Dr. Lorraine Coutu-Lavallee
Lorraine Coutu-Lavallee is a Michif French elder who was born and raised in St Laurent, MB. She went to school in St Laurent, then had her family of 4 girls before going back to school at Red River College to take a business course. She graduated with honors, then was called to work at Revenue Canada until retirement in 2012.
In 2011, Lorraine and four other ladies from St Laurent got together to write the Michif French language Dictionary which had never been written before, in order to preserve their language and culture. They met every Tuesday to work on their book. Five years later, in July of 2016 they self-published their ‘Michif- French Dictionary” at McNally Robinson on Grant in Winnipeg. They did it all on their own with no funding. Nobody believed in them, but they never gave up. Now, two of the ladies, Patricia Miller-Chartrand and Doris Michelayenko-Leclerc, have passed away.
The group taught one language session in St Laurent School before Covid-19, with plans to return in the fall. They also work with the local Headstart program to teach Michif French to pre-schoolers through games and activities.
They are currently working with Michif poet Suzanne Steele-Gaudry and composer Neil Weisensel to translate the musical Li Keur, Riel’s Heart of the North into Michif-French.
They are now working on a second book on the history of their community. They also do crafts, beading, embroidery,slippers, mitts and small purses in 100% wool.
In 2020, in recognition of their efforts to keep the culture and language alive, each of them received their Honorary Doctorate for Doctors of Letters from University of Winnipeg in a special graduation ceremony.