Some Words of Thanks
Please note – The Storykeepers Project will continue next week, October 18th, and continue every two weeks as content permits. Thank you for your interest in this community project. New submissions are welcome!
All good things come to an end, and for me this week it is the campaign for Michigan’s first French Canadian Heritage Day. This has been a true learning experience for me, and a great pleasure to see an idea transform into a phenomenon that engaged people far and wide.
As they say, “It takes a village.” From the beginning, a committee composed of people from hometowns across the state joined in to lend a hand. Their interest and dedication was meaningful personally and imperative to success. My sincere thanks to Dawn Evoe-Danowski, Janice Lekich, Genot Picor, Paul Sabourin, Jane Devota, Kathleen Wattle, Patti Swiss, Suzanne Beauregard, and Kevin Lucey for taking time out of your busy schedules to do things like: build a database, contact organizations around the state, raise awareness, have conversations, tackle problems, brainstorm, and be part of a positive idea to celebrate our French Canadian heritage.
After we got started, our enthusiasm only increased as signatures came in from throughout Michigan, as well as from supporters in Quebec, Ontario, Louisiana, New England, and even France. Our cause was given a lift with a letter of support from Archbishop Allen Vigneron of Detroit. And more quickly than we could have imagined Representative Bill LaVoy took up our cause and shepherded a Resolution naming October 4, 2013 “French Canadian Heritage Day” through the Michigan House.
Taking part in French Canadian Heritage Day itself was a true joy. Our goal as a committee was to build awareness and make the day a reality. But it took organizations around Michigan to put on events – to make the day a true celebration. To that end, our thanks go out to the Beaumier Heritage Center at Northern Michigan University and the City of Marquette Arts and Culture Center for their family history event and for hosting the Quebecois folk trio ‘Mil.’
The St. Ignace Heritage Center sponsored a luncheon fundraiser to honor the day. Over 60 people attended the event, which featured glissants, pea soup, pumpkin pudding, and fry bread. Sault Tribe of Chippewa Indians board member Keith Massaway spoke about French and Indian relations to a crowd that came from throughout the area, and included travelers from neighboring states.
In Monroe, Michigan, the Genealogical Society of Monroe County hosted an all-day open house to explore family history. And the Monroe County Historical Museums hosted a conference featuring writer Dean Louder who discussed the French Canadian experience throughout North America.
As part of the proceedings in Monroe, Representative Bill LaVoy presented a framed copy of Michigan House Resolution (0173) 2013 to Eric Marquis, Quebec’s Government Representative in Chicago. The Quebec Government Office in Chicago and the Centre de la francophonie des Amériques were the sponsors of this conference, which was held over two days in Monroe and Detroit.
And finally, thank you to everyone who has signed our petition, taken part in French Canadian Heritage Day by spending time with family and friends, who wished us well, and to everyone who has taken the time to read and contribute to our blog. This has truly been a community effort, a first in Michigan, and, we hope, the beginning of a new tradition for French Canadians throughout the Great Lakes.
Now, as we transition from work on French Canadian Heritage Day, our ad-hoc committee is becoming something new as well: The French Canadian Cultural Alliance of the Great Lakes. We are, for now, an informal group of people interested in building awareness and involvement in French Canadian culture. Please join in the conversation on our Facebook group and on this blog. —James LaForest, Editor and Organizer