Acadian flag
Acadian Flag
Total population
approximately 385,000 (not including Louisiana or most of New England)
Regions with significant populations
Canada: 371,590[1][2]

  New Brunswick: 326,220
  Quebec: 17,420
  Nova Scotia: 11,180
  Ontario: 8,745
  Prince Edward Island: 3,020
United States
  Maine: 15,645


Acadian French (a dialect of French), English, or both; some areas speak Chiac; those who have resettled to Quebec typically speak Quebec French.


Predominantly Roman Catholic

Related ethnic groups

French, Cajuns, French-Canadians

The Acadians (French: Acadiens, IPA: [akadjɛ̃]) are the descendants of the seventeenth-century French colonists who settled in Acadia (located in the Canadian Maritime provincesNova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island, Quebec, and in the US state of Maine). Although today most of the Acadians and Québécois are francophone Canadians, Acadia was founded in a region geographically and administratively separate from Quebec ("Canada" at this time), which led to their developing two rather distinct histories and cultures.[3] The settlers whose descendants became Acadians did not all come from the same region in France. Acadian family names have come from many areas in France, from the Maillets of Paris to the LeBlancs of Normandy. As additional examples, the popular Acadian surname 'Melanson' had its roots in Brittany, and those with the surname 'Bastarache', 'Basque', had their origin in the Basque Country.

In the Great Expulsion of 1755-1763, mostly during the Seven Years' War, British colonial officers and New England legislators and militia deported more than 14,000 Acadians from the maritime region in what could be called an ethnic cleansing ante litteram. Approximately one third perished. Many later settled in Louisiana, where they became known as Cajuns. Others were transported to France[4]. Later on many Acadians returned to the Maritime provinces of Canada, most specifically New Brunswick. During the British conquest of New France, they renamed the French colony of Acadia as Nova Scotia (meaning New Scotland).


Early history

Acadia was the first permanent French settlement in North America, established at Port-Royal in 1607. In 1607 Henry IV, the King of France, granted Pierre Dugua, Sieur de Monts the right to colonize lands in North America between 40° and 60° north latitude. Arriving in 1604, the French settlers built a fort at the mouth of the St. Croix River, which separates present-day New Brunswick and Maine, on a small island named Île-Ste-Croix. The following spring, the settlers sailed across the bay to Port-Royal (Annapolis Royal) in present-day Nova Scotia.

During the seventeenth century, about sixty French families were established in Acadia. They developed friendly relations with the aboriginal Mi'kmaq, learning their hunting and fishing techniques. The Acadians lived mainly in the coastal regions, farming land reclaimed from the sea through diking. Living on the frontier between French and British territories, the Acadians found themselves on the front lines in each conflict between the powers. Acadia was passed repeatedly from one side to the other, and the Acadians learned to survive through an attitude of studied neutrality, refusing to take up arms for either side, and thus came to be referred to as the "French neutrals."

Acadia (1754)

In the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713, France ceded the portion of Acadia that is now Nova Scotia (minus Cape Breton Island) to the British for the last time. In 1730, the Acadians signed an oath swearing allegiance to the British Crown, but stipulating that Acadians would not have to take up arms against the French or Indians. But, in 1754 with the outbreak of tensions with France, the British government, no longer accepting the neutrality previously granted, demanded that the Acadians take an absolute oath of allegiance to the British monarch, which would require their taking up arms. Not wanting to take up arms against family members in French territory, and believing that the oath would compromise their Roman Catholic faith, the Acadians refused. Colonel Charles Lawrence ordered the mass deportation of the Acadians. Contemporary historian John Mack Faragher has used the late 20th century term, "ethnic cleansing", to describe the British actions.

Deportation of the Acadians

In what is known as the Great Expulsion (le Grand Dérangement) of 1755-1763, during the Seven Years' War between England and France, more than 14,000 Acadians (three-quarters of the Acadian population in Nova Scotia) were expelled, their homes burned and their lands confiscated. Families were split up, and the Acadians were dispersed throughout the British lands in North America; thousands were transported to France. Gradually, some managed to make their way to Louisiana, creating the Cajun population and culture after mixing with others there.

