Fort Wayne Festival brings Detroit French history to life

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Ruffled linen shirts, tricorns, sleek French dresses, and short breeches aren’t something you typically find on the street in Detroit today.

But on Sunday, the sights and sounds of the city’s French roots filled historic Fort Wayne for Le Rendez-Vous du Detroit, in a bid to bring Detroit history to life with festivities and to show what the life at the time of colonization.

The Detroit Rendezvous event, held in Fort Wayne on the weekend of July 31 to August 1, 2021.

The festival opened numerous exhibits this weekend for event lovers including, but not limited to: medicine booth, mapping booth, weaving booth, indigenous Anishinaabe booth and an exposed cannon. Later that day, around 3:30 p.m., they even fired the cannon. It was just a blank, sure, but it sounded like the real thing.

Reenactor and volunteer Alex Dishaw of Belleville, 25, posing as an 1812 militiaman wearing a hunting coat in front of a vintage cannon during the Detroit Rendezvous event in Fort Wayne on Sunday August 1, 2021.

Elizabeth Bourne, President of the Detroit Rendezvous, is proud of her heritage as a descendant of the St. Aubin family and a member of the Ojibwe nation.

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“We put this place on the map, our heritage is important, our language is important,” Bourne said. “There’s a lot of history here, whether it’s French, Native American, or Métis” – people who are both of French and Native American descent.

Thomas Bertrand, a 25-year-old re-enactor as Dr. Thomas Daniel Bloodsworth at the Detroit Rendezvous event in Fort Wayne on Sunday August 1, 2021, explaining his exhibit and the history of various items.

When I was present, I saw a few events. One of them was created by La Compagnie Dance Troupe, a group dedicated to preserving the musical tradition from the 16th to the 19th century. Another was presented by Copper Hill and the All Nations Dancers, where members of the Anishinaabe people spoke about their history and traditions, while performing traditional dances and music.

Raymond Cadotte, director of The All Nations Dancers, preforming a traditional dance at the Detroit Rendezvous event on Sunday, August 1, 2021, in Fort Wayne.
Copper Hill, an Anishinaabek drumming group from the Grand Rapids subway perform with The All Nations Dancers at the Detroit Rendezvous event on Sunday August 1, 2021, in Fort Wayne.

I spoke with Thomas Bertrand, the man who ran the medicine stand. He wore historical attire and explained to people how the early settlers practiced medicine and dentistry. “I feel like I am able to help people learn. My costume represents a lot of history and a lot of research that I have done on my part.”

Ken Roberts of St. Clair Shores holding his authentic handcrafted rifle during the Detroit Rendezvous event in Fort Wayne on Sunday August 1, 2021.

An interesting information about the festival is that it was shown simultaneously at the Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac Museum in Saint-Nicolas-de-la-Grave, France, where Cadillac was born. The Historic Fort Wayne Coalition helped save his home from demolition and paid for renovations to turn it into a small exhibit on the identity of the explorer.

“Detroit is still a melting pot filled with multiculturalism today,” Bourne said. “We would like this to become a Detroit party, something we can all celebrate.”

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