Remember the days of going to maw maw and paw paw’s house, seeing them have coffee, and having conversations you couldn’t understand? The beautiful Cajun French words flowed followed by laughter and you desperately wanted to be a part of the conversation. Mais, that’s called a veillée, and now more than ever it’s important to be able to carry on that tradition. A show on Louisiana Public Broadcasting (LPB), “La Veillée,” does just that by sitting on the “front porch,” telling stories, and giving an inside look at Louisiana culture along with its people.
Caitlin Orgeron is a Golden Meadow native who now resides in New Orleans and joined Télé-Louisiane in June 2022 in the middle of La Veillée’s planning process. Speaking fluent French, she has taught for a decade in schools including South Lafourche High School to pass on the tradition, which has a history not many people know. A piece of legislation was passed in 1921 that banned the French language in schools by establishing English as the official language of Louisiana.
Orgeron remembered hearing stories from her grandparents and older generations about going to school and being corrected to speak English versus French. Some would even get their fingertips swatted by a ruler when French terms would escape their lips. This led to people not passing along the language to their children for fear they would get punished too. There used to be more than one million French speakers, however, now there are only an estimated 250,000 French speakers. The language needs to be carried on, and it is education and initiatives like La Veillée that help pass the language along.
Orgeron is passionate about languages, words, and passing history on by a younger generation that gives a fresh perspective, “We need to show people that there is a reason to pass it on…It’s not just for our grandparents,” Orgeron passionately said, “I’m doing it, people younger than me are doing it, a musical community with this younger generation of Cajun-Creole musicians are really carrying the torch as culture bearers,” she explained.
LPB teamed up with Télé-Louisiane that brings a show that tells our state’s stories, languages, and people. Episodes of La Veillée premiere weekly and is a 15-minute long episode looking into our culture including stories of our amazing people. The importance of our language, Louisiana French, is key to passing our culture from generation to generation. The
show does so by broadcasting completely in French. This is the first all-French show in 30 years and is hosted by Drake LeBlanc from Lafayette and Golden Meadow native Orgeron. The first season is set to have eight episodes.
According to the show’s original press release, the show will be particularly useful for students, teachers, and parents who take part in Louisiana’s network of 35+ French immersion schools. Don’t worry if you don’t speak French; subtitles are available in English! “Thirty years after LPB’s ground-breaking En Français program, we are thrilled to be working with the LPB team on La Veillée. The diverse guests and stories featured on the show demonstrate that Louisiana French is very much alive and serves as a pillar of our state’s past, present, and future,” says Will McGrew, CEO, and Co-Founder of Télé-Louisiane.
The first episode aired on October 6 and was titled “Isle de Jean Charles: Inevitable Loss or Forced Retreat?” The episode highlights the history of Isle de Jean Charles and recent efforts to relocate families to safety as coastal erosion eats away at the island. Not only do the hosts talk about the small community’s issues, but they also go to the area to talk directly to residents including Chief Albert Naquin of Nation Jean Charles Choctaw. The second episode aired last night titled, “Saint Luc and the Future of Louisiana French.” Click here to watch the episodes and tune in Thursdays at 8:45 p.m. for new episodes!