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Arts & Culture

Congres Mondial Acadien, August 8-24, 2014

Local advice

French-Acadian Expert

Don Levesque

Vice President of the 2014 Acadian Congress, Don Levesque is an important guy who will always stay humble. He's a member of the Maine Press Association Hall of Fame thanks to his career at the St. John Valley Times. And he’s also a member of the Maine Franco-American Hall of Fame. He loves to laugh, tell stories, and sing in French too. And he firmly believes that it's essential to know where you came from.


Let's start with the basics: The 2014 Congrès Mondial Acadien (World Acadian Congress) is being held from August 8 to August 24, 2014, in northern Maine (the REAL northern Maine, more precisely, the St. John Valley), northwestern New Brunswick and southeastern Québec.

Okay, then, you might ask, what in the world is a Congrès Mondial Acadien?

Quite simply, it's a gathering of approximately 50,000 Acadians visitors from throughout the world that occurs every five years in an area where a relatively large number of Acadians have settled, such as the St. John Valley in northern Maine, northwestern New Brunswick and southeastern Québec.

Which brings us, naturally, to ask: Who is an Acadian?

Actually, this simple question doesn't really have a simple answer.

But here's a pretty good place to start defining an Acadian:

The site cited above leads us to Grand Pré, Acadie, which today is called Wolfville, Nova Scotia.

Which, of course, leads to this important question: Huh?

To make a long story short, which is something I am not normally associated with, the Acadians had been living in Acadia for about 150 years when, from 1755 to 1763, they were placed on ships at gunpoint by the British from New England (who only a few years later would call themselves Americans), bringing with them only what they could carry.

The Acadians' property and all their belongings were seized by the British Crown.Their houses, barns, churches, everything, were burned. Andthe Acadians were shipped haphazardly to various American colonies (some refused to accept them,and others placed them in virtual slavery) —Europe, the Caribbean, Falkland Island and so on—in what is now regarded as the first state-sponsored ethnic genocide in North America.

A more elaborate explanation can be found in many places on the Internet but this site is from Maine, so it holds a special place in my heart:

There is also much valuable information about the causes and effects of Le Grand Dérangement (the Great Upheaval, as the Acadian deportation is called en anglais) at this site:

Interesting side note: Acadians spoke French but they spoke an18th-century French (because they lived in the 18th century, duh) where, among other things, the sound of "di" in a word was pronounced as "dj." So, Acadien was pronounced in French as "Acadjien."

Which brings us, naturally, to Cajuns.

Many of the exiled Acadians from various parts of the southern colonies, Europe, the Caribbean, and so on eventually made their way to Louisiana, formerly a French colony, where they were finally well received and given land grants and a few basic tools with which they could survive.

Now back to the "di"/"dj" pronunciation idiosyncrasy: It is a very short hop from Acadjiens becoming shortened through common usage to Cajuns.

Yep. Cajuns (or, more properly Cadiens) are Acadians.