June 27th & July 4th, 1999.
I am proud to have a surname which signifies that my forefathers come from the eastern part of present day Canada, that I am a descendant of a rather unique group of people: the Acadians. Acadians are those who can trace their ancestry back to a small group of Frenchmen who came to America during the 17th century. In spite of the "ethnic cleansing" which was carried out by the local English authorities in the mid 18th century -- the Acadians, these days, are an identifiable group with large numbers of them concentrated in the Canadian provinces of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick and in the American state of Louisiana. Though Acadians are identified by their blood rather than by their name or tongue; chances are if a person has a surname such as, for example: Arsenault, Aucoin, Babin (Babineau), Belliveau, Benoit, Blanchard, Boudreau, Bourg (Burke), Brassard, Breau (Breaux), Comeau, Cormier, Cyr, Daigre (Daigle), d'Entrement, Doucet, Dugas, Forest, Gaudet, Gauterot, Godin, Granger, Hebert, Landry, LaTour, LeBlanc, Melanson, Muise, Raymond, Richard, Rivet, Robichaud, Theriault (Terriot), Thibodeau -- then, he or she is an Acadian.
Old Acadia might easily be outlined on a map of modern day Nova Scotia, a province of Canada. The territory is contained fully within peninsular Nova Scotia towards its south-western end; its shores being washed by the waters of the Bay of Fundy. This bay (not a gulf) of the Atlantic Ocean, is the largest sheltering bay one will find along the entire eastern coast of the North American continent. The shores of the Bay of Fundy would include those of the Annapolis Basin; Minas Basin; and Chignecto Bay with its further extensions, Shepody Bay and Cumberland Basin (see map).
Old Acadia was one of the first European settlements in North America. The area was likely explored by European fishermen, many, many years ago; but the first settlers, who over-wintered, came in 1605, viz., when French merchants sent Monsieur de Monts out with a small crew of Frenchmen. The first French family immigration took place around the year of 1636; such immigration was not extensive and pretty much came to an end by 1671. From this small population base arose the French Acadian population; which, by 1671, was somewhere between 350 and 500 persons; and which, within hundred and fifty years, by 1750, had grown to some twelve thousand -- unassisted and, mostly, ungoverned. Because of international conflict, the Acadians, both by the actions of the French and English authorities, were, in the end (1748-1763), driven from their ancestral lands to all corners of the western hemisphere.
The result of the Acadian "Expulsion" was that these simple (in the good since of that word) agrarian people, were to suffer further turmoil. Turmoil, however, was something to which all Acadians had been born. Prior to their deportation, through a century and a half, war raged and battles were fought around them. Turmoil as would be caused to local populations by the military attacks and pillage of English armies sent up from the New England coast: Sedgwick (1654), Phips (1690), Church (1704), and March (1707); by the struggles for power among the local French barons, such as: La Tour, Denys, and Charnisay; and by the local Indian population driven on as they were by blood thirsty priests such as Le Loutre. The Acadian people -- and all the evidence is that they are a gentle, family loving, group of people (that certainly be the case today) -- over the first three generations in their Acadian lands, bore witness to more battles then one could even think could be staged over a 150 year period. International armies of men, some huge, even by today's standards; both regimented and otherwise, consisting of three races of men (two at a distinct stage of their civilization process) came clashing together in historic battles which took place near the war's end: Canso (1744), Grande Pré (1747), St. Croix River (1750), Louisbourg (1745 & 1758), and Chignecto (1755). These bloody battles -- and to the others to which I have referred, taking place over the entire period, 1605-1758 -- unfolded on Acadian territory (I give details of these battles in my written History of Acadia).
Through it all, the Acadians, lived by fishing on the exposed coasts of the northwestern Atlantic Ocean and by seasonal farming along the fertile lands which exist where the Fundy had her influence. Such a bonded group had never before come about, except for ancient times; the climatic elements and the cruelty of power hungry men, had the effect of welding and tempering, over three or four generations, a most unique social group; one, that loved family (both in the micro and macro aspect of that word) and were driven by their beliefs in the French/Catholic traditions and culture, to such an extent, that this remarkable group, in 1755, in a physical way, were splintered and driven hundreds, indeed, thousands of miles away to be dropped off like so much unwanted baggage mostly along the New England coast. These Acadians found themselves cast up on shores with English populations who could not only speak French but possessed an entirely different culture and religion. Many of these displaced Acadians continued on their way, and, with their own resources and with the help of only one another, to eventually gather in groups, once again, particularly, in Louisiana, in New Brunswick and in Nova Scotia, where the Acadian culture continues, yet today.