Nova Scotia

Nova Scotians celebrate Grand Pré on annual heritage holiday

Nova Scotians will celebrate Grand Pré Day today as the annual Heritage Day holiday focuses on the homeland of the Acadians. 

Acadian site marks 10 years since it became a UNESCO World Heritage Site

The 102-year-old Evangeline statue put a face on the Expulsion of the Acadians. (Robert Guertin/CBC)

Nova Scotians will celebrate Grand Pré Day today, as the annual Heritage Day holiday focuses on the homeland of the Acadians. 

Claude Degrâce, the executive director of the Landscape of Grand Pré Inc., said it also marks the 10-year anniversary of having the site named a UNESCO World Heritage Site

"These lands created by Acadians using dykes are still more or less maintained the same way, still farmed, still community-based," he told CBC's Information Morning

French explorers settled in Mi'kma'ki in the early 1600s, and built an Acadian community in Grand Pré in 1682. 

Degrâce said Acadians generally looked for lands where they could build dykes to create farms.

"It allowed them to get along very well with the Mi'kmaq, because they were not impeding on the lands that were used by the Mi'kmaq, they were creating their own land from marshland," he said. 

The dykes kept the Fundy tides at bay and the rain and snow cleared out the salt, leaving farmable land. The sluice gates, or aboiteaus, drain the snow and rain from the land into the basin, but the incoming tides shut the door, so no salty water gets inside. 

Acadian people tended to settle in areas that could be dyked, and the New England Planters occupied many of the same spaces after the expulsion, he said. 

The dykes, which established thousands of acres of dry land that would otherwise be flooded twice a day, are in good shape today. The provincial department of agriculture is studying them now to see what steps should be taken to protect them for the next half a century. 

Degrâce said Grand Pré is also important because the British military officer overseeing the 1755 deportation kept good records, meaning the events there are well documented. About 66 per cent of the 14,000 Acadians living in the province were expelled

There will be a virtual event at 10 a.m. Monday, on Facebook or YouTube, but nothing at the site due to pandemic restrictions.