An Abbreviated History of the Cajun People.

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An Abbreviated History of the Cajun People Helps To Answer  Questions That People Ask All the Time. What Is A Cajun?

 

"If Good times Always become good memories,

Then Bad times must always become
good lessons”

 

In order to help better  understand the cajun people I feel as though it is important to spend a few moments and read a brief history of how and where they came from. Many people in my own family know very little about the heritage they inherited from all their relatives who preceded them in life. Just a few moments of an abbreviated history will enable you to better understand my stories.

Perhaps the best explanation of the Cajun people I have ever read comes from the  author Josef, in the book  Cajun's of Louisiana Bayous.  This is a book I highly recommend.  Within this publication you will find a few words along with some wonderful photographs that say more about the Cajun culture and life style of the Louisiana bayou people with less fanfare than any other book of its type on the market. Quoting from his book, I wish to share with you one passage used in explaining the Cajun people of  Louisiana:

 “ They lived in the vast reaches of Louisiana’s tough but abundant coastline. They lived a life where a family answered to God and each other, alone. They chose to be guided by the most fair of all, nature herself.  Their personalities were tempered  by  the elements of wind and rain.  The vastness of the marsh and sea taught them courage. Violent storms insisted on respect, even humility. The slowly-changing seasons, of frost-burnt prairies with ducks and geese, turning to lush green grasses of summer, demanded patience.   A day’s catch of creatures, to fill bellies or buy  groceries required a man to be cunning.   In  times  of  plenty, charity was in order.   In times  of scarcity,  prudence  prevailed. Yes, it made them  thoughtful people, capable people, happy and fun-loving, too.   These coastal dwellers who were taught by signs of earth had a way about them we respect, possibly even envy.”

The word envy and perhaps a lifestyle that no place in America will ever again witness is  what  possibly  could  be  making  the  Cajun  culture the darling  of  American  advertising industry.  Whatever keeps the word Cajun so popular is just fine with me, because I am happy to have lived long enough to be able to use a good French word and shout to all out ancestors, “We  the  Cajun's  of  Louisiana  have  become  in vogue.”

The French in America--

The French were the first Europeans to establish a colony in North America.  They established their colony in Nova Scotia in the year 1605, in a place they called Port-Royal. Just to prove how long, we, the descendants of those French settlers, the cajuns of South Louisiana have been in North America, you can, to this day check the 1671 census.  The census at Port-Royal shows many names that are familiar to all Cajuns of Louisiana. Here are a few: Aucoin, Babin, Bergeron, Bertrand, Blanchard, Bourg, Breaux, Comeaux, Daigle, Doucet, Dugas, Gautreaux, Hebert, Landry, Leblanc, Pitre, Richard, Savoie, Theriot, Thibodaux, and many more, far too numerous to name in this publication.  As history reveals itself  it can be proven that many of the ancestors of the Bayou Lafourche Cajuns were in North America fifteen years before the settlement at Plymouth.  I wonder how many people know that the people of the bayou commonly known in the State of Louisiana as Cajuns, are descendants of the French people of Northwestern France,  They are the ones who settled Arcadia, and were the first European settlers in North America.

Cajuns therefore are the descendants of  the French colony of ACADIA (present-day Nova Scotia and adjacent areas), who were deported and sent into exile from their homeland in 1755. They found refuge in southern Louisiana a decade later.  By 1790 about 4,000 Acadians occupied the wetlands along Bayou Lafourche and Bayou Teche.  They later settled the Louisiana prairies.  In the fertile bayous they fished, trapped the fur-bearing animals, gathered moss, and raised sugarcane, cotton, and corn;  on the prairies they established cattle ranches and planted rice. They learned to live off the land and prospered well. Their traditional domestic architecture consisted of daubed or half-timbered houses with gable roofs, mud chimneys, and outside stairways leading to attics.  The land holdings were often surrounded by the characteristic pieux, a rail-and-post fence. 

