Saturday, 11 January 2014


Acadia (French Acadie), French colony in northeastern North America between 1604 and 1713. The origins of the name Acadia have been traced to Mi’kmaq words and to the Latin word arcadia (a rustic paradise). Although France initially defined Acadia as reaching from Pennsylvania to Cape Breton Island, in practice the colonized area was smaller. At most, a French sphere of influence encompassed the present-day Maritime provinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island, as well as parts of eastern Québec and northeastern Maine.
The French coexisted with the more numerous Mi’kmaq, Maliseet, and Passamaquoddy, who also occupied the territory. The British took over the French claim to Acadia, which they called Nova Scotia, in 1713, and from 1755 to 1762 they deported most of the Acadian settlers from the territory. Despite the deportation, the Acadians retained a strong sense of cultural identity, and they continue to represent a significant French-speaking minority in the Maritime provinces, particularly New Brunswick.
In 1603 France granted the French colonial promoter Pierre du Gua, sieur de Monts a trade monopoly in Acadia. The following year, de Monts led the first group of French settlers to mainland Acadia. They first settled on an island at the mouth of the Saint Croix River, on the present-day border between New Brunswick and Maine. In 1605 the colonists moved to Port Royal (near present-day Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia). They abandoned Port Royal and returned to France in 1607 because of a trade dispute.
In 1610 French settlers returned to the area, only to be dispersed three years later when the English, who claimed rights to the territory as well, raided the region. In 1632 the French began to resettle the area, and Port Royal soon emerged again as the administrative and population center of Acadia. By 1650 the colony claimed some 300 inhabitants; many of today’s Acadians trace their ancestry to these early settlers. The French regime continued until 1710, interrupted by periods of loose English ascendancy at Port Royal from 1654 to 1667 and in 1690.
The Acadian economy was largely agricultural. The Acadians drained and diked the marshes along the Bay of Fundy and used these reclaimed lands for livestock and cultivation. Fisheries and the fur trade were also important activities. Acadians traded with New England, exchanging furs and agricultural products for textiles, agricultural tools, and foodstuffs, although the French imperial authorities discouraged the trade. The Acadians generally coexisted peacefully with the aboriginal inhabitants of the region. Acadian use of marshland did not trouble their Mi’kmaq neighbors, and the fur trade connected Acadians with the Mi’kmaq, Maliseet, and Passamaquoddy.
In 1710, during Queen Anne’s War, the British once again captured Port Royal. In the Peace of Utrecht, which ended the war in 1713, France yielded its claim to Acadia to Britain, although they argued over its boundaries for many years afterward. The French retained Cape Breton Island, which they renamed Île Royale, and Île Saint Jean (now Prince Edward Island). The French invited the Acadians to move to the new colony of Île Royale, which had its administrative center at Louisbourg, but most Acadians refused. They preferred instead to remain on their land within what was now British Nova Scotia. However, many Acadians maintained commercial ties with French merchants in Louisbourg and continued to trade with them.
The Acadians in the British colony had an uncertain position. They remained the dominant European settlers in the region through the 1740s because few British immigrated to the colony, and they claimed neutrality in the ongoing conflict between France and Britain. British officials deeply mistrusted their neutrality. Religious differences intensified this mistrust—the Acadians were mostly Catholic and the British were mostly Protestant. The British made repeated efforts to induce the Acadians to take an unconditional oath of allegiance to the British crown, but the Acadians refused. The Acadians’ neutrality also led to tensions with aboriginal peoples who, in alliance with the French, intermittently turned to military force against British encroachment. In the meantime, the Acadian population grew from 2,500 in 1710 to more than 15,000 by 1755.
In 1749 the British founded Halifax, Nova Scotia, and began to import settlers into Nova Scotia for the first time. During the 1750s, as tensions between Britain and France built toward the French and Indian War (1754-1763), most Acadians remained committed to neutrality as the French and British skirmished over their holdings in the region. The British increasingly distrusted Acadian neutrality and Acadian trade with the French in Louisbourg.
In the summer of 1755, the Nova Scotia military council ordered the deportation of all Acadians from the colony. During the initial months of the expulsion, the British shipped about 7,000 Acadians south to British colonies from Massachusetts to Georgia. After the fall of Louisbourg to the British in 1758, Britain cleared Île Royale and sent thousands more Acadians to Britain and France, as well as to North and South America. Some of those deported died en route, and others were separated from their families. Others fled to Québec. By 1762 only some 1,500 Acadians remained in the Maritime region.
Following the deportation, immigrants from New England resettled most Acadian lands. Scattered across three continents, Acadians began to establish new communities. By 1800 close to 3,000 of these exiles had made their way to Louisiana, where the former Acadians became known over time as Cajuns. Also by that time, substantial numbers returned to the Maritime region, bringing the French-speaking population there to more than 8,000. Acadians founded rural communities in scattered locations where they subsisted through small-scale farming, fishing, and working in the woods.
During the second half of the 19th century, a cultural revival known as the Acadian Renaissance took its cue in part from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s 1847 poem Evangeline, which imaginatively portrayed the ordeal of the Acadian exiles. Acadians developed a national identity distinct both from their English-speaking neighbors and from other French-speaking Canadians (see French Canadians). At a series of national conventions during the 1880s, the Acadians of the Maritime provinces chose a national holiday (Assumption Day), a flag (a gold star placed on the French tricolor flag), and a national anthem. At the same time, industrialization opened up employment in urban centers such as Moncton, New Brunswick. The 20th century brought hard-won gains for Acadians both in language policies and in community economic development, especially in New Brunswick, where by 1996 the 240,000 French-speakers represented 32.5 percent of the overall population.
The Acadians also developed a new cultural vitality that found expression in Acadian folklore, music, and literature. In Louisiana too, increased academic interest in Acadian and Cajun history and society accompanied a widespread revival of cultural and genealogical awareness. The ongoing series of World Acadian Congresses, which bring together people of Acadian ancestry from all over the globe, demonstrates the cohesiveness of Acadian cultural identity.

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