Michigan’s French Canadian Heritage Day


May 3, 2013 by LeVoyageur

Western New France, 1688

Western New France, 1688

Sign the petition to establish a French Canadian Heritage Day in Michigan.

Michigan’s French Canadian Heritage Day. How does that sound? While I would like this to be an announcement of an upcoming event, it is sadly not the case. Not yet! In the past few years the Governors of Michigan have issued an array of Proclamations recognizing Michigan’s great diversity:  Korean American Heritage Day, Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month, Black History Month, and Michigan Christian Heritage Week to name a few.

Isn’t it time for Michigan’s oldest non-Aboriginal population, the French Canadian community, to have a day celebrating its unique culture?

Since Étienne Brûlé arrived in what is now Lake Huron in the early 17th century, the Great Lakes have been part of the French Canadian universe. Successive waves of missionaries, voyageurs, and habitants arrived in the decades that followed his exploration, establishing forts and villages, living among and with the Native Americans. In the 19th century, new immigrants from Quebec arrived to work in the timber industry.

From the Keewenaw Peninsula to Monroe, from Detroit to Alpena to Sault Ste. Marie and the many small rural communities along the way, French Canadians have travelled, lived, and worked for nearly four centuries. Generations of Michigan’s French Canadians have tilled the land, hunted the forests and fished the lakes and streams, worked in Michigan’s schools and factories, and served with honor in the American armed services.

According to the website of the Governor of Michigan, each request for a special proclamation is considered on a case by case basis. To that end, I ask you to join with me in a citizen-activist campaign to create an annual French Canadian Heritage Day. Let’s celebrate 400 years of Michigan’s French Canadian Heritage!


1. First, sign the petition to establish a French Canadian Heritage Day in Michigan.

2. Tell your friends and family ­– use your social media to spread the word! Ask your museums, libraries, churches, genealogical and other membership organizations to support us by signing the petition and writing a letter of support.

3. Contact Governor Snyder and your state representatives and community leaders. Tell them about this campaign and ask for their support. The representatives of areas with significant historic settlement include:

Governor Rick Snyder
Senator Jim Marleau (12th)
Representative Andrea LaFontaine (32nd)
Representative Bill LaVoy (17th)
Representative Scott Dianda (110th)
Representative Peter Pettalia  (106th)
Representative Frank Foster (107th)

To find other senators or representatives check here.

The Archbishop of Detroit, Allen Vigneron, is of French Canadian heritage.

4. Whether you are from Michigan or trace your roots to the region, sign our petition to support French Canadian heritage in the Great Lakes State.

5. Join the Virtual Ad Hoc Committee for Michigan’s French Canadian Heritage Day by contacting the organizer, James LaForest, via this blog.


Three dates come to mind that are important in French Canadian culture:

UPDATED: We have decided to go with Friday, October 4, 2013 for the first heritage day. See this blog post here on why.

June 24 – this is the national holiday of Quebec, corresponding to the Catholic feast day of St. Jean Baptiste.

July 26 – this is the feast day of St. Anne, a figure of remarkable importance to French Canadians, as well as to the Metis people and First Nations/Native Americans. It is also the date that construction on the parish of Ste Anne de Detroit was begun.

August 23rd-25th – while not days of unique importance, these dates overlap with  the Rendevous at the Straits and Powwow an event rooted in Michigan’s early history.

Join the Ad Hoc Committee to take part in discussion on which day would be most suitable to submit to the Governor with our request. Contact the organizer via this blog with any questions. I look forward to your support!

23 thoughts on “Michigan’s French Canadian Heritage Day

  1. thank you James! I hope we get overwhelming support for this 🙂

    • James says:

      Thank you Stephen! I appreciate very much your signing on. I hope you share this with other likely supporters. There is no residency or age requirement – just people who care about our history!

  2. July 26 (1701) is also the date of the founding of Fort Ponchartrain, and Ste. Anne de Detroit.

  3. Kathleen W says:

    Wonderful initiative, James! Although I’m no longer living there, as a MI native of French Canadian descent I wholeheartedly support this effort. It is about time the earliest settlers garner some recognition for the pivotal role they played in the development of the state and the region. They laid the foundation for all that was to come and should be recognized for that instrumental role in the state.

