|Regions with significant populations|
|United States: 901,260|
|Prince Edward Island||3,020|
|Acadian French (a dialect of French with 370,000 speakers in Canada),English, or both; some areas speak Chiac; those who have resettled to Quebec typically speak Quebec French.|
|Predominantly Roman Catholicism|
|Related ethnic groups|
|French (Poitevin and Saintongeais), Cajuns, French-Canadians, Métis|
The Acadians (French: Acadiens, IPA: [akadj]) are the descendants of French colonists who settled in Acadia during the 17th and 18th centuries, some of whom are also descended from the Indigenous peoples of the region.[a] The colony was located in what is now Eastern Canada's Maritime provinces (Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island), as well as part of Quebec, and present-day Maine to the Kennebec River. Although today most of the Acadians and Québécois are French-speaking (francophone) Canadians, Acadia was a distinctly separate colony of New France. It was geographically and administratively separate from the French colony of Canada (modern-day Quebec). As a result, the Acadians and Québécois developed two distinct histories and cultures. They also developed a slightly different French language. France has one official language and to accomplish this they have an administration in charge of the language. Since the Acadians were separated from this council, their French language evolved independently, and Acadians retain several elements of 17th-century French that have been lost in France. The settlers whose descendants became Acadians came from many areas in France, but especially regions such as Île-de-France, Normandy, Brittany, Poitou and Aquitaine. Acadian family names have come from many areas in France. For example, the Maillets are from Paris; the LeBlancs of Normandy; the surname Melanson is from Brittany, and those with the surnames Bastarache and Basque came from Aquitaine.
During the French and Indian War (the North American theater of the Seven Years' War), British colonial officers suspected Acadians were aligned with France after finding some Acadians fighting alongside French troops at Fort Beausejour. Though most Acadians remained neutral during the French and Indian War, the British, together with New England legislators and militia, carried out the Great Expulsion (Le Grand Dérangement) of the Acadians during the 1755-1764 period. They deported approximately 11,500 Acadians from the maritime region. Approximately one-third perished from disease and drowning. The result was what one historian described as an ethnic cleansing of the Acadians from Maritime Canada. Other historians indicate that it was a deportation similar to other deportations of the time period.
Most Acadians were deported to various American colonies, where many were forced into servitude, or marginal lifestyles. Some Acadians were deported to England, sent to the Caribbean, and some were deported to France. After being expelled to France, many Acadians were eventually recruited by the Spanish government to migrate to present day Louisiana state (known then as Spanish colonial Luisiana), where they developed what became known as Cajun culture. In time, some Acadians returned to the Maritime provinces of Canada, mainly to New Brunswick because they were barred by the British from resettling their lands and villages in what became Nova Scotia. Before the US Revolutionary War, the Crown settled New England Planters in former Acadian communities and farmland as well as Loyalists after the war (including nearly 3,000 Black Loyalists, who were freed slaves). British policy was to assimilate Acadians with the local populations where they resettled.
Acadians speak a dialect of French called Acadian French. Many of those in the Moncton area speak Chiac and English. The Louisiana Cajun descendants speak a dialect of American English called Cajun English, with many also speaking Cajun French, a close relative of the original dialect from Canada influenced by Spanish and West African languages.
During the early 1600s, about sixty French families were established in Acadia. They developed friendly relations with the Wabanaki Confederacy (particularly the Mi'kmaq), learning their hunting and fishing techniques. The Acadians lived mainly in the coastal regions of the Bay of Fundy; farming land reclaimed from the sea through diking. Living in a contested borderland region between French Canada (modern Quebec) and British territories, the Acadians often became entangled in the conflict between the powers. Over a period of seventy-four years, six wars took place in Acadia and Nova Scotia in which the Confederacy and some Acadians fought to keep the British from taking over the region (See the four French and Indian Wars as well as Father Rale's War and Father Le Loutre's War).
While France lost political control of Acadia in 1713, the Mí'kmaq did not concede land to the British. Along with some Acadians, the Mi'kmaq from time to time used military force to resist the British. This was particularly evident in the early 1720s during Dummer's War but hostilities were brought to a close by a treaty signed in 1726.
The British Conquest of Acadia happened in 1710. Over the next forty-five years the Acadians refused to sign an unconditional oath of allegiance to Britain. Many were influenced by Father Jean-Louis Le Loutre, who from his arrival in 1738 until his capture in 1755 preached against the 'English devils'. During this time period Acadians participated in various militia operations against the British and maintained vital supply lines to the French Fortress of Louisbourg and Fort Beausejour. During the French and Indian War, the British sought to neutralize any military threat Acadians posed and to interrupt the vital supply lines Acadians provided to Louisbourg by deporting Acadians from Acadia.
