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Re-Enactor of the Month

by Jim Cummings

We are preserving living history today so that the past will not be forgotten.
Jim Cummings

To See Past Re-Enactor of the Month

Ralph Heath

This month’s re-enactor for February 2005 is a gentleman who portrays a Miami Indian. He is studying the Miami Indian dialect, and has some command of the language. By talking with others I think he knows more than what he lets on.

He also has portrayed a pioneer long hunter traveling through Kentucky and Indiana.

Ralph Heath is a soft spoken, caring and kind person. Ralph travels with a fellow re-enactor to local schools and civic groups to give lectures and performances in both Indiana and Kentucky.

Ralph is fond of children and enjoys talking with them and interacting with them on all levels of early Indiana pioneer history.

Ralph is a devoted family man and dog lover. According to Ralph “If you want unequivocal love - get a dog.”

Ralph does have a reputation. Not a bad one - but a good, no a great reputation. For Ralph Heath has helped outfit over one hundred re-enactors from all over Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky.

He is well known for his quillwork. It appears on pouches, knife sheaths, straps and more. Ralph also does bead work, weaves, and does scrimshaw on powder horns. In addition he is an accomplished artist.

Ralph admits to going somewhat into “a zone” when he is working at his craft. He works so intently at it that he rarely sees or pays attention to others or even the things around him. He says that long hours of quill and beadwork get him so tensed up that he has trouble calming down. So to relax and settle down, he goes into his drawing mode. He will then spend a few days just drawing. He draws in pencil and mostly draws figures of Indians whether they are taken from his Indian Re-enactor friends or from accounts of great Indian legends.

And like all of us he loves to read history - lots and lots of history. Every bag, strap, or sheath is well documented. He is another of several I’ve met who are re-enactors turned artisans. He is turning out museum quality pieces and is in great demand. There is now a waiting list for his art.

Ralph Heath and Chuck Grimes stopped by a few weeks ago for this interview. It was supposed to be a short visit to ask a few questions. But it went on for hours - it was just great. It was a day spent in good company “talking shop.”

One of Ralph Heath’s Horns

(Right) A pencil drawing by Ralph Heath.

I had promised to give Ralph some photos he could draw from and it turned into a sort of game. As we looked at over 350 pictures of re-enactors he started to say “That’s one of my bags. Or, I beaded those moccasins. That’s one of my powder horns and I made those leggings. And it went on and on. I was in utter amazement at not only the quality pieces that he has out there, but at the sheer quantity and the vast array of people he has done work for.

So chances are the next time you see someone with a fine quill bag, leg ties or a quilled arm band just ask who made them. And don’t be surprised how many times the answer is Ralph Heath.

And a final word to the wise. If you ever have a chance to purchase one of his pieces consider it a work of art and a very good investment. I’m absolutely sure you won’t regret it.

When it comes to Ralph Heath he loves history, re-enacting, and Indian art. Ralph is making his Indian art his main retirement pastime. I asked Ralph how long he thinks he can continue to keep up at this pace. Ralph replied’ “As long as people like my work, and my mind and my fingers still work together.”

Ralph Heath was chosen as Re-Enactor of the Month for February 2005 because he puts back, through his civic work, his work with children, his willingness to share his craft and his with others and his study of the great Miami Indians (which is never ending). Ralph is another Re-Enactor who walks the walk and talks the talk. Study the pictures of Ralph’s work and you will see for yourself, what others are saying about Ralph Heath and why they are collecting his work.

If you have someone you would like to see as “Re-enactor of The Month” drop me a line at

To see past Re-Enactors of The Month - click here.

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