Thursday, August 21, 2008

Acadia, New Brunswick

There was a trend in the colonization of the New World different to wholesale Christianization and ethnic cleansing so characteristic of post-Columbian Americas. Acadians were free settlers of French descend who came to the area now known as New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and the Prince Edward Island starting as early as 1604. They were land-tillers and they learnt fishing and hunting techniques from the natives of the area, the Mi'kmaq people. Their relationship was that of cultural osmosis rather than downright ethnic cleansing that has been so typical for history of the rest of the Americas. in Acadia American natives were included in councils and education while intermarriage was very common. The Acadians and the Mi'kmaq enjoyed a very peaceful co-existence until the takeover by the British who viewed such it as a "heinous misdemeanour". In 1722 British Governor Richard Philipp made it illegal to for Europeans and Indians to convene and associate with each other.

Tip: Leave at least one day for visiting the Village Historique Acadien, an open-air museum recreating the daily life of Acadians before the Great Expulsion.

Acadians were never a part of the Quebec territory and wanted to take no sides in the ongoing Anglo-French squabble for colonial dominance. When the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713 delivered them in the hands of the English, they hoped to remain neutral but were demanded to swear allegiance to the British Crown. Acadians refused and were swiftly uprooted and forcefully dispatched to other British dominions , some as far as the Falkland Islands. Their property was burnt or given to Protestant English settlers. American national poet Henry Longfellow wrote a poignant poem Evangeline dedicated to this event. Resettlement ban was effective for next two hundred years. In 2003 Britain recognized the fact of ethnic cleansing but never apologised.

Acadians speak their own version of French with a lot of archaisms dating back to the way the language was spoken before Louis XIV. Your school French will be of limited help there: they will understand you but not necessarily the other way around. Luckily, signs are in Standard French, so that makes things a tad easier.


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