Chapter 5

L’Acadie aujourd’hui: On est venus, c’est pour rester / Acadia Today: We have come to stay

I’ve learned so much about my Acadian heritage from my conversations with Mémé et Pépé Picard and Mémère et Pépère Comeau, and every time I visit them, I have new questions. I can’t stop thinking about it. Whenever I can, I go to the internet and try to find out more.

Last night, I discovered that there is an Acadian flag! It wasn’t from the original Acadian settlement, but was created in 1884 at the Second Convention Nationale Acadienne, a National Convention for Acadians. This Convention was the result of a movement to affirm French culture called La Renaissance Acadienne, or the Acadian Renaissance, meaning rebirth or awakening. The Acadians were becoming tired of being isolated and not taken into consideration. They wanted to find their own place in the world, to be considered equal to the English-speaking peoples around them.

Their interest in promoting their own cultural heritage was sparked in part by the first book about Acadians written in French by Edmé Rameau de St-Père, who, in 1859, published the first book, La France aux colonies: Acadiens et Canadiens. It was the first time Acadians could read about their own history in their own language. About ten years later, the first French language newspaper of the Maritime Provinces, Le Moniteur Acadien, The Acadian Monitor, was founded. Also around this time was the founding of the first francophone college in the Maritime Provinces which still exists today as the Université de Moncton.

At the first Acadian Convention in 1881, the delegates wanted to establish some kind of national Acadian identity, so they decided to choose a patron saint to reflect their unity through the Catholic religion. Since France had been consecrated to the Virgin Mary at the time of the founding of Acadia, the delegates chose the Virgin Mary and the Feast of the Assumption, the day the Virgin Mary was accepted into heaven, August 15, as the national Acadian holiday.

At the Second Convention in 1884, the delegates approved the design of the Acadian flag. They chose the French tri-colored flag, symbolizing allegiance with their country of origin, and added a gold star in the middle of the color blue, representing the star of the Virgin Mary, and the star of the sea, which guides sailors, and now guides the Acadians, through stormy seas. The star is gold, to represent the color of the Pope, and to show attachment to our mother church and to honor her role in Acadian history.

Today, the Acadian flag is the most visible and powerful symbol of the cultural identity of Acadian people. Maman says you can see the flag flying in many places in the old area known as Acadia.

When the first Acadian flag was raised at the Second Convention, the participants spontaneously began to sing the hymn, “Ave Maris Stella,” Hail Thou Star of the Ocean, a hymn dedicated to the Virgin Mary. It was suggested that this song should be the Acadian national anthem, and it has been used ever since. The original song was in Latin, the original language of the Catholic church. However, in 1994, a French version was adopted.

Now with a patron saint, a national holiday, a flag and a national anthem, they added a national motto, “L’union fait la force,” Strength in Union. National Conventions for Acadians continued to be held, and in 1994, the first World Acadian Congress was held. The goal of the World Congress was to bring together and foster ties between Acadians and French-speakers from all over the world. The major topics of language, education and religion continue to be discussed today.

Wow! I was so excited about all I had learned. I went into the kitchen and started to ask Maman if she knew as much about Acadia as I did. She was sitting at the kitchen table with her checkbook and some bills. I asked her about the Acadian flag and the song and the motto. You know, she knew something about them, but not very much. I told her what I had learned.

“How did you learn all of this about Acadia?” she asked, her eyebrows raised.

“Well, I’ve been looking things up on the internet and at the library at school,” I replied.

“I knew you had talked to Mémère et Pépère about Acadia, but I didn’t know you were also researching it,” she looked surprised.

“Oui! It’s really interesting.” I told her that my French teacher had mentioned Acadia in class, but didn’t seem to know much about it. Since it is my heritage, I wanted to learn more.

“Do you know, when I was growing up, a lot of people were embarrassed about their French names and French accents,” Maman stated.

“Really? Why?” After all I had read about Acadians being proud and independent, this didn’t seem right.

“Alors, I spoke French with Mémère and Pépère until I went to school. At school, we were not allowed to speak French on school grounds, except in foreign language class. And whenever I tried to say anything in French there, the teacher told me that what I said was wrong, that I had to pronounce it the way he did. So, I stopped speaking French. That’s why I don’t speak it so well anymore,” she sighed.

“I’m glad my French teacher doesn’t do that!” I exclaimed. “I don’t usually talk much, but if I say something that she doesn’t know, she asks me what it means. Then, she’ll try to spell it. It’s kind of hard, but she said she wants to learn Acadian French, too. She taught us a song last week called ‘L’arbre est dans ses feuilles.’ She said it is a song in a traditional Acadian style called a rengaine, where you add on to a list, kind of like the song ‘Alouette.’” I smiled. French was becoming much more fun.

“Oui. I think that’s great that your French teacher wants to learn from you, too. Acadian French is accepted much more now. I know in the St. John Valley, there are lots of schools that offer bilingual and immersion programs in French. I think there were some laws passed that promote the French language, or at least there should be. I heard about a group called Le Club Français, a group which helps to promote the French language. I’d like to get some of my French back, and I was thinking about joining.” Maman put her checkbook away. “And, I’m really proud of you and all that you have learned. Did you know that there is an Acadian Festival?” she asked.

“Non! Where is it?” A festival?! I’ve read about Conventions, but that sounded too official, too grown up. But a festival! That sounds like fun!

“It’s in Madawaska. It is a big celebration of the Acadian landing at St. David’s, a spot next to the St. John River, in 1785,” she began.

“What do you mean?” I interrupted.

“Bon, you know about the deportation, Le Grand Dérangement, right?” I nodded. “When people were allowed to return to the area known as Acadia, some families settled in Fredericton, New Brunswick. However, they left when British loyalists moved in following the American Revolution.  Sixteen families arrived at St. David on the bank of the St. John River.  They found that this was a perfect place to settle and called it home.  The Acadian Festival celebrates the landing of these first families and the continuing Acadian culture,” Maman explained. “The festival begins with people dressed in clothing from the 1700s who re-enact the landing of those first families. Then, there’s a traditional fayots au lard, or baked beans, dinner with entertainment. You could hear some more traditional Acadian music, and maybe even some more modern Acadian musicians and bands.”


“The Acadian Festival also celebrates our French culture and heritage in general. Usually, there is a family reunion. And this year, it is the Picard family reunion. Would you like to go?” she asked.

“OUI!” I exclaimed! We talked a bit more about the Picard family and my roots in Quebec. When I get out of school, we are going to drive up to Quebec to see where the Picard family first settled, Trois-Rivières and Rivière-du-Loup. Then we’re going to the Acadian Festival in Madawaska, Maine June 29 – July 1. Maman and Papa both said they would take me to see as many Acadian landmarks as we can find. Maman says that July 1 is Canada Day, a holiday celebrating the creation of Canada, and that we can see Canada from Madawaska. So, we’ll either watch the fireworks from there, or we’ll cross the border into New Brunswick. Maman says there are lots of Acadian sites to see there, too. We’ll be home for the Fourth of July, so I can watch fireworks again.

I’m so excited! I’ve never been to Canada, and I’ll have a chance to go to two provinces, Quebec, the only French-speaking province, and New Brunswick, the only bilingual province. I’ll also have a chance to meet some of my Comeau relatives, and the Picard relatives from all over the country at the Acadian Festival and Picard family reunion. I can’t wait until summer comes!