    I also wonder if the link to the “south coast” of Detroit might be included somehow as so many of our French Canadian ancestors’ families lived on both sides of the river, moving freely back and forth and only really becoming divided when political lines were made after the wars. So many of the names we know of French origin that are an integral part of the founding of the Detroit region, and indeed so many other places around the state, also have deep roots right across the water in the Detroit region and also north on up through the whole of Lake Huron’s widespread coasts all the way to the straits.

    I’m very excited about this and hope it will take off like a shot. Thanks for your good work!

    • James says:

      Thank you Kathleen! I really appreciate your comments. I hope you will sign and share the petition with other likely supporters. No matter how many signatures we get, whether it’s 50 or 500, the project will be submitted to the Governor. It’s just begun so let’s hope in the next month or so people get wind of it and sign on.

      I definitely would like to get folks from both sides of the Detroit River to sign on and I feel this is about the whole region – there was so much cross over and the border was a non-border for so long. I like to think that if we are successful it would be a celebration for the people of the entire Great Lakes region.

  4. […] Le Michigan fut une région importante de la Nouvelle-France, à laquelle nous avons fourni notre monde. Une journée, par année, dans ce coin d’Amérique aurait tout à fait sa place.https://theredcedar.wordpress.com/2013/05/03/michigans-french-canadian-heritage-day/ […]

  5. Sheila Beaulieu Beaubien says:

    This is long, long overdue………………and would be one good way of increasing knowledge about the founding of Detroit and the State of Michigan……..I am always surprised at how many people do not know that Ste. Anne de Detroit is the second oldest parish in the country………..nor that the founders of Detroit were French………a very important and worthy project for us all to become involved in…….
    Thank you James for this most wonderful idea…….

    • James says:

      Thank you Sheila! I appreciate your comments. I am happy to report good progress so far! Please tell your friends and family!

  6. As a Québécois living in Montréal, descendant of both French Canadians and Acadians, I would like to sign that petition but I am afraid I am not entitled to do so since I am not an American and not a citizen of Michigan. However, I really hope you will succeed in establishing that French Canadian day!

    • James says:

      Sylvain – Thank you for the comment. There is no residency requirement for signing. In the end, when we submit the petition, it will be clear that many people from throughout North America are proud of it’s Francophone heritage. Please sign! And thank you for your kind words!


      • Great initiative!

        Have tried to promote a few sigatures to support you in Québec, Acadia, USA, Louisiana,etc… Hope it will help.

        By promoting this awareness of our common history, it could also promote ties between us and also tourism. I can see no problem with that.

        Laurent Desbois
        Longueuil, Québec
        Native from Northern Ontario

  7. Claiborne Skinner says:

    This is a great idea! I wish we could do the same thing in Illinois

    • James says:

      Thank you! I hope that this will establish a trend. The entire Great Lakes regions is rich in French Canadian, Metis, and Native American history which too often goes untold.

  8. alain gaudreault says:

    I would like to visit this country!

  9. benoit archambault says:

    Hello James, I signed the petition. Hope this gives your project an extra push from a distance! Good luck and «Lâche pas!»

  10. 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 more sincere regards.

    Joseph Gagné
    Université Laval

  11. FAVRE maurice says:

    bravo les canadiens. Un petit bonjour d’un lointain cousin de France , Maurice Favre.
    J’habite Chamonix ou j’ai construit un chalet en rondins . Je cherche un producteur canadien de tuiles en red cedar (que nous appelons tavaillons). Auriez- vous des informations à ce sujet
    Je signe votre pétition ….avec le coeur
    Bien à vous tous ,nos cousins les cachins

  12. pompiermontreal@videotron.ca says:

    I’ve just signed the petition. I would suggest you change the name for Québec Heritage Day since most of Franco-Americans are Québecois descendants. French Canadian is not an identity Québécois relate to anymore.

    • The Editor says:

      Thank you so much! Interesting idea…The problem is, most French-Canadians outside of Quebec can’t really lay claim to the Quebecois identity, can they? My family has been in the Detroit region for 300 years. The key is creating links among the regional cultures with a common history (eg French-Canadian, Metis) and understanding how we are alike, what our common values and goals are. Quebec is helping us with our heritage efforts, just as we try to educate French-Canadians in the Great Lakes about Quebec. Join us here if you like: https://www.facebook.com/groups/FCCAGL/

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