At the historic picnic at Michaud House in Langley City on Sunday, July 31, Réjean Bussières and Joanne Plourde performed in character as French Voyageurs from early history. (Dan Ferguson/Langley Advance Times)

At the historic picnic at Michaud House in Langley City on Sunday, July 31, Réjean Bussières and Joanne Plourde performed in character as French Voyageurs from early history. (Dan Ferguson/Langley Advance Times)

VIDEO: Langley City heritage picnic shines a light on the almost-forgotten history of the Voyageurs

Before Davy Crockett, before Daniel Boone, French-Canadian explorers journeyed west

Before there was a frontier, there was the fur trade.

Historian Robert Foxcurran says Quebecois traders and trappers moved west to the Pacific coast, ahead of “the official frontier of white settlers.”

It is a significant, but often overlooked period of early history in North America, according to Foxcurran, a historian from Seattle, Washington, who was a featured speaker at the return of the annual heritage picnic at Michaud House in Langley City on Sunday, July 31, the first since the pandemic.

Historian Robert Foxcurran unrolled a map that show how far early French explorers travelled and settled, part of an overlooked period of history. He was a featured speaker at the historic picnic held outside Michaud House in Langley City on Sunday, July 31. (Dan Ferguson/Langley Advance Times)

Historian Robert Foxcurran unrolled a map that show how far early French explorers travelled and settled, part of an overlooked period of history. He was a featured speaker at the historic picnic held outside Michaud House in Langley City on Sunday, July 31. (Dan Ferguson/Langley Advance Times)

Foxcurran is co-author of “Songs Upon the Rivers: The Buried History of the French-Speaking Canadiens and Métis from the Great Lakes and the Mississippi across to the Pacific,” which points out that long before names like Davy Crocket and Daniel Boone became engraved in history, French-Canadian explorers had pushed far west and north, intermarrying with indigenous peoples, and establishing trade and kin networks across the continent.

READ ALSO: Area’s French heritage in spotlight at Langley picnic

“It was a multicultural, multilingual advance,” Foxcurrant described, with the explorers known as “les Canadiens” founding settlements that would become cities — Detroit, Saint Louis, and New Orleans.

Most of the lands where they settled became American territory.

“A very large percentage ended up in the U.S.” after the borders were drawn to divide the western terriorioes, Foxcurran explained.

As a result, their history has been largely buried or relegated to local lore or confined to Quebec, he said.

Returning for the heritage picnic was Joanne Estelle Plourde, founder of Voyageurs and Co. which aims to dramatize and preserve the stories of the Voyageurs, the French Canadian paddlers during the fur trade.

Members dress up in traditional garb and sing French, Canadian, and First Nation songs. Plourde portrayed Michel Laframboise in a presentation about a Voyageur expedition in 1824.

READ MORE: A look at Aldergrove’s past

Michaud House, built in 1888 by Joseph and Georgiana Michaud, the first French-Canadian family to settle in the Langley area, was once a thriving dairy farm while the very first Roman Catholic mass was said to take place inside the house.

The structure was designated as a heritage site in 1980 and underwent restorations by the Langley Historical Society and Arts Council.

More photos from the heritage picnic can be veiwed online at the Langley Advance Timnes Facebook page.

More information about Voyageurs and Co. is available on their Facebook page.


Is there more to the story? Email: dan.ferguson@langleyadvancetimes.com

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