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Don Levesque

Don Levesque

He spent more than 30 years in community journalism, mainly at the St. John Valley Times, located in Madawaska, Maine. where he wrote a bilingual newspaper column, Mon 5¢, for more than 20 years. He has been inducted into the Maine Franco-American Hall of Fame ans into the Maine Journalisme Hall of Fame.

Tuesday, 08 November 2016 09:39

The beginning of the world

As a native of Grand Isle I know that in the St. John Valley we don't live at the end of the world nor at the end of U.S. Route 1. We actually live at the beginning of the world, the beginning of U.S. Route 1.

We're not isolated from the rest of the state, they're isolated from us.

We live in an area with an population of about 100,000 residents. We're as big as Portland (about 65,000) and Bangor (about 30,000) combined.

Maybe we need to stop looking south for our economic development and begin looking at our closest neighbors and our closest markets. We need to look north, into northwest New Brunswick and southeast Québec.

Someone said if you stick a pin in the middle of the international bridge between Madawaska and Edmundston and draw a circle with a 60 mile radius, you'll find about 100,000 residents in 50 municipalities.

Madawaska County, N.B., has a population of about 35,000 and Témiscouata County, QC, has a population of about 20,000, while Aroostook County has a population of about 70,000. Granted, not all of those 70,000 live within 60 miles of the bridge in Madawaska but the vast majority of them do. Let's say, for instance, that about 50,000 do. That's 100,000 potential customers and trading partners with easy driving distance from where you live.

When we look north, it becomes very obvious that we are not isolated at the end of the world. We actually live in an area of North America with tremendous potential. You know as well as anyone else that this area is largely underdeveloped.

The Acadia of Lands and Forests, our home, is ours for the taking if we learn to work together as one economic giant. The good news is that this has already started on a modest scale. Seeds are being planted here and there. You need to get in on these promising undertakings, you need to create your own opportunities here, in your backyard gold mine.

Look around. Positive things are happening in the background. Don't be left out. Contact Succeed Here at: www.succeedhere.org/en/

Wednesday, 10 August 2016 14:18

Moment d'Épiphanie (mon français du Maine)

Cosse s'qui s'passe au nord du Maine, tu d'mandes?

Les Chanteurs Acadiens, groupe musical, ont été reconnus par le Maine Acadian Heritage Council pour avoir lutté depuis 1988 pour promouvoir la langue française au nord du Maine.

Voici un bref résumé de mon discours comme porte-parole des Chanteurs Acadiens à l'assemblée générale annuelle du Conseil d'Héritage Acadien du Maine (le français est écrit pas mal comme on parle che' nous):

«Les bonnes soeurs nous disaient qu'on parlait pas français, qu'on parlait plutôt tchuque jargon que personne d'autre comprenait. Pi on a cru ça! Après toute, c'était nos maîtresses d'école qui nous disaient ça.

Fast forward aux années 1970 à l'université du Maine à Fort Kent.

J'rencontre ma future femme, Lorraine. Elle était au collège à St-Basile. Ensuite, elle pi deux ou trois amies, sont parties pour Moncton pour aller à l'université, elle pour avoir un Certificat 5 en éducation.

Moué j't'aller la voir a Moncton. Le soir on sort avec un groupe de ses d'amis. Moué j'étais vraiment intimidé parce que j'trouvais que c'monde là parlait assez bien le français. So, j'ai pas parlé de la veillée.

Quand on sort de là, Lorraine pensait que j'aimais pas ses amis. J'y dis que je me sentais intimidé avec mon français d'Grand Isle. Lorraine dit, "On les voit encore demain soir. Dit cosse t'as à dire pi, si y’aiment pas ça, on s'en ira." Okay.

Comme défaite, le lendemain soir on sort avec la même gang. À un certain moment, j'ai faites une joke pi tout l'monde on rit comme des fous.

