CBC does not endorse and is not responsible for the content of external sites. Links will open in a new window.
French presence established in the New World
Before Acadie was founded, European traders and fishermen had already been visitors to these shores. A French presence was finally established in the New World in 1604, when in the early spring, a contingent of explorers, businessmen, and soon-to-be famous figures like Samuel de Champlain, Sieur de Poutrincourt, and Du Pont Gravé, left Le Havre, France, to assert their King’s claim to “ l'Acadie.” By the end of that summer they had explored what is today peninsular Nova Scotia, from LaHave to the Minas Basin, continuing along the northern edge of the Bay, charting the coast of present-day New Brunswick and Maine.
These hardy souls wintered on Île Saint-Croix at the mouth of the St. Croix River, establishing the first European habitation in North America.
Champlain moves to Port Royal
In August 1605 Champlain moved to Port Royal (now Annapolis Royal), a community that was to become Acadia’s major town. In only a few years Acadian settlements spread throughout the Atlantic region.
Core group of settlers arrives
From 1632 until 1653 the core group of settlers arrived. Ownership of the Acadian colonies was tossed back and forth between the French and the English.
Early Acadia by Claude T. Picard
French settlement ceases
Under English rule French settlement ceased between 1654 and 1670, and then under French rule settlements resumed.
First Acadian Census
The first Acadian Census took place in Port Royal in 1671. One of the first in Canada, the total count was 392 people, 482 cattle, and 524 sheep! In the 1680s and 1690s many people left Port Royal and settled other areas.
War of Spanish Succession ends
The Treaty of Utrecht ended the War of Spanish Succession in 1713, making the Acadians in Nova Scotia permanent British subjects, while Île Royale (Cape Breton) and Île Saint-Jean (Prince Edward Island) remained French.
Work begins on Fortress Louisbourg
In 1719 work began on Fortress Louisbourg to protect France’s interests. It was to become one of the busiest ports on the Atlantic coast.
Acadians sign oath of allegiance to the British Crown
By 1730, the majority of Acadians had signed an oath swearing allegiance to the British Crown, but they insisted they would not fight either the French or the native Indians.
Oath of Allegiance by Claude T. Picard
Louisbourg falls to British
In 1745 Louisbourg fell to British forces from New England.
Louisbourg returned to French
The Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle returned Louisbourg to the French in 1748
The establishment of Halifax in 1749 engrained a solid colonized British presence on the Atlantic Coast.
Population reaches 10,000
By 1750 there were 10,000 Acadians in Nova Scotia.
Beginning of the French and Indian War
At the beginning of the French and Indian War of 1754, the British government demanded that Acadians take an oath of allegiance to the Crown that included fighting against the French. Most of them refused.
Decision made to begin Expulsion
Pressure from the English was strong. British Governor Charles Lawrence and the Nova Scotia Council decided on July 28, 1755 to deport the Acadians. Although Grand Pré to this day is the most well known symbol of the expulsion, it actually began at Fort Beauséjour on August 11.
About 6,000 Acadians were forcibly removed from their colonies. The British military ordered the Acadians' communities to be destroyed and homes and barns were burned down. The people were dispersed among the 13 American colonies, but many refused them and sent them on to Europe. Families were torn apart and many lost everything they owned.
Acadians call this event the Grand Dérangement, or Great Upheaval. In English it is the Expulsion.
As a result of the deportation and the subsequent migrations, the Acadians ended up in the New England States and all along the eastern seaboard, as far south as Georgia. Many were put in jail, and many died at sea. Others ran away to Québec, hid with the Mi’kmaqs in Nova Scotia, or went to present-day New Brunswick, or Prince Edward Island.
The Deportation Order by Claude T. Picard
Last Acadians deported
The expulsion did not end in 1755. Three years later the Acadians who fled to Île St. Jean (Prince Edward Island) and Île Royale (Cape Breton Island) were rounded up and sent to France. The British under General Wolfe and General Amherst recaptured Louisbourg, the last French stronghold, and deported 3,000 more Acadians to France.
The Grand Dérangement displaced from 10,000 to 18,000 Acadians. Thousands more were killed.
Ships Take Acadians Into Exile by Claude T. Picard
Signing of the Treaty of Paris
When France signed the Treaty of Paris in 1763, it gave Great Britain its colonial possessions in North America, except the islands of St. Pierre and Miquelon, off the coast of Newfoundland.
Acadians slowly return
British authorities in 1764 allowed Acadians to return in small isolated groups. They returned slowly, settling in various locations on mainland Nova Scotia and Cape Breton Island. Others ended up in Newfoundland, the West Indies and even the Falkland Islands.
