Stacey and I visited Grand Pré during her soggy May visit. Photos from that visit illustrate my brief summary of what Grand Pré commemorates.
Founded in 1604, the French colony of Acadia covered parts of present-day, Quebec, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Maine and much of Nova Scotia. Although the colony was ceded to Great Britain in 1713, the Acadian population continued to grow and thrive.
Due to continuing skirmishes between France and Britain, in 1754 the British lieutenant-governor proposed that the Acadians take an unqualified oath of allegiance to the British government, and if they refused they would be deported. Despite their stated neutrality, successive Acadian representatives were arrested when they would not take the oath. The British now had the excuse they wanted to get rid of the perceived threat.
|Statue commemorating the expulsion. The parents are |
gesturing at two more children off to the right.
British troops were mobilized and the expulsion began. Many Acadian men were arrested, hundreds of homes and buildings were burned and crops destroyed.
In the end, over 10,000 Acadians were expelled between 1755 and 1763. One group of 3,100 deported to France, on overcrowded transport ships, suffered a fatality rate of 53% due to drowning (two ships sank) and disease. Families were broken up. Some children were taken from their families to become indebted farm workers.
Being both French and Catholic, those who were shipped to the American colonies were met with discrimination and rejection.
It was from Grand Pré, a once thriving Acadian settlement, that so many of them were expelled. That same location now stands as a witness to a shameful page in early Canadian history, but also as a tribute to a people who maintained their culture in the face of terrible hardship, indignity and loss.
Perhaps you've heard of the Acadians who did successfully settle in the U.S. ? They migrated to the Louisianna area which already had some French settlers. Over the years the term Acadian evolved into its present-day term -- Cajun.