Other Acadians returned to British North America, settling in coastal villages and in northern New Brunswick. Some settled in the region of Fort Sainte-Anne, now Fredericton, but were later displaced by the arrival of the United Empire Loyalists after the American Revolution. Mail carriers who helped Halifax and Quebec stay in contact became knowledgeable about the St. John River area.[5] In 1785 the mail carriers organized a group of 24 families and led them to the Upper Saint John River valley, above Grand Falls which the British ships could not pass.

In 2004, at the request of Acadian representatives, the Government of Canada issued a proclamation acknowledging the deportation and establishing July 28 as an annual day of commemoration, beginning in 2005. The day is called the "Great Upheaval" on some English-language calendars.


Present-day Acadian communities

The Acadians today predominately inhabit the northern and eastern shores of New Brunswick, from Miscou Island (French: Île Miscou) Île Lamèque including Caraquet in the center, all the way to Neguac in the southern part and Grande-Anse in the eastern part. Other groups of Acadians can be found in the Magdalen Islands and throughout other parts of Quebec, in Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia such as Chéticamp, Isle Madame, and Clare. The Pubnicos, located at the end of the province, are the oldest regions still Acadian. The Acadians settled on the land before the deportation and returned to the same exact land after the deportation. Still others can be found in the southern and western regions of New Brunswick, Western Newfoundland and in New England. Many of these latter communities have faced varying degrees of assimilation. For many families in predominantly Anglophone communities, French-language attrition has occurred, particularly in younger generations.

The Acadians who settled in Louisiana after 1764, known as Cajuns, have had a dominant cultural influence in many parishes, particularly in the southwestern area of the state known as Acadiana.


Today Acadians are a vibrant minority, particularly in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Louisiana (Cajuns), and northern Maine. Since 1994, Le Congrès Mondial Acadien has united Acadians of the Maritimes, New England, and Louisiana.

August 15, the feast of the Assumption, was adopted as the national feast day of the Acadians at the First Acadian National Convention, held in Memramcook, New Brunswick in 1881. On that day, the Acadians celebrate by having the tintamarre which consists mainly of a big parade where people can dress up with the colours of Acadia and make a lot of noise.

The national anthem of the Acadians is "Ave, maris stella", adopted at Miscouche, Prince Edward Island in 1884. The anthem was revised at the 1992 meeting of the Société Nationale de l'Acadies, where the second, third and fourth verses were changed to French, with the first and last kept in the original Latin.

The Société Saint-Thomas d'Aquin of Prince Edward Island has resolved that December 13 each year shall be commemorated as "Acadian Remembrance Day" to commemorate the sinking of the Duke William and the nearly 2000 Acadians, deported from Isle Saint-Jean (P.E.I.), that perished in the North Atlantic from hunger, disease and drowning.[6] The event has been commemorated annually since 2003 and participants mark the event by wearing a black star.

Today, there are cartoons featuring Acadian characters and even an Acadian show.

Prominent Acadians

Notable Acadians in the 18th century include Noel Doiron (1684–1758). Noel was one of more than 350 Acadians that perished on the Duke William on December 13, 1758.[7] Noel was described by the Captain of the Duke William as the "father of the whole island", a reference to Noel's place of prominence among the Acadian residents of Isle St. Jean (Prince Edward Island).[8] For his "noble resignation" and self-sacrifice aboard the Duke William, Noel was celebrated in popular print throughout the 19th century in England and America.[9] Noel also is the namesake of the village Noel, Nova Scotia.

Another prominent Acadian from the 18th century was militia leader Joseph Broussard who joined French priest Jean-Louis Le Loutre in resisting the British occupation of Acadia.

More recent notable Acadians include singers Weldon Boudreau, Delores Boudreau, Angèle Arsenault and Edith Butler, singer Jean-François Breau, writer Antonine Maillet; film director Phil Comeau; singer/songwriter Julie Doiron; boxer Yvon Durelle; pitcher Rheal Cormier; former Governor General Roméo LeBlanc; former premier of Prince Edward Island Aubin-Edmond Arsenault, the first Acadian premier of any province and the first Acadian appointed to a provincial supreme court; Aubin-Edmond Arsenault's father, Joseph-Octave Arsenault, the first Acadian appointed to the Canadian Senate from Prince Edward Island; Peter John Veniot, first Acadian Premier of New Brunswick; and former New Brunswick premier Louis Robichaud, who was responsible for modernizing education and the government of New Brunswick in the mid-twentieth century.


