French Creoles of The Illinois Country: Fiddle Jigs, Creole Folktales and Haunting Ballads
A Road Scholar Program by Dennis Stroughmatt
Apr 2, 2024
New France once stretched from the St. Lawrence River of Canada to New Orleans, and within its territory lived a vast population of French colonists almost as diverse as they were strong.
The Illinois French, who first arrived in southern Illinois in the late 1600s, witnessed the coming of new borders and the formation of new countries like Canada and The United States. Eventually, these French founders would find themselves divided and even isolated. But their culture has remained, still existing after two centuries of isolation in rural pockets along the Wabash River and Mississippi River in southern Illinois.
This program will take audiences on a journey of discovery where they will hear the history of this group’s arrival, the French dialects still spoken, and the unique music still performed in the old “Illinois Country.” Perhaps most importantly, through story and song, including a performance of local French “fiddling” on violin and sing-a-longs, audiences will have fun learning how the Illinois French serve as a time capsule for their cousins to the north and south—those in Canada and Louisiana.