Acadia today is both a place and a people. While the term is often used to refer to a vast swath of the Maritimes, including New Brunswick and parts of Nova Scotia, it can also refer to the Acadian people, who are spread out around the world and are “right fiers” (“very proud”) of their East Coast heritage. If all you know about l’Acadie is lobsters, fiddleheads and Evangeline, here are five facts to help you “fêter” the Acadian national holiday, celebrated each year in Canada on August 15.
How did Acadia come to be?
Throughout the early 1700s, Acadians were caught between the warring French and British armies. Though they had lived on British-controlled lands in Nova Scotia since 1713, Britain feared that the Acadians would side with the French in any future military conflicts. In 1755, with new tensions mounting, French-speaking Catholics were forced to renounce their religion and swear allegiance to Britain. Those who did not were stripped of their lands and holdings and separated from their families in what became known as “Le grand dérangement” or Great Deportation.
Acadian deportees were shipped as far away as the Falkland Islands and France; some found their way to Louisiana, attracted by the strong French presence there. While many eventually returned to the Maritimes after 1764, Cajun culture is still strong in Louisiana (“Cajun” comes from an English mispronunciation of the French word “Acadien”).
Where does the name “Acadia” come from?
Legend has it that when Italian explorer Giovanni Verrazano landed somewhere between modern-day New York and Nova Scotia in 1524, he called the territory “Arcadia,” after the province in Greece. Apparently the northeast coast of North America was so beautiful that it reminded Verrazano of the Greek toponym describing a state of pastoral idyll.
However, another theory suggests that Acadia comes from the Mi’kmaq term “cadie,” loosely translated as “place of abundance.” The term is found in other place names in the region too, including Tracadie, N.B., and Shubenacadie, N.S.
Chiac: not just “Franglais”
J’ai endé up ici. Worrie pas ta brain. Nous sommes right fier.
Chiac is a dialect that is spoken throughout the region. It’s French-based but often borrows words from English, even going so far as to conjugate English verbs. The dialect also incorporates old French words that have fallen out of Québécois French usage.
Country singer and New Brunswick native Amélie Hall even wrote a song in Chiac called “Worrie pas ta brain,” a popular saying which essentially boils down to “Even if you feel your day’s not going well, it’s okay, we keep moving on.”