History on Elm: Missouri’s French Creole History & Folklore

12:00 pm – 1:00 pm

SHSMO Center for Missouri Studies

605 Elm St.


Nestled in the foothills of the Saint François mountains, Old Mines, Mo., is a place where the boundary between history and folklore is especially thin. French colonists established the lead mining town in 1723. As the local French dialect was dying over the course of the 20th century, residents faced tough decisions about which aspects of their heritage were essential and how best to carry the culture forward. Beginning in the 1930s, scholars and locals began amassing an archive of oral literature, songs, and customs. Kansas City-based filmmaker Brian Hawkins has been mining these archives and collaborating with the current generation of French Creoles for his multifaceted documentary project, Toujours Icitte (Still Here). Hawkins will share highlight from his project and discuss how this community has been able to retain traditions despite the forces of American assimilation.


About the speaker: Brian Hawkins is an artist and filmmaker whose work explores the subjective, fragmentary nature of our personal and cultural narratives. He has produced a series of intricate, cut-paper animations which draw inspiration from the music, folklore, and history of his native state of Missouri. His award-winning films have screened at numerous festivals including the prestigious Annecy International Animation Festival in France. His film, Chasse Galerite, inspired by the Missouri Creole folktale collections at the State Historical Society of Missouri, won Best Animation at the Verona International Film Festival and at the Cinema on the Bayou Film Festival. Hawkins often teaches as an adjunct lecturer in the visual arts at the University of Kansas and the University of Missouri-Kansas City, and he recently developed and taught a course on Missouri French culture at the University of Missouri-Columbia.