With the founding of Halifax in 1749 the Mi'kmaq resisted British (Protestant) settlements by making numerous raids on Halifax, Dartmouth, Lawrencetown and Lunenburg. During the French and Indian War, the Mi'kmaq assisted the Acadians in resisting the British during the Expulsion of the Acadians.
Many Acadians might have signed an unconditional oath to the British monarchy had the circumstances been better, while other Acadians did not sign because they were clearly anti-British. For the Acadians who might have signed an unconditional oath, there were numerous reasons why they did not. The difficulty was partly religious, in that the British monarch was the head of the (Protestant) Church of England. Another significant issue was that an oath might commit male Acadians to fight against France during wartime. A related concern was whether their Mi'kmaq neighbours might perceive this as acknowledging the British claim to Acadia rather than the Mi'kmaq. As a result, signing an unconditional oath might have put Acadian villages in dangers of attack from Mi'kmaq.
In the Great Expulsion (le Grand Dérangement), after the Battle of Fort Beauséjour beginning in August 1755 under Lieutenant Governor Lawrence, approximately 11,500 Acadians (three-quarters of the Acadian population in Nova Scotia) were expelled, their lands and property confiscated, and in some cases their homes burned. The Acadians were deported throughout the British eastern seaboard colonies from New England to Georgia. Although measures were taken during the embarkation of the Acadians to the transport ship, some families became split up. After 1758, thousands were transported to France. Most of the Acadians who went to Louisiana were transported there from France on five Spanish ships provided by the Spanish Crown to populate their Louisiana colony and provide farmers to supply New Orleans. The Spanish had hired agents to seek out the dispossessed Acadians in Brittany and the effort was kept secret so as not to anger the French King. These new arrivals from France joined the earlier wave expelled from Acadia, creating the Cajun population and culture.
The Spanish forced the Acadians they had transported to settle along the Mississippi River, to block British expansion, rather than Western Louisiana where many of them had family and friends and where it was much easier to farm. Rebels among them marched to New Orleans and ousted the Spanish governor. The Spanish later sent infantry from other colonies to put down the rebellion and execute the leaders. After the rebellion in December 1769 the Spanish Governor O'Reilly permitted the Acadians who had settled across the river from Natchez to resettle on the Iberville or Amite river closer to New Orleans.
A second and smaller expulsion occurred when the British took control of the North Shore of what is now New Brunswick. After the fall of Quebec the British lost interest and many Acadians returned to British North America, settling in coastal villages not occupied by American colonists. A few of these had evaded the British for several years but the brutal winter weather eventually forced them to surrender. Some returnees settled in the region of Fort Sainte-Anne, now Fredericton, but were later displaced by the arrival of the United Empire Loyalists after the American Revolution.
In 2003, at the request of Acadian representatives, Queen Elizabeth II, Queen of Canada issued a Royal Proclamation acknowledging the deportation and establishing July 28 as an annual day of commemoration, beginning in 2005. The day is called the "Great Upheaval" on some English-language calendars.
The Acadians today live predominantly in the Canadian Maritime provinces, as well as parts of Quebec, Louisiana and Maine. In New Brunswick, Acadians inhabit the northern and eastern shores of New Brunswick, from Miscou Island (French: Île Miscou) Île Lamèque including Caraquet in the center, all the way to Neguac in the southern part, Grande-Anse in the eastern part and Campbellton through to Saint-Quentin in the northern part. Other groups of Acadians can be found in the Magdalen Islands and throughout other parts of Quebec. Many Acadians still live in and around the area of Madawaska, Maine where the Acadians first landed and settled in what is now known as the St. John Valley. There are also Acadians in Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia such as Chéticamp, Isle Madame, and Clare. East and West Pubnico, located at the end of the province, are the oldest regions still Acadian.
The Acadians settled on the land before the deportation and returned to some of the same exact land after the deportation. Still others can be found in the southern and western regions of New Brunswick, Western Newfoundland and in New England. Many of these latter communities have faced varying degrees of assimilation. For many families in predominantly Anglophone communities, French-language attrition has occurred, particularly in younger generations.
Today Acadians are a vibrant minority, particularly in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Louisiana (Cajuns), and northern Maine. Since 1994, Le Congrès Mondial Acadien has united Acadians of the Maritimes, New England, and Louisiana.
August 15, the feast of the Assumption, was adopted as the national feast day of the Acadians at the First Acadian National Convention, held in Memramcook, New Brunswick in 1881. On that day, the Acadians celebrate by having the tintamarre which consists mainly of a big parade where people can dress up with the colours of Acadia and make a lot of noise.
The national anthem of the Acadians is "Ave, maris stella", adopted at Miscouche, Prince Edward Island in 1884. The anthem was revised at the 1992 meeting of the Société Nationale de l'Acadie, where the second, third and fourth verses were changed to French, with the first and last kept in the original Latin.
