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C'EST BON D'VOUS DZIRE...



IT'S GOOD TO TELL YOU... These are the words Frank Bourisaw and Joseph Ben Coleman spoke to seize their audiences' attention before entering the realm of a folktale.

Enchanted by their stories and the distinctive French dialect they spoke, one of their listeners, folklorist, Joseph Médard Carrière, was hurriedly transcribing their eclectic repertoire in the 1930s. This corpus of oral literature was carefully passed down through the centuries, transformed by the Missouri landscape, and honed by a succession of master storytellers. By the time Carrière published Tales from the French Folklore of Missouri in 1937, the world of the French Creoles in Missouri was rapidly changing.

Descended from the earliest European settlers of the Mid-Mississippi River Valley, the remaining French Creoles, concentrated in Old Mines, Missouri, had preserved their ancestors' language and customs for over 200 years by the time the forces of assimilation reached their community.  Fearing the culture's imminent collapse, locals and a few scholars worked tirelessly throughout the 20th century to document the language and folklore of the region. Now, the last native speakers of the French dialect once spoken throughout the region have passed away, but their children and grandchildren carry on many of their traditions, remember their colorful stories, and are fiercely proud of their cultural heritage.


THEY SAY « ON EST TOUJOURS ICITTE » WE'RE STILL HERE.



TOUJOURS ICITTE: The Folklore of the Missouri French Creoles is an upcoming, feature-length documentary about this vibrant community and the tales that they tell.