History Lessons
July 28, 2008 6:48 AM   Subscribe

On this day in 2002, Canada's Govenor General declared "A Day of Commemoration of the Great Upheaval," which continues to be observed. In short, it marks the expulsion of the Acadians from what is now Nova Scotia. Their decedents became what are now known as Cajuns. It is still memorialized, both in Louisiana, as well as in Nova Scotia. Longfellow's poem, Evangeline tells this tale. How did I find this out? In the funny pages.
posted by MrGuilt (15 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
this song tells the story beautifully, too.
posted by jonmc at 6:55 AM on July 28, 2008

Well, shut my mouf and fill me wit cornpone.

I saw the Arlo and Janis cartoon this morning, but I thought it was just a one-off. Interesting that it was a semi-coordinated effort.
posted by yhbc at 7:07 AM on July 28, 2008

Now I'm jonesing for some Rappie Pie.
posted by Gungho at 7:31 AM on July 28, 2008

Well, speaking as a Nova Scotian, "observed" is a bit of a stretch. It's certainly a well-known part of our history, but there are no public holidays or anything. It's more akin to the Trail of Tears than, say, MLKjr Day. It happened, it's widely acknowledged to have been a bad thing, and there are annual gatherings and remembrances tied to it, but not officially observed.

There's a ton of stuff on the internet about the Acadians and Le Grand Dérangement. Most of it points a pretty bad picture of the British. But 1) Britain was at war with France at the time, 2) the English were highly outnumbered by the French in the colony, 3) the Mi'kmaw generally favoured the French, and 4) while the majority of Acadians were neutral and just wanted to be left alone, some did take up active resistance to the British. As well, deporting enemy populations from colonies was commonplace at the time.

When the deportation was ordered, Halifax had been founded only six years previously, and Louisbourg - potentially the largest and strongest fortified town in North America at the time - was back in French hands. To suggest to someone in 1755 that within as little as eight years the British would have seen the final elimination of French power on the continent would have seemed ludicrous. Sure, looking back it was a terrible decision, but at the time it was a rational and common one.

(It should also be noted that the deported populations were sent to many places besides Louisiana, including the American colonies, England, and France, and the order was eventually lifted to permit their return. Many Acadians also remained in Nova Scotia throughout, albeit often pushed onto worse land, and have remained an important part of the culture here. The first Acadian was elected to the Legislative Assembly in 1836, and was received there to the applause of his colleagues.)
posted by GhostintheMachine at 7:38 AM on July 28, 2008 [4 favorites]

The art in that first comic strip link is such a blatant rip-off of Calvin and Hobbes, I'm actually offended.
posted by autodidact at 7:48 AM on July 28, 2008

I was thinking exactly the same thing, autodidact. Good post, though, MrGuilt.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 8:58 AM on July 28, 2008

There were also Acadians deported from Ile St. Jean (Now Prince Edward Island), which wasn't ever part of Nova Scotia. We still hove a definite Acadian community in the Western end of the Island, as well.
posted by Space Coyote at 9:06 AM on July 28, 2008

I wanted to make some sort of joke about "descendents" and "decedents", but I hate spelling police so I won't do it.
posted by Class Goat at 9:29 AM on July 28, 2008

GhostintheMachine, I suspected it was, at best, the sort of thing where the major observation was the lack of mail (how I "celebrate" MLK day). I agree with your points that the reality of the day was probably different than hindsight.

I also knew that the Acadians landed in places other than Louisiana...I'm merely a decedent...er...descendant* of that group. In a way, had this not happened, I wouldn't be here.

*A sincere thanks, Class Goat, for both pointing it out, but in a kind way.
posted by MrGuilt at 9:38 AM on July 28, 2008

Ack, "merely a descendant" came out sounding wrong. I meant more "the bias of the post merely reflects that point of view."
posted by MrGuilt at 9:41 AM on July 28, 2008

...Ile St. Jean (Now Prince Edward Island), which wasn't ever part of Nova Scotia...

