A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

[BRIEF NOTE] On the ethnic cleansing of the Acadians

If not for Facebook’s Lee-Ellen I would have missed this article written by Polly Leger in the New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal, commemorating the expulsion of the Acadians–the French settlers of what is now eastern Canada, the Maritime provinces, my home turf, ethnically cleansed at the beginning of the Seven Years War.

On July 28, 1755, the lieutenant-governor of Nova Scotia ordered a roundup of Acadians who had refused to pledge allegiance to the King of England.

From that date into the early 1760s, nearly 6,500 Acadians were forced onto crowded ships and transported to Louisiana or back to France. Families were torn apart, disease plagued the ships and hundreds were lost at sea.

Thousands of Acadians who escaped deportation went into hiding, while others were forced to watch their homes and crops burned.

The Grand Dérangement, as it is called in French, is seen as the cataclysmic event at the root of Acadian culture.

For the past six years, July 28 has been an official day of remembrance, a solemn counterbalance to the celebrations of Aug. 15, the national day of Acadians.

The brutality of the expulsion has been memorialized and mythologized, from Longfellow’s heavily fictionalized poem, Evangeline, to the songs of the band 1755.

Amély Friolet-O’Neil, 22, is the vice-president of the Société Nationale de l’Acadie. As a young Acadian, she said it’s important to her to remember the expulsion, a “founding” moment for the Acadian community.

“It’s always been important for me to know where you come from in order to know who you are, and where you want to go,” she said in French.

“An Acadian doesn’t have to be someone whose family was deported,” Friolet-O’Neil said. “It’s no longer white and black.”

“It’s an important part of the story,” she said, “But l’Acadie isn’t just that.”

Three points.

1. If not for the ethnic cleaning of the Acadians, Canada would be very different, my corner particularly. Imagine a single Province of Acadia, its French colonial population having survived the Seven Years War as functionally intact as the Canadiens, likely Francophone majority, also under British rule. Why not? The deportation closed off entirely probable pathways of development. But for centuries of mutual hostility …

2. In such a Francophone polity I wouldn’t exist. Why would I, when the settlement of Prince Edward Island by British immigrants only began decades after the conquest of New France and the transformation of the former Acadia into a collection of thoroughly British colonies?

3. The comments are worth reading, inasmuch as many of the English Canadian commenters don’t seem to think what happened matters at all to the present day, its relationships of power and patterns of cultural diffusion and interpretations of history, none of it.

Written by Randy McDonald

July 28, 2011 at 8:59 pm

2 Responses

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  1. It’d strongly effect Louisiana and the American South even though they were marginalized down there. The cultural knock-on effects would be pretty profound /here/ if we didn’t end up with a the ancestors of what we now call Cajuns. The food alone…

    Will Baird

    July 29, 2011 at 5:26 pm

  2. I’m not sure that the Cajuns played that major a role. Yes, the resettled Acadians did form probably the largest share of the multiethnic white Francophone population, but they weren’t the only one. In a counterfactual where they stayed in Acadia, the various Isleno, German, etc immigrant communities would have arrived, and New Orleans would still have been precociously globalized and plugged into the Caribbean.

    Randy McDonald

    July 30, 2011 at 3:17 am


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