Minnesota Humanities Commission Teacher Institute Seminar

French Legacies in Minnesota
November 10-11, 2000

Humanities Education Center St. Paul, MN

Seminar Description

Learn how French language and culture have influenced Minnesota since before Minnesota achieved statehood. From the Voyageurs of the 18th century to the farmers who are still here today, the French have left an indelible mark on Minnesota society and culture. This seminar will help French language teachers who want to add French-Minnesota connections to their curriculum and social studies teachers who want to increase their knowledge about this important part of Minnesota history.

Seminar Leaders & Presenters

Virgil Benoit, President of Association des Français du Nord & French Professor at University of North Dakota Carol Urness, Curator, James Ford Bell Library, University of Minnesota Tom Bacig, Professor of Humanities in the Department of Sociology/Anthropology at the University of Minnesota - Duluth David Lanegran, Professor of Geography and Dean of Social Sciences at Macalester College Bill Beckman, Social Studies Teacher, Maple Grove Middle School

Seminar Coordinator & Graduate School Advisor

Matthew Brandt, Minnesota Humanities Commission and Hamline University


Friday November 10
9:00 – 10:00


Tour the Humanities Education Center, complete your pre-seminar readings, or enjoy refreshments and conversation with your colleagues. 10:00 – 10:30

Welcome and Introductions

10:30 – 10:45

Break and Graduate Credit Registration

10:45 – Noon

French Legacies in Minnesota: An Overview

Minnesota is generally seen as a state that was heavily influenced by Norwegians, Swedes and Germans. The names of cities, towns and rivers reflect these cultural traditions. If one looks closely at these place names, however, another cultural tradition is present, the French. When one travels to the town of Grand Marais or Lac Qui Parle county or lake Mille Lacs, one sees evidence of this French influence. Virgil Benoit will introduce us to this topic by explaining why the study of French culture in Minnesota is a necessary component of instruction in both Minnesota French Language and Social Studies classrooms.



1:30 – 2:30

The Earliest French, The Jesuit Missionaries

When we think about the earliest French in Minnesota we often think of the Voyageurs, the early French explores, or the French who ran the fur trade. The story of the earliest French activity in Minnesota is rarely told. Carol Urness will introduce us to these early French missionaries in Minnesota by looking at their documents and discussing how the work of these Jesuits helped “advertise” Minnesota to France and Europe. 2:45 – 3:30

The Peopling of Minnesota - 1
The Indians, Voyageurs, Fur Traders, and the Metis

We have all heard stories of the Voyageurs and most Minnesotans know about the state’s importance in the fur trade. What we may be less aware of are the people who worked the fur trade, canoed the rivers and peopled Minnesota. Many of the individuals who were “peopling” Minnesota were the Metis, the mixed, descendants of the native Indians and the French voyageurs and fur traders. In order to understand the both the uniqueness of the French relations to the native populations and the importance of French culture and history, we must learn about the Metis and in turn learn a little about ourselves, our state and our place in history. 3:30


3:45 – 5:00

The Peopling of Minnesota - 2
More on the Metis

We will continue with our discussion of the Metis in Minnesota and the old Northwest, but we will also begin to think about why we would teach such content in the classroom and learn about resources for teaching this content. 5:00





Visit to the Little French Church



Saturday, November 11 7:30


8:30 – 10:00

From the Farms to the City

David Lanegran will present on the processes of migration, urbanization and agriculture during the 19th and early 20th centuries. His focus will be on the early French Canadian settlers in the Twin Cities with a specific look at the establishment of the Township of Little Canada in Ramsey County. 10:15 – Noon.

Teaching About French Influence in Minnesota through the Voyageurs

Bill Beckman from Maple Grove Middle School will entertain us with a first person impression of a French Voyageur and will explain how he helps his students gain an understanding and greater appreciation for this moment in Minnesota history. Noon.


1:00 – 3:00

(Optional) Content Round Tables

Teachers who are interested are welcome to stay and discuss how they would use the content introduced during the seminar in the classroom. As this is an optional session, you are also welcome to take your leave and visit the Alliance Francaise’s FRENCH LEGACIES IN THE HISTORY OF MINNESOTA celebration.