December 31, 2012
St. Louis Magazine details St. Louis' French heritage
(December 31, 2012) – In the January issue of St. Louis Magazine, writer Jeannette Cooperman has penned a lengthy article about St. Louis' French heritage titled "Louis, Louis, Loo-ey: Recovering Memories of St. Louis' French Heritage." Elizabeth Sayad corresponded with Jeanette for the article, and below is an excerpt detailing Les Amis work. The full article can be found in the January 2013 issue, or on the St. Louis Magazine website at the above link.
"...so Sayad founded Les Amis, which has been fighting ever since to preserve this area's French Colonial heritage. In 2000, Les Amis widened its purview to include the entire Creole Corridor of the mid–Mississippi Valley, stretching from Chester to Cahokia on the east bank of the river and from St. Louis to Ste. Genevieve on the west bank. A nice little brochure offered a self-guided tour detailing French historic sites on both sides of the river-and Sayad had to fight to get Missouri and Illinois to cooperate long enough to distribute it.
"Bateaux used to sail back and forth across the Mississippi every day," she remarks. "The politics of statehood totally broke up this French colonial culture that spanned both sides of the river." She had to make a big splash-co-chairing the National Commission on the Bicentennial of the Louisiana Purchase and bringing French and Spanish ambassadors and the chief of the Osage Nation to St. Louis for a festival-to compel a little teamwork. "For the first time since the Louisiana Purchase," she says, "we were able to get the two states to work together."
In 2007, Les Amis brought in a scholar from Canada. After a year of research, he helped prepare documents nominating the Creole Corridor as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. There's a backlog of U.S. nominations, Sayad says, "but we're still being considered. Mount Vernon and Savannah have been dropped.
"Normally, UNESCO sites are much more compact," she adds. "But this is an 18th-century linkage of a fragile, entirely unique culture that is desperately in need of preservation."