Welcome to Acadie! Both unique and diverse, the Acadian culture is yours to discover. Even though it is no longer a geographical territory, Acadie still lives on through the customs, accents and history of the Acadian people.
Wherever they are in the world, Acadians share national symbols that were established during the first two National Acadian Conventions at the end of the 19th century. The Acadian flag, consisting of the blue, white and red flag of France with a golden star, is chosen in 1881.
The national Acadian hymn is the Ave Maris Stella, a hymn adressed to Mary, patron saint of Acadians. The 15th of August is the National Day of Acadians and is also linked to its patron saint as it marks the Assumption of the Virgin Mary. But August 15th is above all a celebration for Acadians, a time to show their pride in their culture by taking it to the streets of all cities and villages to make noise during a colourful tintamarre. Come and experience the joyful sounds and sights of the Acadian joie de vivre!
In 1604, a group of French settlers move into the Sainte-Croix island, situated between what is now known as New Brunswick and Maine. After a rough winter, they resettle in Port-Royal in 1605. This will be the starting point of Acadie, which will soon designate the territory that will become Nova Scotia. Little by little, pioneers coming mainly from France start settling in Acadie and form tigh knit communities.
In 1713, the treaty of Utrecht puts an end to the French reign in Acadie, which then becomes a British colony. But the Acadians, catholics and French-speaking, refuse to swear the oath of allegiance to the British Crown. Even though they want to stay neutral in cases of conflict between the two European countries, the new British rulers fear, amongst other things, that the Acadians would side with France. In 1755, the Acadian people are systematically deported to the American colonies, England and France.
This deportation will last until 1763, when Acadians get the right to come back to the old Acadian territories as long as they settle in little groups. That is why Acadians spread out across the Maritime provinces, and gathered in small communities. Along the coastline of north eastern New Brunswick we now find many of those Acadian communities formed by those who managed to escape the deportation or by those who came back to live near their original settlements. This is the Acadian Peninsula.
Through the years, the people living in those communities in various provinces such as New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island (and, to a smaller degree, Quebec and Newfoundland) will keep their language, their customs, their history and their traditions. This explains why we often tend to designate the Maritime provinces as the hotspot of modern Acadie. But above all, Acadie lives on in the hearts of Acadians and they can be found everywhere: in Canada, in the United States, in France...
When defining what is an Acadian, the first obstacle is the absence of a geographical territory exclusively inhabitated by them. They are often described as being francophones living in the Atlantic provinces (North eastern, north western and south western New Brunswick, a few regions of Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland). But the Acadian diaspora stretches into a few regions of Quebec, as well as Louisiana.
Acadians are often confused with Quebequers, both being French-speaking Canadians. But Acadians do have a separate culture, history, language, cuisine and customs from the ones of other francophones in America.
Acadians are proud of their heritage and are very attached to their national flag, which can be found proudly displayed everywhere. The famous Tintamarre of August 15th, where they parade in the streets making as much noise as possible, is the perfect example of the strong presence of Acadians who still strive to be heard. It is particularly important for them to show that they still exist, as they are a French-speaking minority in a predominantly English-speaking environment.
Today, we prefer using identity and culture to define Acadians, rather than genealogy alone. In other words, we may identify ourselves as Acadians if we share any of the main characteristics of the Acadian people, which are its language, its culture and its history. And so, an Acadian is anyone who primarily identifies himself or herself as such.
Accents of the Acadian Peninsula
Most Acadians share a common vocabulary, but the French spoken in each region has evolved in different ways depending on the most influential elements surrounding them. For example, some coastal communities have been living from the sea for so long that they integrated nautical terms in their every day speech, while others have lived next to English-speaking commmunities and have therefore more borrowed from the English language.
But before the vocabulary, there is the accent! The Acadian accents come in many forms, and you can hear a great variety of sounds and speech. The Acadian Peninsula itself features accents that are subtly different from one another. Sometimes, the regional accents can only be detected by the neighbouring towns. The following video shows examples of accents in the French language of the Acadian Peninsula. Can you hear the differences?
The French spoken by Acadians contains many expressions of its own and is shaped by a particular vocabulary. Each region has developed its own accent, mainly due to the isolation of the various communities. The Acadian vocabulary features archaic words, used by the French settlers when they established themselves in Acadie in the 17th century, as well as words more commonly used in a nautical context.
Through the years, the proximity with the English language has also marked the language of Acadians who have integrated, and sometimes difformed, words of English origin. Here are a few examples of words or expression you might find in the Acadian Peninsula:
A few Acadian words
Abrier : An archaic verb, used in France until the 17th century. It means to cover, wrap up, like in a blanket for example.
Asteure : A word also used until the 17th century in France. It is a shortened form of à cette heure and means “now”.
Bâdrer : A verb that is probably derived from the English “to bother” and has the same meaning.
Brailler : A verb that means “to cry”.
Embarquer : An existing verb in the French language with the initial meaning of “getting into a boat”, but here is used when getting into anything.
Espérer : An existing verb in the French language that means “to hope”, but here is used with the archaic meaning, which is “to wait”. A word meaning “swing” that may have a nautical origin.
Galance : A word meaning “swing” that may have a nautical origin.
Mouiller : An existing verb in the French language that means “to wet”, but here is used with the archaic meaning “to rain”.
Zire : A word that expresses disgust or repulsion. “Avoir zire” is an expression that means “being disgusted”. This word originates in the Poitevin-Saintongeais, a regional language from western France.
To learn more about the Acadiens, visit the following web page: Les Acadiens on the Cyberacadie website.