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WMU says 'Mais oui!' to French in North America

Aug. 28, 2008

KALAMAZOO--The enduring legacy of the French in North America is the focus of an exhibit and a series of events at Western Michigan University that will begin in September and continue throughout the coming year.

The series will begin with a two-day seminar Sept. 18 and 19 on "New France" and a gala opening of an art exhibit at WMU's Waldo Library at 5 p.m. Friday, Sept. 19 that is expected to attract French, Canadian and American officials and scholars. The exhibit is titled "The French in North America/Les Francais en Amerique du Nord--An Enduring Presence" and will run through August 2009.

Throughout the coming year, discussions on the history, language and cultural contributions of the French in southwestern Michigan and throughout North America are being sponsored by WMU's Canadian Studies program in coordination with the 400th anniversary of the founding of Quebec, the first permanent French settlement in what became Canada.

The purpose is to promote a fuller understanding of the complex economic, political, social and cultural relations of the French in North America from the 17th century to the present, says Dr. Nora Faires, WMU professor of history.

"Many people are interested in the influence of the French in our region, which stretches back for hundreds of years," Faires says. "In addition, issues of language, politics, and culture in contemporary Quebec raise a host of important questions for students, scholars, and members of the larger community."

Events in the series are free and open to the public.

Event schedule

  • Thursday, Sept. 18, 2 to 4 p.m., Bernhard's Center's Brown and Gold Room: "Historical and Archaeological Perspectives on New France"--Speakers include Gregory Waselkov of the University of South Alabama, who will speak on "French Colonial Archaeology in the Americas"; Elizabeth M. Scott of Illinois State University speaking about "French Cultures in Comparative Regional Perspective"; Allison Bain of Universite Laval on "The Intendant's Palace in Quebec City"; and Michael S. Nassaney and Jose Antonio Brandao of WMU on "Commemorating French Heritage at Fort St. Joseph." A reception will follow.

  • Friday, Sept. 19, 2 to 4 p.m., Bernhard's Center's Brown and Gold Room: "Language Debates in Contemporary Quebec"--Speakers include Leigh Oakes of the University of London on "Language Policy and Planning: New Realities, New Challenges"; Marie McAndrew of the Universite de Montreal on "Schooling in a French-Speaking but Pluralistic Society: Changes and Outcomes"; and Matthew Hayday of the University of Guelph on "Bilingualism versus Unilingualism: Federal and Provincial Language Policies in Quebec, 1960-1985."

  • Friday, Sept. 19, 5 p.m., third floor of WMU's Waldo Library: Gala opening of the exhibit "The French in North America/Les Francais en Amerique du Nord--An Enduring Presence"--The display of 16 54-inch-by-42-inch panels depicts the history of the French empire in North America and addresses the enduring legacy of the French on material culture, landscape, language and politics. It will be on display through August 2009.

  • Wednesday, Nov. 12: "How Old is the League of the Iroquois?"--Discussion led by William A. Starna of the State University of New York at Oneonta.

  • February: "French Canada: Creation and Break Up, 1850-1967"--Discussion led by Marcel Martel of York University in Toronto.

  • Saturday through Wednesday, March 14 to 18: Eighth Francophone Film Festival--Featuring films and filmmakers from Quebec.

  • March: "A Question of Power: A Century of Hydroelectricity in Quebec"--Discussion led by David Massell of the University of Vermont.

  • April: "The Current Cultural Renaissance in Southwest Louisiana"--Discussion led by Dianne Guenin-Lelle of Albion College.

  • Summer 2009: WMU Archaeological Field School at Fort St. Joseph in Niles, Mich.

The events are supported by the WMU departments of anthropology, environmental studies, foreign languages, geography and history, the College of Arts and Sciences, the Fort St. Joseph Archaeological Project, Friends of University Libraries, Diether H. Haenicke Institute for Global Education, Lee Honors College, the Joseph L. Peyser Endowment for the Study of New France, and University Libraries. External sponsors include the Government of Canada, the Government of Quebec, and Cultural Services of the French Embassy.

For more information, visit WMU's Canadian Studies program online , or contact Stacey Moore at stacey.l.moore@wmich.edu or (269) 387-4666.

Media contact: Deanne Molinari, (269) 387-8400, deanne.molinari@wmich.edu

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