photo provided by The ALS Association shows Pat Quinn. Quinn, a co-founder of the viral ice bucket challenge, died Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020, at the age of 37. (Scott Kauffman/The ALS Association via AP)
Co-founder of viral ALS Ice Bucket Challenge dies at 37

Pat Quinn was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease, also known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, in 2013

Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada David Lametti speaks with the media following party caucus in Ottawa, Tuesday, January 28, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Exclusion of mental health as grounds for assisted death is likely temporary: Lametti

Senators also suggested the exclusion renders the bill unconstitutional

Most Read