This past summer my wife and I ventured through Eastern New England/Yankeedom (a.k.a., the Canadian Maritimes), and it involved a trip through the remnant of the French colony of Acadia, which in actuality is quite alive and well. In my final post of 2013, I will discuss these fascinating people.
Acadia was the French colony that initially spanned the Canadian Maritimes and eastern Maine (maps from Wikipedia):
The colonist there largely originated from the section of France circled in green (outlined by HBD Chick):
The Acadian colony was conquered by the British in 1710 (after a long period of tension and skirmishes with New England). At first, the British tolerated the Acadian inhabitants, but by the time of the French and Indian War (a.k.a., the Seven Years’ War), the Brits decided the Acadians had to go, so the colony’s French inhabitants were deported. I acquired this poster of their history, which covers the deportation, the migrations, and the eventual return of some of the settlers (to the new thoroughly British) Maritimes.
The deported Acadian colonists scattered across the Atlantic to find refuge. Some managed to escape to Quebec, while others returned to France. Many tried to seek refuge in the American colonies along the East Coast, and some managed to do so in New England. However, they were largely denied, especially across the Tidewater and the Deep South (to where the Roman Catholic “French Neutrals” were not welcome). A great deal of the deportees died in the migrations. A good number of Acadian settlers who had returned to France and were scattered elsewhere later converged on Louisiana, where they became the Cajuns.
This is reflected in the modern New French region of Louisiana, Acadiana:
Eventually, after the Seven Years’ War had ended, some Acadian refugees were allowed to return to their former colony in the Maritimes, giving us the modern Acadia we now have. The British however had already taken much of the prime real estate in the colony, relegating the Acadian resettlers to marginal areas along the colony’s periphery.
Life in the new Acadia developed around smoking fish and sea products, done as a way to preserve the meat. Large smoke houses sprung up along the coast, becoming family enterprises with know-how passed down from generation to generation:
Today, Acadia consists of a few narrow strips along the coastal Maritimes and northern Maine:
The Acadian presence in Maine is why, on my maps of the American nations, I have placed part of Aroostook county into New France:
The Acadian legacy also survives on in Maine in certain place names (like Acadia National Park).
In both New England and in Louisiana, the Acadian identity is distinct and strong:
In Louisiana, the Cajuns established a distinct identity from the Deep Southerners around them. When the Deep Southern plantation colonists arrived in Louisiana, they found a society that they found detestably different from their own. Under the French, Blacks were not initially relegated by racial caste as slaves, and indeed many Blacks were prominent slaveholders themselves. As many of the Cajuns and Blacks in Acadiana originated from Haiti, the Caribbean flavor was distinct and powerful (visible in Louisiana Voodoo). Louisiana was much less sexually modest than the British derived colonies, something Acadiana retains a reputation for this day:
The Acadians seem to have an interesting genetic legacy as well, especially those in Louisiana. Like the Québécois, they have a much higher incidence of certain rare genetic disorders, such as Tay-Sachs disease. Peter Frost speculates that in the case of the Québécois, there was selection for intelligence similar to that of the Ashkenazi Jews. However, as far as I know, it is unclear what the situation with the Acadians could be. I would imagine that almost certainly, this is related to founder effects due their very small founding population (a few hundred in some regions).
So, my observation of the Acadians: they seem to be unlike their New England neighbors in that they don’t have the automatic cheerful friendliness Yankees typically display to outsiders. Indeed, one fellow was staring at me as if he couldn’t tell what to make of me. This wasn’t because there were no other Blacks around; I saw a handful in the area.
Also, it seems older gentlemen appear to like to gather together in the local eatery and (loudly) discuss what’s what. Perhaps this is a general Mediterranean thing?
Coincidentally, while my wife and I were in the Maritimes, we watched a Tommy Lee Jones film called In the Electric Mist, which takes place in Cajun Louisiana (good movie, by the way). The film featured the song “La Terre Tremblante,” about the life in Louisiana, here performed by a French band. I thinking it is a fitting song for this post:
Here are the lyrics and their English translation (from here):
Les pêcheurs mettent leurs lignes comme des
Les voleurs, ça met leurs appâts sur la ligne
The fishermen set their lines like
The thieves put their bait on the lines
The song is featured throughout the score of the film. Here is the musical suite from the movie, which I believe is a fitting ending tribute to this year in HBD, especially the section from about 7:50 onward.
And with that Happy New Year to you all. See you in 2014!