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Who are the Acadians?

The Acadians are a vibrant cultural group with roots in the early French settlers of Canada's Maritime provinces. Their rich history is marked by resilience and a unique blend of traditions. As descendants of a people who fiercely maintained their identity through upheaval, the Acadians' story is a tapestry of survival and cultural fusion. What secrets does their heritage hold?
Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis

The Acadians are an ethnic and cultural group who trace their lineage to settlers expelled from Canada in the mid-18th century. Although the group scattered after their expulsion, a large number formed an active community in southern Louisiana, eventually leading to the Cajun ethnicity. Their name comes from the area of Canada they settled in, part of the Maritime Provinces of the northeastern seaboard.

In the 1630s, French immigrants arrived in Acadia in large groups, recruited by the French government to settle the land. Though spread over a large region, the Acadians congregated mostly around Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island. Quite early in their residence, the settlers created a strong alliance with the Mi'kmaq Indian tribes, leading to frequent marriages between the two groups. Contrary to some reports, not all the Acadian settlers were French. Some English and German families also joined the settlement, and were largely accepted by the French majority.

During the 1600s, the Acadians settled in areas of present-day New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island within Canada.
During the 1600s, the Acadians settled in areas of present-day New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island within Canada.

Unfortunately, the Acadian provinces were in the middle of constant disputes between the French and English over ownership. After nearly a century of conflict, the French and Indian war broke out in the 1750s, pitting France against Britain in the North American theater. British forces assaulted Acadian towns repeatedly during the war, putting those who refused to swear to the English crown under pain of treason. In 1755, thousands of un-sworn Acadians were expelled from their homes in what is known as the Great Upheaval.

After being expelled from Canada, a large number of Acadians formed an active community in southern Louisiana.
After being expelled from Canada, a large number of Acadians formed an active community in southern Louisiana.

The 1755 exile was not the only one for the Acadian territory. Over the next decade, many more were thrown out of the area as British power increased. By the time of the Treaty of Paris in 1763, thousands of Acadians had been displaced, and forced to settle in other locations throughout the world.

The end of the French and Indian War left Louisiana in French control, leading a large colony of Acadians to settle alongside the Mississippi river in the Louisiana territory. Although they had to survive severe climate changes from their native home in Canada, and the takeover of the area by the Spanish government, the population quickly thrived. Although they intermarried with people from many other cultures, a large influx of settlers from France joined the Acadians in 1785, leading to a lasting French impact on culture and lifestyle. Eventually, the name was dialectically changed, leading to the modern term “Cajuns.”

Other Acadian exiles fled to throughout the American colonies, deep into French-Canadian territories, or even back to France. They also formed a large part of the French presence in the Caribbean islands, contributing to French involvement in the Age of Sail. In modern times, Acadian descendants have a proud heritage from their many cultural influences. In America, they are noted for their contributions to Southern music, cuisine and cultural practices. Through freezing Canadian winters and devastating exile, the Acadian people proved their tenacity and hardiness, something still prized by descendants today.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who are the Acadians, and where did they originally settle?

The Acadians are descendants of French colonists who settled in Acadia, a region in the northeastern part of North America during the 17th century. This area included parts of what is now Eastern Canada's Maritime provinces (Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island), as well as parts of Quebec, and the present-day state of Maine in the USA. They developed a distinct culture and dialect known as Acadian French.

What is the significance of the Great Expulsion in Acadian history?

The Great Expulsion, also known as Le Grand Dérangement, was a pivotal event in Acadian history that occurred between 1755 and 1764. During this period, British colonial authorities forcibly removed more than 10,000 Acadians from their homeland due to their refusal to swear allegiance to the British Crown. This expulsion scattered Acadians throughout the world, with many eventually settling in Louisiana, where they became known as Cajuns, a derivation of 'Acadian'.

How have Acadians preserved their culture and identity?

Acadians have preserved their culture and identity through a strong oral tradition, the maintenance of their French dialect, and the practice of Roman Catholicism. They celebrate their heritage through festivals like the Tintamarre, where they make noise to show their presence and vitality. Additionally, traditional Acadian foods, music, and dance continue to be important cultural expressions. The Université de Moncton in New Brunswick also plays a role in preserving Acadian culture through academic study and promotion.

What are some traditional Acadian dishes?

Traditional Acadian cuisine reflects the resourcefulness of the Acadian people and their connection to the land and sea. Some iconic dishes include poutine râpée (a boiled potato dumpling with a pork center), fricot (a hearty stew often made with chicken or seafood), and rappie pie (a casserole-like dish made from grated potatoes and meat). These dishes are still enjoyed today and are a testament to the Acadian spirit of resilience and community.

Where can one learn more about Acadian history and culture?

Those interested in learning more about Acadian history and culture can visit historical sites such as the Grand-Pré National Historic Site in Nova Scotia, which commemorates the area's Acadian settlers and the Great Expulsion. Museums like the Acadian Museum of Prince Edward Island and the Acadian Cultural Center in Louisiana offer exhibits and information. Additionally, academic resources and publications from institutions like the Université de Moncton provide in-depth research and insights into Acadian heritage.

Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis

With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica is passionate about drama and film. She has many other interests, and enjoys learning and writing about a wide range of topics in her role as a PublicPeople writer.

Learn more...
Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis

With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica is passionate about drama and film. She has many other interests, and enjoys learning and writing about a wide range of topics in her role as a PublicPeople writer.

Learn more...

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Discussion Comments

anon352529

Why were they kicked out?

anon25025

what is the current name for the acadians who fled from canada to louisiana.

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    • During the 1600s, the Acadians settled in areas of present-day New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island within Canada.
      By: Anna
      During the 1600s, the Acadians settled in areas of present-day New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island within Canada.
    • After being expelled from Canada, a large number of Acadians formed an active community in southern Louisiana.
      By: metrue
      After being expelled from Canada, a large number of Acadians formed an active community in southern Louisiana.