Acadians speak a dialect of French called Acadian French. Many of those in the Moncton, New Brunswick area speak Chiac and English. The Louisiana Cajun descendants mostly speak English but some still speak Cajun French, a French dialect they diversified in Louisiana.

Tributes to The Expulsion

A statue of Evangéline — fictional heroine of the poem Evangeline by Longfellow — at St. Martinville, Louisiana. The statue was donated by actress Dolores del Río (who also posed for it), who portrayed Evangéline in a 1929 silent film by director Edwin Carewe.

In 1847, American writer Henry Wadsworth Longfellow published Evangeline, an epic poem loosely based on the events surrounding the 1755 deportation. The poem became an American classic, and contributed to a rebirth of Acadian identity in both Maritime Canada and in Louisiana.

Robbie Robertson wrote a popular song based on the Acadian Expulsion titled "Acadian Driftwood", which appeared on The Band's 1975 album, Northern Lights — Southern Cross.

Antonine Maillet's Pélagie-la-charette concerns the return voyage to Acadia of several deported families starting 15 years after the Great Expulsion.

The Acadian Memorial (Monument Acadien) honors those 3,000 who settled in Louisiana.


The flag of the Acadians is the French tricolour with a golden star in the blue field (see above), which symbolizes the Saint Mary, Our Lady of the Assumption, patron saint of the Acadians and the "Star of the Sea". This flag was adopted in 1884 at the Second Acadian National Convention, held in Miscouche, Prince Edward Island.

Acadians in the diaspora have adopted other symbols. The flag of Acadians in Louisiana, known as Cajuns, was designed by Thomas J. Arceneaux of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, and adopted by the Louisiana legislature as the official emblem of the Acadiana region in 1974.

A group of New England Acadians attending Le Congrès Mondial Acadien in Nova Scotia in 2004, endorsed a design for a New England Acadian flag by William Cork, and are advocating for its wider acceptance.

Flag of Acadiana region of Louisiana
Flag of New England Acadians


The story of the United States folklore hero Paul Bunyan is believed by some to have been influenced if not inspired by Acadian stories about lumberjacks in the Detroit area, around the 1910s. Other accounts suggest the Paul Bunyan story originates from the Madawaska region of New Brunswick, which is a mixture of Quebec and Acadian descent.

See also



  1. Canadian census, ethnic data. Rather than go by ethnic identification, some would instead define an Acadian as a native French-speaking person living in the Maritime provinces of Canada. According to the same 2001 census, the population was 276,355 (236,665 in New Brunswick; 34,025 in Nova Scotia; and 5,665 in PEI). There is also the consideration that many French-Canadians in the Maritimes who are Acadian may have simply listed 'French' as their ethnic origin instead of 'Acadian; the numerous single responses for 'Canadian' also does not give an accurate figure for numerous groups.
  2. Detailed Mother Tongue, Prince Edward Island - Île-du-Prince-Édouard
  3. Landry, Nicolas and Lang, Nicole (2001) Histoire de l'Acadie, Septentrion, Quebec, 340 p., ISBN 2-89448-177-2
  4. Jean-Francois Mouhot (2009) Les Réfugiés acadiens en France (1758-1785): L'impossible réintégration?, Quebec, Septentrion, 456 p. 2-89448-513-1; Ernest Martin, Les Exilés Acadiens en France et leur installation dans le Poitou, Paris, Hachette, 1936
  5. Michaud, 2008
  6. Journal Pioneer, Summerside, Prince Edward Island, 9 December 2009.
  7. Shawn Scott and Tod Scott, "Noel Doiron and East Hants Acadians", The Journal of Royal Nova Scotia Historical Society, Vol. 11, 2008, p. 45.
  8. Journal of William Nichols, "The Naval Chronicle", 1807.
  9. John Frost, "The Book of Good Examples Drawn From Authentic History and Biography", New York: 1846, p. 46; Reubens Percy, "Percey's Anecdotes", New York: 1843, p. 47; "The Saturday Magazine", New York: 1826, p. 502.


Le Grand Dérangement An exhibit by the Massachusetts State Archives in conjunction with the Commonwealth Museum, made possible through a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Massachusetts State Archives

Further reading

External links