The Federation des Associations de Familles Acadiennes of New Brunswick and the Société Saint-Thomas d'Aquin of Prince Edward Island has resolved that December 13 each year shall be commemorated as "Acadian Remembrance Day" to commemorate the sinking of the Duke William and the nearly 2000 Acadians deported from Ile-Saint Jean who perished in the North Atlantic from hunger, disease and drowning in 1758. The event has been commemorated annually since 2004 and participants mark the event by wearing a black star.
Today, there are cartoons featuring Acadian characters and an Acadian show named Acadieman.
In 1847, American writer Henry Wadsworth Longfellow published Evangeline, an epic poem loosely based on the events surrounding the 1755 deportation. The poem became an American classic, and contributed to a rebirth of Acadian identity in both Maritime Canada and in Louisiana.
In the early 20th century, two statues were made of Evangeline, one in St. Martinville, Louisiana and the other in Grand-Pré, Nova Scotia, which both commemorate the Expulsion. Robbie Robertson wrote a popular song based on the Acadian Expulsion titled Acadian Driftwood, which appeared on The Band's 1975 album, Northern Lights - Southern Cross.
The Acadian Memorial (Monument Acadien) honors those 3,000 who settled in Louisiana.
The flag of the Acadians is the French tricolour with a golden star in the blue field (see above), which symbolizes the Saint Mary, Our Lady of the Assumption, patron saint of the Acadians and the "Star of the Sea". This flag was adopted in 1884 at the Second Acadian National Convention, held in Miscouche, Prince Edward Island.
Acadians in the diaspora have adopted other symbols. The flag of Acadians in Louisiana, known as Cajuns, was designed by Thomas J. Arceneaux of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, and adopted by the Louisiana legislature as the official emblem of the Acadiana region in 1974.
A group of New England Acadians attending Le Congrès Mondial Acadien in Nova Scotia in 2004, endorsed a design for a New England Acadian flag by William Cork, and are advocating for its wider acceptance.
Notable Acadians in the 18th century include Noël Doiron (1684-1758). Noel was one of more than 350 Acadians that perished on the Duke William on December 13, 1758. Noel was described by the Captain of the Duke William as the "father of the whole island", a reference to Noel's place of prominence among the Acadian residents of Isle St. Jean (Prince Edward Island). For his "noble resignation" and self-sacrifice aboard the Duke William, Noel was celebrated in popular print throughout the 19th century in England and America. Noel also is the namesake of the village Noel, Nova Scotia.
More recent notable Acadians include singers Angèle Arsenault and Edith Butler, singer Jean-François Breau, writer Antonine Maillet; film director Phil Comeau; singer-songwriter Julie Doiron; artist Phoebe Legere, boxers Yvon Durelle and Jacques LeBlanc; pitcher Rheal Cormier; former Governor General Roméo LeBlanc; former premier of Prince Edward Island Aubin-Edmond Arsenault, the first Acadian premier of any province and the first Acadian appointed to a provincial supreme court; Georges Hebert, guitarist - most notably having played with Anne Murray for over 30 years, as well as for the New Brunswick Playboys 1960s rock band; Aubin-Edmond Arsenault's father, Joseph-Octave Arsenault, the first Acadian appointed to the Canadian Senate from Prince Edward Island; Peter John Veniot, first Acadian Premier of New Brunswick; and former New Brunswick premier Louis Robichaud, who was responsible for modernizing education and the government of New Brunswick in the mid-20th century. Singers Beyoncé and Solange Knowles have Acadian ancestry.
Prominent Louisiana Acadians include Senator Dudley J. LeBlanc, Singer-Songwriter Zachary Richard, Attorney-cultural activist Warren Perrin, and historian and President of the Council for the Development of French in Louisiana (CODOFIL) William Arceneaux.
The people are tall and well proportioned, they delight much in wearing long hair, they are of dark complexion, in general, and somewhat of the mixture of Indians; but there are some of a light complexion. They retain the language and customs of their neighbours the French, with a mixed affectation of the native Indians, and imitate them in their haunting and wild tones in their merriment; they are naturally full cheer and merry, subtle, speak and promise fair,...
Many of the Acadians and Mi'kmaq people were mixed bloods , foreign aboriginals or métis example, when Shirley put a bounty on the Mi'kmaq people during King George's War, the Acadians appealed in anxiety to Mascarene because of the "great number of Mulattoes amongst them".
A note on interpretation: With regard to census data, rather than going by ethnic identification, some would define an Acadian as a native French-speaking person living in the Maritime provinces of Canada. According to the same 2006 census, the population was 25,400 in New Brunswick; 34,025 in Nova Scotia; 32,950 in Quebec; and 5,665 in 03-18
Abbé Pierre Maillard claimed that racial intermixing had proceeded so far by 1753 that in fifty years it would be impossible to distinguish Amerindian from French in Acadia.