Ted and Debbie Jackson, of Clawson, listen to St. Clair Shores resident Kenneth Roberts, of the Lac Ste. Claire Voyageurs, talk about tools used by Detroit’s early French Canadian settlers.

Ted and Debbie Jackson, of Clawson, listen to St. Clair Shores resident Kenneth Roberts, of the Lac Ste. Claire Voyageurs, talk about tools used by Detroit’s early French Canadian settlers.

Photo by Donna Agusti


Rendez-vous cultural festival celebrates Detroit’s roots

By: Brendan Losinski | Advertiser Times | Published September 28, 2018

 Tom Lonsdale, of Detroit, and Jeri Grover, of Grosse Pointe Park, part of the Lac Ste. Claire Voyageurs historical group, were among those who dressed up.

Tom Lonsdale, of Detroit, and Jeri Grover, of Grosse Pointe Park, part of the Lac Ste. Claire Voyageurs historical group, were among those who dressed up.

Photo by Donna Agusti

 George Rousseu, an eighth-grader at West Hills Middle School in West Bloomfield Township, learns how to be a French marine officer from Andrew Burgess, of Wyandotte.

George Rousseu, an eighth-grader at West Hills Middle School in West Bloomfield Township, learns how to be a French marine officer from Andrew Burgess, of Wyandotte.

Photo by Donna Agusti

DETROIT — Ste. Anne Parish de Detroit, 1000 St. Anne St. in Detroit, was the site of the second annual Rendez-vous Festival, a celebration of Detroit’s French Canadian and Native American roots.

The event took place Sept. 22-23. Authentic music and dancing were performed by descendents of both cultures, artisanal crafts were sold, French Canadian and Native American food was offered, and tours of the historic church were given.

“It’s a cultural festival for French Canadian and Native American culture,” said John Cooper, one of the event organizers. “This is a special event, because very little of these two cultures, which were here so early in the city’s history, are visible today.”

Cooper went on to say that little evidence is left to demonstrate the French culture that founded the city.

“There are more than 9,000 French-speaking people living in Windsor (Canada), some of whom are descendents of Cadillac’s first convoy,” Cooper continued. “Ste. Anne’s is the last French landmark in Detroit. This festival is a way to remember this city’s cultural roots.”

The Rendez-vous was created in large part thanks to Elizabeth Bourne, the event chair. Bourne is descended from some of the original settlers of Detroit, and her family is among those who attended Mass regularly at Ste. Anne Parish throughout the years.

“I created a fundraising proposal for Monsignor Charles Kosanke to raise money for the church, because it was struggling financially,” she explained. “It took off from there, and it was a big hit last year. … My grandkids are here today in a place where their ancestors were 300 years ago. I think that is so cool.”

D’Arcy Tammaro, the second chief of the Wyandot of Anderdon Nation, was a special guest at the event and said the festival was a great showcase of Detroit’s history and people.

“I am definitely pleased, because you are getting a nice sampling of culture,” said Tammaro. “We had some great artists perform. A lot of our people married into the French Canadian community, so this is a rare event that brings both of those heritages together. Having (the organizers) reach out to Native American groups to participate is important, and I think they did a great job.”

The current building is the eighth incarnation of Ste. Anne Parish. The first was built in 1701 by Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac when he founded the Pontchartrain du Détroit, the fort which would become the city of Detroit. The current structure was built in 1886 and is home to works of art as well as relics and artifacts from the parish’s three-century-long history.

“Every Catholic church in the area spun off of this one,” said Cooper. “We’ve been doing concerts here for several years to highlight its great musical history, but this festival gives people a picture of its importance to Detroit.”

Representatives from several groups were on hand to applaud the festival organizers for their celebration of culture.

“A representative from the Quebec government is here to give us a heritage award for the celebration, and a French diplomat (was here) Sunday,” said Cooper.

The Quebec diplomat was Martin Dionne, who said he was pleased with the outcome of the festival and said that he believed it was important to highlight the role that the French settlers played in settling places such as Detroit.

“Since Quebec was founded first, there is this connection it has to the places also founded by French settlers,” said Dionne. “It’s important to celebrate Detroit’s French Canadian culture.”

Dionne said the festival did an excellent job highlighting the different aspects of Detroit’s early history.

“The heritage tent did quite well in explaining the history; they did a wonderful job embracing the religious aspect, and there was a good showing of First Nation culture as well,” he said. “I especially loved the great French Canadian music. There was one musician, Marcel Beneteau, singing old French Canadian folk songs, and that really brought me back home to when I was a child.”

Cooper said he hopes the event will inspire others to explore Detroit’s history and see how it could inspire the city even today.

“I think Detroit in its renaissance needs to embrace Cadillac’s dream of a multicultural city,” he said. “There were no Indians on the future site of the fort when Cadillac arrived, because the Iroquois chased other groups like the Chippewa and Huron out. Cadillac invited those tribes back to the area once there was the protection provided by the fort. … Detroit was built on the idea of different people living together.”