Open Letter to Governor Snyder from a Québécois Historian

The following letter was left as a comment to my initial blog post at The Red Cedar where I introduced the idea of a French Canadian Heritage Day in Michigan. I have republished it here with the permission of the writer.

To Governor Rick Snyder,
I wish to express my support for the current petition to establish Michigan’s French Canadian Heritage Day.

Indeed, as you may already know, from Michigan’s early days up to today, French-Canadians have been an important part of the state’s history. From the mythic Voyageur of the 17th through 19th century, to the turn-of-the-century immigrant worker arriving from Quebec, French-Canadians have claim to deep roots in Michigan. Though many no longer speak French, these families are now an indelible part of Michigan society.

Our heritage already permeates the State through place names (Detroit, Grand Rapids, St. Joseph, St. Ignace, Sault Ste. Marie, etc), monuments and streets remembering past explorers (Marquette, Joliette, Langlade, etc), and even historically significant sites throughout the state (Fort Michilimackinac, Fort St. Joseph, etc). Even French culinary traditions still thrive in many Michigan homes!

Michigan’s ties to French Canada are not limited to mere memory, however: lively still, French-Canadians come and visit the state regularly, sometimes precisely to observe what still exists of their ancestors’ passing through the region.

As a French colonial historian, I have maintained close ties with your state. In my field of work, I strive for better exchanges between American and Canadian historians to enrich our common history. Some of your own historians and archaeologists are doing the same (for example, Western Michigan University has an exchange program with Quebec’s Laval University).

And yet, with all this said, we are just scratching the surface of the importance of French-Canadian heritage today. As such, I do hope that the State of Michigan will accept this petition’s proposal.

In hopes of one day visiting from Canada to participate in the first Michigan French Canadian Heritage Day, please accept my most sincere regards.

Joseph Gagné
Université Laval

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