an acadian apology

You may have missed it yesterday, but starting in 2005, July 28 will become the Cajun national holiday. Well, sort of.
You see, the Cajuns (a.k.a. my people) are the descendants of the Acadians, the French peasant settlers of Nova Scotia (then known as Acadia/Acadie) in the 1600s and 1700s. The French and British warred regularly over control of Acadia; the final settlement came in 1713 with the Treaty of Utrecht, which gave the land to the dastardly Brits.
The Acadians were a peaceful people; they just wanted to be left alone. By this time, they didn’t feel like taking sides, since the French and British had both screwed them over plenty. But the Brits insisted they swear allegiance to the British crown and be willing to take up arms against their fellow Frenchmen. The Acadians were, like, “Oh no, you didn’t!” And the British were, like, “Oh yes, I did!” This game of hip-hop oneupsmanship went on for a few decades until July 28, 1755, when a British governor named Charles Lawrence decided to play Captain Asshole and deport every Acadian he could find.
They announced a mandatory meeting of all Acadian men in a church at Grand Pre at September 5, 1755. That day, at 3 p.m., Col. John Winslow told them all they were all being kicked off their land and deported: “That your Land & Tennements, Cattle of all Kinds and Livestocks of all Sorts are forfeited to the Crown with all other your effects Savings your money and Household Goods, and you yourselves to be removed from this Province.”
The British set about breaking up families and throwing them on ill-assembled, overcrowded vessels headed for the 13 American colonies. Once there, they were forced to live in appalling conditions, often banned from working, and in many cases had their children thrown into a sort of slavery to Protestant locals. Acadians were shipped all over the world — the Falkland Islands, Guyana, Haiti, England, in some cases back to France — as families were further broken apart.
This whole process is known as Le Grand Derangement, or the Great Upheaval. Historians estimate about 8,000 of the 14,000 Acadians died or were killed in the eight years following Lawrence’s decision — mostly from diseases brought on by the squalor they were forced to live in or freezing to death when homeless during the winters.
Eventually, a group of Acadians, led by the great Joseph “Beausoleil” Broussard — who had led the armed resistance to the Brits back in Nova Scotia — negotiated with the Spanish government to allow Acadians to resettle in the Louisiana territory it had recently obtained from the French. The Spanish agreed, and word went out to Acadians around the world to head for Louisiana.
The word “Acadian” (ah-cah-DYANH) over time became “Cadian” (cah-DYANH) and “Cajun” (cah-JHAN), as a series of Anglos mispronounced it.
(I don’t mind telling you that I hate Charles Lawrence with an all-consuming passion, one unhealthy for someone dead for almost 250 years. When I was in Nova Scotia in 2000, I visited Fort Edward, one of Lawrence’s old structures and one of the sites of the deportation. I summoned up the phlegm of my forefathers and let loose a huge bolus of spit, smack on a sign that bore ol’ Charlie’s name. And it felt good, damn it.)
Anyway, I give you all this history because some Cajuns have long wanted a little apology from the Brits. I mean, killing off half of a people and stealing all their land and wealth isn’t, strictly speaking, nice. One man, Warren Perrin — a great man whose son Andy I went to high school with — has been fighting for more than a decade to get the British to say they’re sorry and to formally rescind the deportation order (which is officially still in effect — I’m technically a war criminal every time I enter British or Canadian property).
The Brits told him to buzz off, in effect, and said that it’s Canada’s problem, since Canada is the legal successor to British authority. Well, last December, the Canadians finally did the right thing, in this “Proclamation Designating July 28 of Every Year as ‘A Day of Commemoration of the Great Upheaval,’ Commencing on July 28, 2005.”
Our northern neighbors don’t exactly apologize. The proclamation recites the history and says the exile “had tragic consequences, including the deaths of many thousands of Acadians.” But instead of apologizing, all they do is “acknowledge these historical facts and the trials and suffering.” That’s good enough for me. There’s even talk that the QE2 herself may formally apologize next year.
Acadians from around the world will head to Nova Scotia Saturday for Congr

3 thoughts on “an acadian apology”

  1. upon first reading of this post, i was moderately entertained. Upon second reading of it with a silly cajun accent it was highly entertaining.

  2. Way to rock the Cajun pride, my brother…. or should I say my sixth cousin
    (Reprint from the Lafayette Daily Advertiser)
    “The Acadians who moved to Louisiana from Canada, either directly, or by way of the seven ships, in the mid 1700’s remained isolated for generations. They farmed, and attended church together, and for the most part married their own kind.
    “So the old saying that all Acadians are sixth cousins is probably not far from the truth. Most Acadians who study their past find that they are descendants of the original French settlers in Louisiana. Given that fact, it is not too surprising that genealogy, or the study of one’s family lineage, is a passion among many Acadians.”

  3. This is great news. I met Warren Perrin down in Erath several years ago, and he told me at great length about his case to get the British to apologize for the d

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