Before the arrival of the Europeans, Acadia was inhabited by two large tribes of the Algonquin family: The Micmacs, also called the Souriquois, and the Malecites,also called the Etchemins.
The French, particularly the missionaries, won the trust and the support of the Amerindians of Acadia. The European influence on the native culture was deeply felt at all levels. Nevertheless, the colonies also benefited from contacts with the native people since the latter showed them how to make snowshoes, mocassins, bark canoes, etc.
The fur trade formed the basis for contact between the French and the Amerindians. The French exchanged, amoung other things copper kettles, guns and glass beads for pelts of various animals, such as bever, moose and otter. Militarily, the Amerindians were also a major defence factors for the French against the English.
Origin of the name "Acadia"
While exploring the Atlantic coast of North America, the Italian explorer, Giavanni de Verazzano found the Chesapeake Bay area impressive with its majestic trees and gave the region the name "arcadia" since it evoked images of ancient Greece. With the evolution of the cartography of North America, the letter "r" was removed from "Arcadia" and "Acadia" became the designated name for Canada's Maritime Provinces.
Nevertheless, the origin of the name is still somewhat ambiguous. Acording to linguists, the word "Cadie" (hence "Lacadie" or "Acadie") may have derived from "Quoddy", a word used by the native inhabitants of the Maritime Provinces to designate a fertil area such as in Passamaquoddy, Shubenacadie and Tracadie.
According to linguists, the word "Cadie" used to designate the teritory that is now part of the Maritime Provinces, comes from the local native dialect. The name Acadia supposedly derives from the Micmac word "Algatig" meaning camp, or from a distortion of the malecite word "Quoddy" indicating fertil areas, such as found in Passamaquoddy, Shubenacadie and Tracadie.
Upon receiving exclusive control over the fur trade in Acadie from King of France, Pierre du Gua, Sieur de Monts, formed a partnership with Samual de Champlain and in 1604, crossed the Atlantic to colonize his new domain.
After exploring the shores of the bay of fundy, they settled on a little island at the mouth of the Saints-Croix River. The winter of 1604-05 came early and because the newcomers were ill-prepared and poorly nourished, thirty-six of the original eighty men perished.
The harsh winter on île Ste-Croix convinced Pierre de Gua to seek shelter elsewhere. Port-Royal, on the other side of the Bay of Fundy ("Baie Française") was chosen as their new settlement. After eight years of control by Pierre de Gua, Port Royal was capture in 1613 by the English led Samual Argall, ending the France's attempt to colonize to area
In the 1630's, Isaac de Razilly, the first governor of Acadia, began to populate the region with residence from France by recruited some "300 elite men". It is not known if some of these included their families. By 1713 Acadians numbered about 2500 and from 1713 to 1755 the population grew to about 15,000. To accomadate this population explosion several new villages were founded.
France surendered its Nova Scotia Peninsula territory to England in 1713. In 1749, England founded Halifax, the colony's new capital. The relationship between the Acadians and the English authorities deteriorated and many Acadians had to take refuge in other French territories, such as Île Saint-Jean (Prince Edwards Island), Île Royal ( Cape Bretten) and in the territory which is now New Brunswick.
Tensions between the English and the French resulted in the deportation of a large number of Acadians between 1755 and 1763. The first deportation of Acadians began in October 1755. Those Acadians who did not swear alligience to England were brought to Grand-Pré and loaded on ships.
The following factors explain why the Acadians were deported:
The link between Québec and Louisbourg via Acadia worried the English.
Some considered Acadia as the key to all the North American colonies.
Beauséjour and the settlements along the Saint-John River began to look to much like the nucleus of French colonization with no definitive boundries.
The Acadians had the best lands, and this was detrimental to English colonization.
The Acadians persisted in remaining nutrual.
Approximately 7,000 Acadians were deported from the Bay of Fundy region 1n 1755; 3,500 from the Île-Saint-Jean in 1758 and several hundred more during the next few years. Most were destined for assimilation in the New England colonies; many were deported to France and England. A large number of those exiled managed to reach Louisiana, a French territory which had been ceded to Spain. Some Acadians also found refuge in Québec along the St. Lawrence River and in the Gaspé peninsula.
After the Treaty of Paris in 1763, the English allowed the Acadians to remain in Nova Scotia on two conditions; they were to swear allegiance to England and they were to disperse in small groups. Since their former lands were now occupied by English settlers, only a small number of the exiled returned to settle permanently in Acadia. For those returning along with the Acadians who had managed to escape deportation, they were required to locate in other areas to build new lives.
After the dispersion, the Acadians co-operated with the missionaries in an attempt to reorganize their religious life. The missionaries established a religious structure which included all the Acadian settlements. If there was no priest, one of the respected men in the community said mass (omitting the consecration) and directed the religious activities.
During their resettlement, the Acadians suffered great hardship. New lands had to be cleared, sometimes under the authority of demanding owners. The new sites settled by the Acadfians were, on the whole, not the same as those they possessed before the deportation.
Evangiline's poem, Writen by the American Henry Wadswort Longfellow, was publushed in 1847. Today, there are more than 200 different editions of the poem and about 130 translations. In Acadia, two young people engaged to be married, Evangeline Bellefontaine an Gabriel Lajeunesse, were seperated during the deportation. A single thought dominated Evangeline's life; she wanted to find her Gabriel. Thus she spent her life searching for him across the American Midwest. When she did eventually find him, however, he was an old man, dying in a poorhouse. The poem created one of the most significant Acadian myrths. It was responsible for the awakening of a collective and national conciousness during the second half of the 19th. century. The literary and historical criticism it provoked had little effect on the enchanted public. The Acadians defines this symbol in their handicraft, sculpture, costumes, theater, song, painting, and in the names of people and places.
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