Acadian History

In 1604, a group of French settlers arrives on Saint Croix Island, situated where the current border between Maine and New Brunswick is located. The first winter is especially hard for these pioneers, nearly half of whom are killed by scurvy. In the spring of 1605 the colony moves to Port-Royal in what is now Nova Scotia’s Annapolis Valley. This site becomes the first permanent settlement of the French in North America and signals the beginning of the Acadian adventure. Acadie was born on the shores of French Bay, known today as the Bay of Fundy.


The original Acadie was comprised of immigrants from Poitou and Anjou who were joined by fishermen from the Basque country, Brittany and some from Scotland. The treaty of Utrecht ended wars that had been fought in the 18th century between France and England. As a result, France gave up Acadie, Newfoundland and the Hudson Bay to England in 1713.


Despite living on lands owned by the British monarchy and being pressured by the British, most of the Acadians refused to take a pledge of allegiance to the Crown. During the colonial war, British authorities decided to deport the Acadian population to British colonies. As a result, Acadian families in Grand Pré were deported during the summer of 1755. The Great Dispersion of Acadian families continued until 1763 at the signing of the Treaty of Paris. At that time, France gave up all its colonial possessions in North America to England except the island of St-Pierre and Miquelon. At this time British authorities allowed Acadians to return to Acadie in small isolated groups.


Less than 100 years later, the famous American poet H.W. Longfellow published the poem Evangeline, which will later be translated into more than 130 languages. Thanks to this poem, hundreds of thousands of Americans and Europeans discovered the tragic plight of the Acadian people.


In the 19th century, Acadians experienced a renaissance which is confirmed to this day by their willingness to survive and to preserve their heritage. They now have tools to ensure their educational and cultural development. In 1864, the Collège Saint-Joseph in Memramcook was founded and became the first institution to provide higher education in Acadie. Acadians from Nova Scotia followed suit at the end of the 19th century and the Collège Sainte-Anne, known today as Université Sainte-Anne, opened its doors in 1890 at Church Point. Many other classical colleges became the alma mater of several generations of Acadians, especially in New Brunswick. In 1963, the Université de Moncton was founded and it became the largest French language higher education institution outside Quebec, with campuses in Edmundston, Shippagan and Moncton.


Since the Acadian World Congress in 1994, Acadians from North America have become more interested in their genealogy. Many associations of Acadian families were created and they have conducted extensive research on their ancestral origins. The Acadian museum of Prince Edward Island and the Archives Centre of Pubnico-Ouest in Nova Scotia possess a large number of historical and genealogical resources on Acadian families from all over the world. The Université Sainte-Anne and Université de Moncton each has an Acadian study centre.


Acadie is more vibrant than ever in a large number of small communities situated along the Atlantic coast and inland. Acadians live in a small lot throughout the territory they once occupied and they have kept the language of old France. The only differences between the language of Acadians in the Acadian peninsula of New Brunswick and that of the Baie Sainte-Marie region of Nova Scotia are the accents which have been adapted to their surroundings and have evolved over time as they came in contact with other cultures.


Today’s Acadie is filled with joie de vivre and artistic creativity. Its people are hard-working and the audacity of its entrepreneurs is reflected in the strength of its institutions, its businesses and its institutions of learning.


Acadie is anxious to show you its proud hospitality, to introduce you to its rich heritage and to share with you its dreams and its day-to-day life.