Founder of the Puget Sound Knappers Association, Joe_Higgins
Biography of Dr. Joe Higgins – Founder of the Puget Sound Knappers Association
Dr. Joe Higgins started flintknapping in 1991 with four other likeminded individuals, Ed Thomas, Dave Pehling, Gerry Swiney and Bill Grooms. Their first meeting was on the Tulalip Indian Reservation near Marysville, WA.
For the next year and a half these five budding flintknappers bought and read every book or article they could get their hands on. They studied Crabtree, Waldorf, and other modern knappers. They bought and watched VHS video tapes from the likes of Craig Ratzat and did everything they could to improve their flintknapping skills.
Around the middle of 1993, Joe came across an article in the Flintknappers digest that listed all of the ‘known’ flintknappers in the U.S. Many of these ‘flintknappers’ were like Joe and his buddies – just starting out. Joe took it upon himself to contact as many of this located in the PNW as possible. As this was before the time of ‘email’ Joe wrote and/or phoned every one of the list he could find, encouraging them to join him and his friends. The original five grew rapidly to twenty and then to more than fifty and they began organizing and attending Knap-ins.
In December or 1993 Joe wrote and published the first issue of SPALLS, what was to become the ‘official’ newsletter of the Puget Sound Knappers Association. Joe was the publisher for the first five or six years with help from other members.
To further their knowledge Joe and the few early members of the newly formed PSK engaged Craig Ratzat to conduct a pressure flaking workshop at the 1998 Enumclaw Knap-in hosted by Dave Rauschenberg. They also invited D.C Waldorf to attend a Knap-in at Richardson’s Rock Ranch near Madras, Oregon. Joe Higgins was a driving force behind these efforts to gain a greater knowledge of Flintknapping.
Joe has not limited his quest for flintknapping knowledge to just books, video and local knappers but has visited knappers in many other states and attended knap-ins as far away as Texas. .
Joe Higgins has hosted an Annual Knap-in at his shop – affectionately known as Ft Knapadonia for the better part of twenty years. This is the second largest knap-in in the Pacific Northwest, exceeded in attendance only by the Glass Buttes Knap-in. It is regularly attended by PSK members from each of the PNW states – WA, OR, ID, MT as well as British Columbia. He has also invited knappers from all over the U.S. to attend the Knap-ins at Ft Knapadonia and he always has several attend each year. It is indeed a rare year when he doesn’t have a number of knappers from number of others states attend – even from Texas!
In addition to the large annual knap-in at Fort Knapadonia, Joe has hosted a weekly knap-in very Wednesday (except Christmas week) for the last six or eight years. Average attendance has grown from eight – ten knappers to fourteen to sixteen and sometimes reaches as high as twenty. But dozens if not hundreds have attended this weekly event over the years. Perhaps most significant is the number of new knappers who have started their flintknapping adventure at Ft Knapadonia – I’ve personally witnessed more than a dozen ‘noobies’ come to Joe’s weekly event and learn to knap from Joe in just the last year.
Joe is also an early initiate into the Ooga Booga Ear of Corn Society and has been a Chief of the PSK clan of the tribe for years. He has conducted several initiation ceremonies at Ft. Knapadonia, the last one in 2011 saw 21 knappers initiated into the clan!
While Joe is by our definition a ‘Master Knapper’ (see http://www.pugetsoundknappers.com/interesting_stuff/Flintknapping_Vocabulary.html) , he is equally a master instructor. Whether it is teaching abo tool techniques, the use of modern copper tools, percussion, pressure flaking or how to properly use an Ishi stick, Joe’s understanding of the various techniques and his ability to convey his knowledge to others is remarkable. Likewise the number of knappers Joe has taught and mentored over the years is nothing short incredible.
However, Joe’s greatest contribution has been to the culture of the Puget Sound Knappers and the close-knit community of knappers in the Pacific Northwest. This includes promoting the art of flintknapping at every opportunity and at zero cost. Joe is one of the original (if not THE original) host who established the PSK cultural norm of FREE Flintknapping. From his example all PSK sponsored knapping events as well as all those events PSK members participate in are free. That means free admission to all, free lessons, free rock, free loaner tools and safety equipment and at least one free (potluck meal)! At Joe’s knap-in he even provides free accommodations – Two deluxe Native American style teepees!
Another truly significant contribution of Joe’s to the PSK culture is that of community involvement. Joe has hosted many scouting groups at Ft Knapadonia and demonstrated flintknapping at public events too numerous to count. In 2012 alone Joe, along with other members of the PSK, demonstrated flintknapping at two Montessori Schools and two geographically dispersed rock club shows.
The final significant contribution that was initiated by Dr. Joe was the notion of ‘ethical flintknapping’. There are two parts of this notion, the first is embodied in the PSK ‘Code of Ethics’, the second is the responsibility of modern knappers to ‘sign’ their art. To that end Joe initiated the Knapper Mark Registration program. This originally took the form of a signed document submitted by knappers that included their ‘Mark’ with which they signed their work. The PSK still keeps a 3-ring binder with the documents but we’ve added this information to the website. To date the PSK is the only organization that maintains a registry of Knapper Marks – a legacy to Joe’s leadership.
Finally, Joe is an original and active Participant of the PSK ‘Council of Elders’. This group is comprised of the most respective members of the PSK and act as the advisory council for all content of the SPALLS newsletter and the PSK website. The Council also sets the tone for the all activities the PSK participates in and are responsible for the development of the PSK Knap-in Best Practices Guide. Joe has been a major contributor in all Council recommendations.
Joe’s commitment and contribution to promoting the Ancient Art of Flintknapping and his twenty years of exemplary service to the community more that qualifies him for the Flintknappers Hall Of Fame.
James C. Keffer aka ‘Reefer’
Proud Member of the Puget Sound Knappers Association
Chief – PSK Clan of the Ooga Booga Tribe
Webmaster – PugetSoundKnappers.com
Publisher – SPALLS, Official Newsletter of the PSK
Historian, Puget Sound Flintknappers
The International Flintknappers ‘ Hall of Fame and Museum is encouraging individuals of all ages to “Be A Superior Example,” through a new education program as part of a new curriculum to promote healthy habits, while encouraging everyone to live free of drugs and other such substances or vices. It serves as the central point for the study of the history of flintknapping in the United States and beyond, displays flintknapping-related artifacts and exhibits, and honors those who have excelled in the craft, research/ writing, promoting events, and serving the knapping community in an ethical manner.