Pour moué, ç’a été mon moment d'Épiphanie. C'est le moment où j'ai enfin réalisé que d'autres mondes comprenaient mon français de Grand Isle.

Mais, you know, franchement, j'aurais dû réaliser que si Lorraine me comprenait, les autres devraient m'comprendre eux aut'es itou. Mais, cosse tu veux? Comme ben du monde, j't'ais convaincu que j'parlais tchuque jargon que personne comprennait ... Les bonnes soeurs nous avaient conté des mentries. Ça, c'était surprenant, j'vous garantit!

Bon, b'en là on fast forward encore une fois aux années 1990.

J'commence à écouter de la musique acadienne du Nouveau-Brunswick pi la Louisiane. J'trouvais qu'y sontaient chanceux que tchuqu'un chantait à propos de leu's culture pi leu’s che'eux: Cape Enragé, Lac Bijou, Petticodiac, Moncton, Rue Dufferin, etc. J'trouvais itou que c'était d'valeur que personne ne chantait à propos de nous aut'es.

So, j'ai écrit 5 ou 6 chansons. J'ai mis ça sur un CD pi j'envoyé ça a Jim Grandmaison, un vieil ami musicien de l'université. Jim a vraiment aimé mes chansons pi y m'dit de contacter Charlie Stewart.

Charlie m'invite à la pratique des Chanteurs Acadiens à Fort Kent. J'ai joué mes chansons pour eux autres pi y mon invité à les joindre.

La mission des Chanteurs Acadiens était de préserver les vieilles chansons françaises. Mais notre mission est devenue aussi de chanter à propos de notre culture, notre héritage, pi notre belle langue française.»

Pour plus d'information et le discours au complet: maineacadian.org

Friday, 06 May 2016 12:10

Le Forum (franco-américain)

LE FORUM VOL. 28 2 SMALL dragged 000001There is only one bilingual publication in Maine that I know of, Le Forum. It is published by the University of Maine Franco-American Centre Franco-Américain in Orono, Maine.

It's editor is Lisa Desjardins-Michaud, originally from Van Buren, in northern Maine. Lisa also does the layout and is apparently her own technician. She doesn't have a big budget - never did and most probably never will. It's a fact of living in Maine.

But Le Forum, which publishes all of its articles in both French and English, has contributors and subscribers from pretty much all over the United States. As you may know, there are several million Franco-Americans in the United States but they are scattered in little groups here and there, most notably in northern Maine and southern Louisiana, as well as in the rest of New England and in the midwest.

Le Forum has been published for almost 40 years by the University of Maine. It started as Le Farog Forum, aimed at ridiculing the too common pejorative of "frog," meaning someone who speaks French. Their logo is a cartoon frog stylized into a fleur-de-lys.

Over time it dropped the Farog and is now known as simply Le Forum.

Its great motto is: “AFIN D’ÊTRE EN PLEINE POSSESSION DE SES MOYENS” .

If you are interested in what Franco-Americans are interested in reading, check out the latest issue, as well as back issues, at: http://umaine.edu/francoamerican/le-forum/

 

Monday, 15 February 2016 16:35

I will not speak French in school

Comment se peut-il que beaucoup de Franco-Américains et Acadiens du nord du Maine parlent assez bien le français mais ne peuvent pas le lire ni l'écrire?

The answer might surprise you.

From 1918 to 1967 it was forbidden to speak French on school property in Maine. So, two generations of Maine Franco-Americans and Acadians did not learn to read, write, or speak French in school. When it was taught, it was as a foreign language. So, French becamed a language that was okay to speak at home, behind closed doors, but never in public.

It is simply amazing when you realize how many residents of the Acadia of the Lands and Forests share the same last name. For example, there are more than 500  Levesque names in our telephone books and that doesn't include those with no land line. I imagine that other family names are most probably as numerous or even more numerous than ours.  

In addition to family names we've learned that we also share the same values and many of the same past times.  

       




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