Thursday, October 18, 2007

New Hampshire promotes Franco connection

Portland Press Herald
October 18, 2007

Van McLeod, New Hampshire's commissioner for cultural resources, supports activities planned in 2008 to promote the 400th anniversary of the founding of Quebec, because the state is connected to its northern neighbor by a shared Franco- American culture.

"We want to remember our shared traditions with French-Canada," said McLeod, commissioner for 16 years. "We also want to support the Quebec of today, which is a world class center of culture and industry," he added.

New Hampshire's Franco-American community is aware of maintaining their special heritage with roots in Quebec, said McLeod. "It's important to remember how nearly a third of the state's population is Franco-American. They have been the dominant culture in New Hampshire with ancestors who are French-Canadian from Quebec."

McLeod and the cultural resources staff are advising organizations throughout the state to develop a variety of programs to support their northern neighbors during the historic birthday celebrations beginning in 2008 with Quebec Carnival and continuing throughout the year.

"Let's remember, it was less than 300 years ago when the dominant culture of the New Hampshire area was all French," explained McLeod. "About 150 of those years, in areas where the state's border is now shared with Quebec, were absolutely dominated by the French. The English came later."

New Hampshire attracted the French colonials, aligning themselves with the region's American Indians, who helped them earn money as trappers and traders. French missionaries came to Quebec and the New Hampshire area to spread Christianity. Many of the colonial French intended to return to France.

On the other hand, the English came to settle the area. French and the English settlers became involved in a series of bloody colonial conflagrations, called the King Philips Wars of the 17th and early 18th centuries, often known as the French and Indian Wars.

French-Canadian communities in New Hampshire prospered wherever the railroad lines from Quebec took travelers, explained McLeod. A sizable number of French-Canadians settled in the Manchester area because of employment opportunities in the area's textile mills. Travel back home to visit families in Quebec was supported by access to the railroad.

It's perfectly natural for McLeod to promote French-Canada and the Franco-Americans' long history with Quebec. Since 1986, the state has shared an agreement on cultural cooperation with Quebec. In 2001, the agreement was renewed. It formalizes the connections between New Hampshire and Quebec whereby both parties agree to foster and stimulate cooperation in areas of library science, the arts and heritage.

They do this by giving priority to opportunities for exchanging information and know-how. Moreover, they agree to organize training and take part in mutual cultural events organized in both territories included in the agreement.

New Hampshire's Quebec 400 programs are slightly different from the travel and tourism activities planned in other New England states to promote Quebec's 400th anniversary. New Hampshire's emphasis will create and encourage a variety of statewide historic and cultural events consistent with the agreement on cultural cooperation.

McLeod pointed out an interesting day trip for history enthusiasts curious to see the restoration of a New Hampshire French and Indian War settlement at The Fort at No. 4 in Charlestown, located on the Connecticut River. Check the Web site, for more information.
Juliana L'Heureux


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