“Learn more about the French-American Heritage Foundation of Minnesota”

How we formed

Founded in early 2013, the French-American Heritage Foundation (FAHF) was founded with the mission to promote and cultivate the heritage of French-language cultures. We fulfill our mission by sponsoring educational events, seminars and classes on French-Heritage in Minnesota and by providing information to our members and the public about other events that involve French-language cultures or heritage.

For almost two hundred years before Minnesota became a State, French was the primary European language spoken here. After Minnesota became a State, and during the early years of European settlement, many French-Canadians migrated here and approximately 79 French-speaking towns and communities were formed in Minnesota. Many of our place and street names remind us of the early French influence here. French speaking ancestors in Minnesota and surrounding states numbered in the hundreds of thousands and were important in all sectors of the society which built our state and region into what it is today.

However, much of this history is lost or suppressed in our history books, and consequently, little is taught in school history courses about the French in Minnesota. French-Canadians were a major settlement group in Minnesota, but have been given minimal coverage in historical narratives, or labeled simply by description as “Voyageurs.”

Many people with names that do not sound French do not even realize their ancestors were French. The desire to become American and to leave their French heritage behind resulted in many changing their surname so they could blend in with the English speaking society, so that Boisvert became Greenwood, LeBlanc became White, Butolier became Butler and Fallu became Foley. There are many more examples.

FAHF was founded to bring more attention to the diverse heritage and culture of historically French language groups; including Haitian, Cajun, Belgium, North and West African, French, French Huguenots, Vietnamese and any of the other French speaking countries in the world, particularly the French-Canadians who were a major settlement group in Minnesota. This is the niche we seek to help fill, and in the process to complement rather than compete with others with related interests but different focus.

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Artists depiction of Marquette and Joliet in 1673. Jacques Marquette was a French Jesuit priest and Louis Jolliet was a cartographer and fur trader from Quebec.

Who we are

The French-American Heritage Foundation is a Minnesota 501.c.3 non-profit that relies on charitable donations to meet its mission statement. The French-American Heritage Foundation was incorporated under the laws of the State of Minnesota on March 21, 2013, as a Minnesota Non-profit Corporation. The IRS acknowledged our application for federal tax-exempt status on June 28, 2013. All contributions made to FAHF are 100% tax deductible. We have an active board of directors who organize and plan educational events that embrace and help education the public about French Heritage in Minnesota and the Midwest

Our GOALS include:

  • Raising awareness and remembering the heritage of French-speaking people in Minnesota and the Midwest through education and public programming.
  • Helping to restore a dignity and pride in these French-speaking cultures.
  • Someday creating a Franco-Fete festival embracing these various French-speaking ethnic groups, similar to the festivals of the Irish, Polish, and other ethnic groups.

What we do

The French-American Heritage Foundation sponsors education and public programming classes and events. This includes teaching adult education courses and speaking to school groups.

Educational Events:

  • June 28, 2014. Greg Brick, Department of Earth Sciences, University of Minnesota discussed the discovery of saltpeter caves along the Minnesota shore of Lake Pepin by Pierre-Charles Le Sueur in 1700.
  • October 3, 2014. The French-American Heritage Foundation and the Alliance Francaise co-sponsored an event held at the Grande Salle of the Alliance Francaise located at 113 N First Street, Minneapolis, Minnesota 55401.  There were three presenters at this event.  Mark Labine discussed the early French-Canadian settlement in downtown St. Paul and the battle of Kaposia (pronounced Kapoja).  Christine Loÿs, documentary film-maker and author talked about her film about the French Heritage in Minnesota.  Martine Sauret, Associate Professor at Macalester College, talked about Nicollet’s journal and its disappearance (the original of Nicollet’s journal has disappeared but it was read by Jesuit fathers Paul Le Jeune and Vimont. Portions of it appear in the Jesuit Relations.).
  • October 2, 2015– A dinner presentation by John Schade, Librarian at the Minnesota Genealogical Library, titled “Beginning Canadian-French Genealogical Research” held at Dehn’s Country Manor in Maple Grove. Special displays about the nearby French-heritage communities of Dayton, Rogers, and Otsego enriched the evening.
  • November 1, 2016– Sponsored a French Heritage event at the Minnesota History Center to commemorate the 175th anniversary of the building of the Chapel of St. Paul by French Canadians. Professor Mary Lethert Wingerd was the guest speaker.
  • February 24, 2017, Paths and Road to Becoming French, and a Book-Loving Métis. Friday at 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. in the Grande Salle at Alliance Francaise.  Joe Amato, author, traced his own three paths to becoming French.
  • September 15, 2017- Heritage Storytelling Event- at Banfill-Locke Center for the Arts. Dick Bernard, Jerry Foley, Pierre Girard, Mark Labine and Mary Ellen Weller told short stories addressing French and French-Canadian heritage in Minnesota. Peggy Larson, sang French Canadian songs for event accompanied by Rocky Mjos. Noel Labine was the MC the event.

French Heritage classes titled “Minnesota with a French Accent.”

