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Acadians are the original French settlers of parts of the northeastern region of North America comprising what is now the Canadian provinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island.

During the 17th century about a hundred French families were established in Acadia. The Acadians avoided the disputes between the French and the British and developed friendly relations with the Aboriginal Mi'kmaq, learning their hunting and fishing techniques.

The Acadians became British subjects when France ceded Acadia by the Treaty of Utrecht (1713), and Acadia became known as Nova Scotia. When the French and Indian War began in 1754, the British government, doubting the neutrality of the Acadians, demanded that the they take an oath of allegiance to the Crown. Most Acadians refused.

British Governor Charles Lawrence decided to deport the Acadians from Nova Scotia and dispersed them among the 13 colonies from Massachusetts to Georgia. Several of these colonies refused to take in any refugees; such was the case with Virginia, which deported the Acadians to England and France.

This ethnic cleansing has been referred to as the Great Expulsion (Grand Dérangement) of 1755. In 2003, at the request of Acadian representatives, Elizabeth II, Queen of Canada, issued a proclamation officially acknowledging the deportation and establishing July 28 as a day of commemoration. [1]

Families were separated and sent by ship into exile, where one third perished. Many, however, managed to hide in the woods or return to their homes over the following decades.

In 1764 the war was over, and the Acadians were granted permission to return to Nova Scotia; however, they were prohibited from settling in any one area in large numbers. Some Acadians therefore spread out along the Nova Scotia coast and remain scattered across Nova Scotia to this day.

Other Acadians sought refuge in France, especially in the slums of Nantes. The French islands of St. Pierre and Miquelon near Newfoundland became a safe harbour for many Acadian families until they were once again deported by the British in 1778 and 1793.

The Acadians today inhabit the north and east shores of New Brunswick, the area around Moncton, the Magdalen Islands, and smaller pockets in Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia such as Chéticamp, Clare, Annapolis Valley, Halifax-Dartmouth, Pomquet, Richmond and Sydney, Nova Scotia. There are also people of Acadian ancestry in Maine and Quebec. Some of the Acadians who were deported in 1755 were encouraged by the French king to settle in Louisiana, where their descendants, the Cajuns, have become a dominant cultural influence in many a Louisiana parish.

The Acadians virtually disappeared from history for a century after the Grand Dérangement (Great Disruption), as they call the Acadian Expulsion, but being hardy and determined, they survived and experienced a minor cultural and political revolution in the 1880s.

In 1847 an epic poem by American writer Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Evangeline, was loosely based on the events surrounding the 1755 deportation. The poem became an American classic.

Robbie Robertson wrote a popular song based on the Acadian Expulsion titled "Acadian Driftwood"" that appeared on The Band's 1975 album, Northern Lights - Southern Cross.

Today Acadians are a vibrant minority, particularly in New Brunswick and Maine.

Acadians speak a dialect of French called Acadian French.

The American folklore hero, Paul Bunyan, is believed by some to have been influenced if not inspired by Acadian stories about lumberjacks.

Notable Acadians include singer Angele Arsenault, writer Antonine Maillet, former Governor General Roméo LeBlanc, and former New Brunswick premier Louis Robichaud, who was the first Acadian premier and who was responsible for modernizing education and the government of New Brunswick in the mid-20th century.

External link

Lucie LeBlanc Consentino's Acadian Home website is a respected and frequently cited source of information on Acadian history and genealogy.