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The Tragic Story of the Exile of the French Acadian People

One can never run out of historical happenings, hoping we can learn from our past.

Exile of the French Acadians

Exile of the French Acadians

2003 Proclamation  by Queen Elizabeth II

2003 Proclamation by Queen Elizabeth II

The Acadian History

The story began in 1603 when Pierre de Mons was granted a right to fur trading in the land known as New France. The following year, Mons, Samuel de Champaign, and seventy-seven men headed to North America to start a settlement near the St. Croix River between New Brunswick and Maine.

The first winter was a disaster without fruit or vegetables to prevent disease. Sixty-five of the men became ill, and thirty-five died. The survivors decided to move to what today is called Port Royal. Back then, it was called Acadia. Today, Port Royal is designated as a National Historic site.

These French Acadians conquered the salty marshes into fertile farms, set up trading posts, and became friends of the indigenous M'Kmaqs Indians, who taught them how to live off the land as the settlement began to thrive.

Unfortunately, the British considered the Acadians inept and a thorn to them. After years of living in relative peace in their settlement, the British demanded loyalty from them by signing an oath of allegiance. On July 28, 1755, the British governor, Charles Lawrence, ordered the deportation of all the Acadians who refused to take the Oath of Allegiance.

After the fall of Louisbourg, three thousand were deported, an estimated sixteen hundred drowned or died of disease, and another ten thousand were deported to the British colonies and put into servitude. Thousands more were deported to France. The British set fire to their buildings and confiscated their lands. The lands were then given to those on the side of the British.


British Burning Acadian Villages

British Burning Acadian Villages

Deporting Acadians

Deporting Acadians

Deportation Begins 1755

Deportation Begins 1755

The Deportations of the Acadians

On July 28, 1755, the British governor, Charles Lawrence, and the Nova Scotia government ordered the deportation of thousands of Acadians. This was done because they refused to sign an Oath of Allegiance to Britain. Thousands would be deported, some to British American colonies and put into servitude. Many more were deported to Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and Maine. Finally, thousands were deported back to France.

Years later, the group from France was allowed to return in 1785. They boarded a ship at Nantes, France, bound for Louisianna. They settled in Louisianna along the mosquito-infested swamps, bayous, and prairies that nobody else wanted. Their resolve and back-breaking work to build their community.

The Acadians that settled in Louisianna later became known as Cajuns. The Cajuns have left a remarkable legacy and impact on the American people in their cuisine, music, military, U.S. Congress, and other elected officials. One descendant of the Acadian people was elected as governor of Louisianna in 2004, Kathleen Bablineaux Blanco.

The deportation of the Acadians was considered a crime against humanity, and some thought it was a genocide of them.

In 2003, after almost 250 years of the Great Upheaval and Deportation of the French Acadians, Queen Elizabeth II issued a Proclomation admitting to the wrongs it enacted against the Acadians although no compensation was ever offered. The Proclomation is on display at the museum in the old state capitol, Erath, Louisianna, 337-456-7729. At the same time, Queenn Elizabeth has set aside July 28th to be celebrated as the Day Of Commerative Day.


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Deportation Map of the Acadians

Deportation Map of the Acadians

Acadian Museum, Martinsville, Louisianna

The Museum, located at 1215 S. New Market St., Martinsville, Louisianna, 337-394-2258, has several memorials dedicated to the Acadian people. Some of these are:

  • A mural by Robert Afford measures 12 feet x 30 feet
  • The Wall of Names with some 3000 names of identified refugees on bronze plaques
  • The Eternal Flame
  • The Deportation Cross, original at the National Historical site, Nova Scotia
  • Acadian Odyssey Quilt
  • Coat of Arms


Acadian Mural

Acadian Mural

Wall of Names

Wall of Names

Eternal Flame

Eternal Flame

Deportation Cross Replica

Deportation Cross Replica

Acadian Quilt

Acadian Quilt

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow Poem Evangeline

A poem written by Longfellow in 1847, Evangeline, and one of his greatest, tells the story of two young lovers, Evangeline Bellefontaine and Gabriel La Jeunesse, who separated during exile. Evangeline would spend years searching for Gabriel taking her search to all parts of America. Finally, she found Gabriel in a hospital in Louisianna while working as a nurse. The reunion of the two lovers altogether showed the Acadians' resolve. It seems Gabriel was so sure he would never find Evangeline that he had married, and Evangeline is said to have gone crazy and died. A bronze statue marks the grave of Evangeline in St. Martin's churchyard, Martinville, La. The poem symbolizes the Acadian people's love, perseverance, and hope.

A statue of Evangeline is also found at Grand-Pre National Historical site, Nova Scotia.

Sculpture of Evangeline

Sculpture of Evangeline

Acadians Today

Today, Acadian's number about 500,000, with the majority in New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, Quebec, Louisianna, and Maine. The descendants of the Acadians in Louisianna became known as Cajuns, renowned for their music and cuisine.

Sources Used

https://www.acadianmemorial.org

https://nps.gov/acadiad/learn

https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia

https:www.ctvnews.ca

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