Migrations and Return by Claude T. Picard
Acadians settle in Louisiana
From 1765 to 1785 about 3,000 Acadians traveled from France to settle in Louisiana. Louisiana was then a colony of Spain, but the Acadians managed to retain their French culture. Their descendents, the Cajuns, continued to keep their language and lifestyle and became a major cultural influence.
The Arrival of the Acadians in Louisiana by Robert Dafford. View image copyright.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow publishes Évangéline
The famous American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow published Évangéline in 1847. It would eventually be translated in over 130 languages. The world discovered the tragic history of the Acadian people, as Évangéline became a folk hero.
Although there were many regional differences, Acadians were able to maintain a distinct culture within a much larger majority.
St. Joseph's College founded
In 1864 St. Joseph’s College in Memramcook was founded and became the first higher educational institution in Acadia.
First Acadian Convention established
In 1881 the first Acadian Convention established August 15th as National Acadian Day, and three years later at the second Acadian Convention, an Acadian flag, and a National anthem were adopted. There was discussion about important common issues like agriculture, emigration, and education.
St. Anne's College established
The Acadians of Nova Scotia established St. Anne’s College in 1890, today called Université St. Anne in Pointe-de-l’Église. Other traditional colleges were started, especially in New Brunswick, ensuring that future generations of Acadians, would learn their language and culture.
45,000 people of French origin in Nova Scotia
In Nova Scotia in 1901 there were over 45,000 people of French origin, almost 10% of the total population. The right to be educated in French and to have a French language media was a continuing struggle. Congresses met regularly, putting together an economic program and adopting political positions.
Université de Moncton founded
Most of today's Acadians live in New Brunswick, P.E.I. and Nova Scotia, with some in parts of Maine and Quebec. While there are continuing struggles against assimilation and attempts to keep the French language alive, Acadians have increasing control over their education. In 1963, the Université de Moncton was founded and became the largest Francophone higher educational institution outside Quebec.
First Acadian World Congress
In 1994 there were about 240,000 French speaking people in New Brunswick, 39,500 in Nova Scotia and 6,000 in Prince Edward Island. Others lived in Saint-Pierre and Miquelon, Gaspe, Magdalen Islands, and Newfoundland.
The first Acadian World Congress was held in Moncton, New Brunswick. Acadians from throughout the world showed incredible interest in their family genealogy. Numerous Acadian family associations were born and started to comprehensively research their ancestral origins. The Acadian Museum of Prince Edward Island and the Archive Centre of Pubnico West in Nova Scotia, among others, offer extensive historical and genealogical resources on Acadian families. Université de Saint Anne, and Université de Moncton both also have centres for Acadian Studies.
World Congress held in Lafayette, Louisiana
Research into their past and connections to each other continued to be made at the World Congress in 1999, held in Lafayette, Louisiana.
Acadia lives on in many small communities spread along throughout the Atlantic region. The nuances in the accents, developed through contacts with other cultures, are noticeable from one area to another, from the Acadian Peninsula in New Brunswick to St. Mary’s Bay in Nova Scotia.
Wrongs against Acadians recognized
There have been attempts to have the Grand Derangement officially recognized. In December 2003, the federal government agreed to issue a proclamation in the name of the Queen recognizing the wrongs the Acadians suffered during the deportations.
World Congress in Nova Scotia
World Congress in Nova Scotia. (Quebec City will be next to hold a Congress.)
The year 2004 marks the 400th anniversary of the founding of Acadie, and the establishment of the first French permanent settlement in North America at Saint Croix Island.
Acadians have focused their hard work and entrepreneurial skills on strengthening their institutions, their commercial enterprises, and their educational establishments. Acadians have worked to create an identity different from that of France or Quebec. Their culture today is bustling with amazing energy, artistic creativity and joie-de-vivre.
Detail of painting, "Early Acadia" by Claude T. Picard.
1. Courtesy of the Nova Scotia Museum.
2."The Arrival of the Acadians in Louisiana" by Robert Dafford. © City of St. Martinville, Louisiana. Funded by individual donations and memorials and by the National Endowment for the Arts, the Louisiana State Arts Council, and the Louisiana Division of the Arts, the Office of Cultural Development in the Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism, and the Acadiana Arts Council.
3. Copyright Claude T. Picard.
4. Photograph - Hotel Blanchard - Caraquet, Acadian convention of 1905. Courtesy of The Provincial Archives of New Brunswick.
5. Composite of photographs courtesy of CMA2004.