Untrue. Ile St. Jean (PEI), Isle Royale (Cape Breton), and the rest of Acadia (New Brunswick) were joined to Nova Scotia following the Treaty of Paris, 1763. PEI was made a separate colony in 1769, and Cape Breton and New Brunswick were made separate colonies in 1784 (after the influx of Loyalists following the American Revolution). Cape Breton was returned to Nova Scotia in 1820.

@MrGuilt: Just to make clear, even though the day is not officially observed in any way, Acadian culture is easily encountered here on a daily basis. After the national and provincial flags (and usually the American one, as a nod to our touristy neighbours), the Acadian flag - the French tricolour with a yellow star in the upper left - is one of the most common sights here. So yeah, had this not happened you wouldn't be there... you'd be here. You're welcome to drop by any time.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 10:42 AM on July 28, 2008 [1 favorite]

GhostintheMachine, is it the flag on top? I grew up seeing the one below it (Acadiana--even have a cycling jersey themed around it). I do want to visit Nova Scotia at some point.

Alas, I wouldn't be there, either, given my mom's ancestry. But, that's a whole different story...

/queue the Flux Capacitor joke.
posted by MrGuilt at 11:09 AM on July 28, 2008

Yep, the top flag is the Acadian flag. Although they started out as Acadians when they moved to Louisiana, the 'cajuns picked up a couple other influences as well, hence the Spanish and American symbolism on the Acadiana flag. Of course, this flag never flew over the French colony of Acadia, having been designed and adopted in 1884.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 11:35 AM on July 28, 2008

The art in that first comic strip link is such a blatant rip-off of Calvin and Hobbes, I'm actually offended.

Sheesh, not this again. While Mallett is obviously influenced in terms of character inking by Watterson, and his strip also features kids, they're otherwise quite different and I don't think it's fair to call it a rip-off, any more than Bloom County was a "rip-off" of Doonesbury.
posted by dhartung at 9:58 PM on July 28, 2008

There are some great Cajun songs on this topic (unsurprisingly). One of the best and most chilling is Zachary Richard's "Réveille," from his album Bayou Des Mystères and more recently rerecorded on Coeur Fidèle. BeauSoleil's "Chanson d'Acadie" and Bruce Daigrepont's jaunty, more upbeat "Acadie à la Louisiane" are also favorites of mine.

I first heard about the quest for the acknowledgement and apology several years ago when I met a man named Warren Perrin down in Erath, Louisiana. He told me the whole story of how it came about; from the above link:
For fifteen years Perrin spearheaded a campaign to compel Queen Elizabeth II of England to acknowledge and apologize for the Acadians’ expulsion from Nova Scotia. In 1988, Perrin began an intense historical study of his ancestors’ plight after his youngest son, Bruce, asked him what the Acadians had done wrong to be expelled from Nova Scotia. He began researching the issue from a historical and legal perspective. The more Perrin read, the more he became incensed. In January, 1990, with the support and urging of many, Perrin presented a Petition on behalf of the Acadian people to the British government and Crown seeking an apology for the deportation of the Acadians from Nova Scotia in 1755. Perrin merged his efforts with the S.N.A., Société Nationale de l'Acadie and this successfully resulted in a Royal Proclamation being signed on December 9, 2003 and decreeing July 28th as the annual Day of Commemoration of the Acadian Deportation. In recognition of this accomplishment, the French-American Chamber of Commerce honored him on January 20, 2004 with a special Cultural Achievement award. On August 11, 2004, the Broussard Family organization of Louisiana, La Famille Beausoleil, recognized Perrin for his achievements, by presenting him with the “Beausoleil Award” during the Congrès Mondial Acadien in Nova Scotia, Canada.
Still waitin' for that apology, though ...
posted by chuq at 11:15 AM on July 31, 2008

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