Monday, August 18, 2008

French Festival Celebrates Treaty History

A detail of a mural painted by Ben Brien shows some of the heritage of Old Crossing and Treaty Park
History will repeat itself this weekend. People will gather at Old Crossing and Treaty Park near Huot as they did 145 years ago, but the fate of the entire Red River Valley is not at stake. This time it will be for the Chautauqua and French Festival.

"The Story of Old Crossing: The Treaty of 1863" will be told on Aug. 23 and 24 at 2:30 daily at the park 10 miles southwest of Red Lake Falls.

In the treaty, the Pembina and Red Lake bands of Chippewa ceded more than 11 million acres of the Red River Valley of the North to the United States for about $510,000.

At that time, the Chippewa and Metis must have had mixed feelings about the treaty and this is still true today. This is apparent in "The Story of Old Crossing" dialogue from writings by many authors from the Upper Midwest.

It is visible in a mural painted by Bennett Brien of Belcourt, N.D. The 8 x 16-foot mural is displayed in the Polk County Museum in Crookston.

The mural, unveiled in 1988, is Brien's interpretation rather than a realistic depiction of the Old Crossing Treaty signing.

Chautauqua participants can view the mural on Sunday, Aug. 24. A bus will leave the Old Crossing Park at 9 a.m. en route to St. Peter's Church in Gentilly and the Polk County Museum in Crookston. It will return to the park by 12:15 p.m.

At the festival, people will be able to discuss the mural with Brien, who will have some of his works on display.

There is no admission charge and everyone is welcome.

Throughout the weekend, there will be programs, vendors, food and music by Coul/e, a band from St. Laurent, Manitoba.

Festival sidelights

Some sidelights of the festival include:

- Food will be served from 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. each day by John Ste. Marie.

- Silent Auction bids close at 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

- Tom, Jeanne, Erin O'Neil and fellow musicians will lead a fiddlers' rendezvous.

- Baking bread in an earth oven built in the park at the 2007 festival.

- Clay Works, crafts and children's activities.

"The Story of Old Crossing" is an official Minnesota Sesquicentennial Legacy Project and is financed in part with funds provided by the State of Minnesota through its Minnesota Sesquicentennial Commission Grants Program.

The Pembina Trail RC&D Council also adopted "The Story of Old Crossing" as a project and is providing technical assistance to the Red Lake County Historical Society and the Association of the French of the North, who are the primary sponsors of the project.

Grants are provided by the Hartz Foundation, Red Lake County and by the Northwest Regional Development Commission through funding from the Minnesota State Arts Board, the Minnesota State Legislature and the McKnight Foundation.

For more information, contact Virgil Benoit at 218 253-2270, Anne Healy at 218 253-2833 or visit