This a four day course and includes the following subjects: (Week One: Early French Presence in Minnesota, Jerry Foley), (Week Two: Minnesota’s Early Settlers, Mark Labine), (Week Three: Ethnic Tensions Facing French in Minnesota, Pierre Girard), and (Week Four: The Richness of our Heritage, Dick Bernard).  These four part classes were offered on the following date and locations:

  • April 13 to May 5, 2015– Lake Harriet School, Minneapolis, Minnesota.
  •  June 5 to June 26, 2015– Washburn Library, Minneapolis, Minnesota.
  • March 1 to 24, 2016- Nokomis Library in Minneapolis.
  • October 3 to 24th-2016-  Maplewood Community Center.
  • November 8 to November 29, 2016- North St. Paul at Gladstone Senior Center
  • September 5th to December 5th-2017- St. Michael/Albertville Senior Center-
  • October 3rd to 24th– 2017- Eagan Blackhawk Middle School.
  • November 6th to November 27th-2017- Osseo Middle School
  • September 20 to October 11th, 2017- Elk River at the Handke Center.

Educational Publications

They Spoke French, A book on French Heritage in Minnesota, including information on early explorers and settlers, early French Speaking settlements, Metis, Haitian and French speaking African immigrants, Huguenots, French Heritage Sites, French place names and other information about Minnesota’s French Accent. Cost of book is $25.00 U.S. plus shipping and handling if ordered online. Now Available for purchase at website of French-American Heritage Foundation. Go to www.fahfminn.org, search library/books and order your book there. In alternative, go to: https://www.createspace.com/5934276.

In the beginning, there was a Chapel. A book on the small log chapel built by French Canadians that became the nucleus of the city of St. Paul. Cost of book is $15.00 U.S. plus shipping and handling if ordered online. Now Available for purchase at website of French-American Heritage Foundation. Go to www.fahfminn.org search library/books and order your book there. In alternative, go to: https://www.createspace.com/6150744.

Chez Nous- a three volume set. The French-American Heritage Foundation is proud to announce the publication of three books called Chez Nous. These three books contain 928 pages of Nouvelles Villes Jumelles and Chez Nous newsletters published during the years 1979 to 2001. Each page has been numbered and there is a detailed index at the back of each book. These newsletters were published by La Société Canadienne Française du Minnesota (LSCF), which had an official life span of 22 years, from 1979 to 2001. Cost of each book is $17.00 U.S. plus shipping and handling if ordered online. Now Available for purchase at website of French-American Heritage Foundation.  Go to www.fahfminn.org search library/books and order your book there. In alternative, go to:

https://www.createspace.com/5926636 for book one,

https://www.createspace.com/6033896  for book two

https://www.createspace.com/6034315 for book three.

French Heritage Tours

  • June 18, 2016– sponsored a tour to Henderson, Minnesota to visit their museum and take a tour of the French-Canadian history there.
  • April 29, 2017, Tour of Twin Cities buildings designed by architect Emmanuel Masqueray.

Attendance at Festivals and Educational Events

  • July 10, 2016: Participated in the “Bastille Day” celebration in St. Paul on July 10, 2016
  • April 20, 2016: Met with Mayor Coleman of St. Paul on April 20, 2016 with 97 year old direct descendant of “Pigs Eye” Parrant in St. Paul.
  •  July 19, 2016: Made a presentation of “They Spoke French” books to the Mayor of Tours, France on July 19, 2016
  • July 30, 2016: Anita Proehl and Jerry Foley represented French-American Heritage Foundation at booth at Little Canada Days, in Little Canada.
  • September 29-October 1, 2016: Minnesota Genealogical Society Fall annual conference- Colonial Church, Edina, MN.  Jerry and Dick participated.
  • October 29, 2016– Family History Fair at Minneapolis Public Library- Jerry, Mark, Dick, MaryEllen and Pierre attended.
  • July 9, 2017-Bastille Day.  Had an information booth at event

Scholarships

Over past several years we have awarded two scholarships to the Voyageur Program headed by François Fouquerel of the Lac Du Bois camp of the Concordia Language Villages.

French Heritage Classes on YouTube and Cable T.V.  P

Pat Ruffing and others on board plan to do 5-7 French Heritage Educational speeches and also 45 minute to one hour presentations on subjects dealing with French Heritage in Minnesota and the Midwest. Stay tuned for more information on this project. There will be one or possibly two evenings of stories on French Heritage in Minnesota.

Website

We maintain this website and also maintain an email list of members and those who have expressed interest in our Heritage events and programming.  This website includes information on our events, publications, genealogy and family history. Many other French-language cultural groups have also come to Minnesota. Tell us your family’s story. We welcome articles and books on your family history which we are willing to include in our library under books or articles. Please contact us if you have an article or information on your family history that you are willing to share. Also, if you would like to give a presentation on French Heritage here in Minnesota.

We have sponsored tours of places of interest, and plan to publish a map in the future that shows important sites of French heritage in Minnesota.

We hope to sponsor at some time in the future a festival of French-language cultures to be known as Franco-Fête.

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