by James LaForest
Just a month ago, Michigan’s Fifth Annual French-Canadian and Métis Heritage Week saw events around the state featuring an array of community entertainment and informative presentations and storytelling take place from the Keewenaw Peninsula to Monroe. After five years, our heritage week observance, which began as a day in 2013, continues to inspire programming for the benefit of the entire community of Michigan. A consistent program from community organizations and individual community volunteers has propelled this observance increasingly into the media, including international media via Canada.
I would like to take this moment to say a great Merci Beaucoup to a number of people and organizations for their efforts. First, to Representative Joseph Bellino who serves in the Michigan House of Representatives for the 17th District, which includes Frenchtown and Monroe. Representative Bellino took up where former Representative Bill LaVoy left off by sponsoring a resolution in the Michigan House naming September 24-30, 2017 as French-Canadian and Métis Heritage Week in Michigan along with several co-sponsors.
Around the state, the Monroe Museums, the Detroit Historical Museum, the Beaumier Upper Peninsula Heritage Center at Northern Michigan University, and Fort de Buade/Michilimackinac Historical Society in St. Ignace sponsored speakers, films, and entertainment that brought community members out for evenings of fun and friendship. In the Keewenaw Peninsula, David Bezotte organized events in Chassel, Lake Linden, Houghton, Calumet, and Hancock including music, storytelling, and an oral history project. The creativity and openness of the many people and organizations responsible for programming during Heritage Week is an inspiration. Their dedication and responsiveness to interest in Michigan’s great history and heritage is to the benefit of all of us. Thank you to all for your support!
In April of this year I concluded that after five years I would like to begin transitioning out of the role ‘state-wide’ organizer of Heritage Week. I asked via Voyageur Heritage and social media for a volunteer to help in 2018 and to possibly take on the role of organizer thereafter. I am happy to report that Caleb Kitson has come forward to share the duties in 2018 as co-organizer. Caleb is from Michigan with roots in Frenchtown/Monroe. He recently returned from living in Alaska with his wife and three small children. Caleb is engaged in farming and currently serves in the Michigan National Guard. Thank you to Caleb!
Finally, for those who are interested in programming in their town next year, now is not too early to begin organizing. If you have an idea for an event but aren’t sure how to proceed, I am happy to discuss ways you might reach out to your community and local organizations to help make it happen. Just drop me an email via this blog or find me on Facebook at Great Lakes French Canadians & Métis. I hope in the coming year places like Sault Ste. Marie, Escanaba, Cheboygan, Alpena, Saginaw, and other areas with historically significant French-Canadian and Métis communities will join other towns across the state in celebrating this part of the great story that is Michigan.
Merci Beaucoup! Marsii! Thank you!