A trip to the north

It should be no secret to anyone living in these parts that Cajun culture is a dominant force in Terrebonne and Lafourche. The names Boudreaux, Thibodaux, Fournier, Gisclair, Guidry, Lirette and so many others — these are just a few that were randomly chosen — all have French roots of one sort or another. In many though not all cases they are reflective of the Grand Derangement, the exile of the French-speaking people from Nova Scotia by the British after its seizing of that area north of the American colonies.

The Acadian diaspora resulted in a sad history, beginning with the 1755 expulsions from Nova Scotia, the use of biological warfare in the form of pox-laden blankets on the ships that carried the Acadian people away, the deaths in prisons or in exile and while traveling of so many people. Crops were burned, farms stolen, children and their mothers viciously forced to leave along with what men were not killed. A vibrant account of some of this can be found in Zachary Richard’s song Reveille. It’s worth a listen and while the lyrics are in French the emotion is universal. The whole atrocity was nothing less than an 18th Century

The details of the diaspora are often complex, as in the case of families relocated to France, but eager to return to North America when it was safe to do so. And that’s just once piece of the puzzle. The diaspora is evinced not just in Louisiana, where the old culture was well-preserved especially in the for of language while a new one was created. All along the Atlantic coast are pockets of Acadian people and their history, in both Canada and the U.S. Louisiana, and in particular coastal Louisiana, is indisputably a place where Cajun culture — the word Cajun as you will remember being a corruption of the word Acadian — is king.

This is not to say that it is better than any other. Rather, it is to say that it exists in its purest form here, in terms of how it has developed over centuries. Folks in Quebec might dispute this.

An important geographical note to all of this history is that Nova Scotia, at the time of the derangement, consisted not just of its present borders but also lands now part of New Brunswick, immediately to its south. That entire area was called “Nova Scotia” at the time. Communities where Acadian people lived in what is now New Brunswick include settlements along the St. John River, Memramcook, Miramichi and Petitcodiac. Also, parts of New Briswic, and on the northern coast of New Brunswick. Around 1755, many Acadians migrated to New Brunswick to escape the English.

I’ll be in New Brunswick this weekend. And while my mission is familial — a gathering of people in the Kelly family, from whom I am descended — I am also using the time spent there to poke around in elements of culture and geography that relate to folks who live here, and whose roots run within the soil and rocks of that place. For the record, my people came to Canada from Ireland in 1829, nearly a century after the atrocity. And also for the record, my forebears in Ireland were well acquainted with the British penchant for crop-burning, land-seizing and forceful deportations. But that is another story for another time.

So if you are reading this, over the next few days please supply me with any of your family history related to the lower part of Nova Scotia, what is now New Brunswick, and I shall try to include some aspect of it in in my search. My e-mail is john@rushing-media.com

Or you can text me at 985-413-9889. Together, let’s see what history related to the Bayou Region we can work on together.