French Traditions in Missouri, Osage-French Fur Trade Topics of Noon Museum Lectures

CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo.,

May 21, 2008 – The Rosemary Berkel and Harry L. Crisp II Southeast Missouri Regional Museum at Southeast Missouri State University’s River Campus will host two noon hour special guest presentations in June.

Dennis Stroughmatt, a touring French Creole musician and speaker, will present “La Guillanee: Ancient French Traditions Live in Missouri through Music and Food” from noon to 1 p.m. Monday, June 2, in the Robert F. and Gertrude L. Shuck Music Recital Hall at the River Campus. Dr. Frederick Fausz, associate professor in the Department of History at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, will speak from noon to 1 p.m. Tuesday, June 3, in the Shuck Recital Hall on “The Osage-French Fur Trade Before and After Lewis and Clark.”

Both events are free and open to the public. No registration is required.

The guillanee, originally a Celtic tradition to share food and bounty throughout the community during winter, began in Europe as a gesture of charity more than 2,000 years ago, said Ellen Hahs, Museum curator.

“Who could have imagined a tradition that began centuries ago, one now extinct in western France, would remain alive in Illinois and Missouri?” she said.

In France, the guillanee also brought the community together to celebrate the New Year and joie de vivre (joy of life). This musical and educational presentation will explore the European, Canadian, and French Creole roots of this now Missouri tradition as well as the fiddle music performed and food eaten during the festivities, Hahs said.

Stroughmatt was first introduced to American French culture as a teenager near Old Mines, Mo. There, he spent two and a half intensive years recording, observing and learning many of the Creole French traditions still alive in “Upper Louisiana,” she said.

He went on to live and work in southwest Louisiana as an assistant curator at the Vermilionville Folklife Center in Lafayette, La., and also became fluent in “Lower Louisiana” Creole Music and Cajun/Creole French and quickly grasped old-style Cajun and African Creole fiddling with fervor.

After earning a master’s degree in history at Southern Illinois University and a certificate of Quebecois Studies and Language at the University of Quebec, Stroughmatt became a touring French Creole musician and speaker working across the United States, Canada and Europe.

The Museum’s second special guest presenter will be Fausz who will discuss the Osage-French Fur Trade.

As the meeting place for many peoples, Missouri’s early fur trade encouraged mutual cooperation and toleration among diverse cultures and provides insights into human relationships and socioeconomic progress on formative frontiers, Hahs says.

This show–and–tell presentation, using the presenter’s rare artifacts, will reveal how Missouri’s Osage–French fur trade between 1764–1803 was indispensable for the development of St. Louis and the success of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, she said. Fausz also will explain the causes and consequences of American policies that revolutionized commercial relations with western Indians after the Corps of Discovery returned from the Pacific, she said.

Fausz has many interests including American Indians, Colonial America, Fur Trade, the Lewis & Clark Expedition and Era, and French Creole Culture in the Mississippi River Valley.

The Crisp Museum is located in the Cultural Arts Center at Southeast’s River Campus, 518 S. Fountain St., Cape Girardeau, Mo. Museum hours are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays, and noon to 4 p.m. on weekends.

For more information, visit www.semo.edu/museum/ or call (573) 651-2260.