            

Throughout the 17th century, Nova Scotia--(A part of ACADIA)--was a battleground for French and British colonial interests, and control of the region alternated between the two powers and changed hands no less than ten times.  Through the Peace process of (Utrecht)  in 1713, the French ceded the mainland portion to the British.  The military conflicts deterred large-scale settlement, and by 1750 the population numbered only 12,000.  In 1755 the British  expelled between 6,000 and 10,000  French-speaking Acadians  for refusing to take an oath of allegiance to Britain, which included a promise to fight against France.  

 

On August 9, 1775 at Fort Cumberland (formally French Fort Beausejour), Colonel Robert Moncton’s forces captured 250 to 400 local Acadians.  They had been summoned to the post ostensibly for an important gubernatorial decree regarding their land. The British military also arrested and detained 418 Acadians men and teenage boys at the Grand Pree church on September 5.  In both communities, the wives and children of the detainee were notified of their loves ones’ arrest and ordered to prepare for their imminent deportation from their home district. On the day appointed for their removal (usually five days after the detention of the local Acadian men) the deportees were divided into groups by age and by sex and then marched to nearby landings.  There, they were placed in longboats and distributed among waiting British merchant vessels anchored in the Bay of Fundy. 

 In Grand Pre National Park,in Nova Scotie, anyone can read the Deportation Order.  It was read to them by British Lieutenant Colonel John Winslow.  The expulsion order deporting our ancestors from their home land  which was called Acadie, reads in part:

  “That your Land & Tenements, Cattle   

    of all Kinds and Live Stock Of all  

    Sortes are Forfeited to the crown 

  with all other your Effects savings

  your Money & Household goods and 

          you your Selves to be removed

  From this his Province.”

 

 Although the British eventually allowed some Acadians to return, during the 18th century they encouraged New Englanders, refugee Loyalist fishermen from the United States, who were evicted Scottish Highlanders, Germans, and Irish to settle in the colony of Acadia, renamed Nova Scotia by the British ,which is Latin for New Scotland.  They were invited to settle and occupy the land taker from the French Acadians. 

 

The Acadians taken prisoner by the British at Annapolis - Royal, Grand Pre, Beaubassin, and the surrounding area numbered approximately 5,400 individuals. Deportation continued on a smaller scale in the following years and by the year 1760, according to Andrew Hill, approximately 6,000 Acadians had been deported and sent into exile.  These Acadians were distributed among the British seaboard colonies from Georgia to Massachusetts and England.  Those deemed the most dangerous were those who had previously been French conscript at Fort Beausejour.  They were sent to the seaboard providence farther from their homeland.  The farmers of Pisiquid, Grand Pre and Annapolis-Royal were distributed throughout the lower thirteen colonies.

Georgia----------------------------40          Pennsylvania---------------454

S. Carolina-------------------------942       New York-------------------344

N. Carolina-------------------------50        Connecticut------------------731

Virginia---------------------------150        Massachusetts---------------735

Maryland--------------------------913

Bound for the British colony of North Carolina but escaped--------------234 There were 3,500  deported to France from Prince Edward Island. However they were not accepted by their own countrymen, which explains why a large number of Cajuns came to Louisiana from  France.  To a large number of our ancestors, and in some cases the entire family who were unjustly removed from their home land, it was a death sentence.  Some Acadian names disappeared forever.  Of the 13,000 people who were deported from Acadia, three quarters of the original names that appear on the deportation list has never reappeared. Of those some disappeared naturally, such as no surviving sons. Many perished as a direct result of the deportation, especially in group disasters such as shipwrecks.

 

In 1762, Louisiana was ceded to Spain as a result of the French and Indian War, and Great Britain gained control of Florida, which extended to the east bank of the Mississippi.  At the same time, Acadians, driven from Nova Scotia by the British, began migrating to Louisiana. They were made welcome because Spain wanted to populate its Eastern boundaries with people of the Catholic faith and for security against the British. The cajuns were perfect, as they were no friends of the British who had deported them from their homes in Arcadia (present day Nova Scotia). The Cajun people, the Acadians as they were known. settled in the eastern prairies around the present site of Saint Martinville and along the Lower Mississippi along Bayou Lafourche

 

Stephen White writes in the book, Acadian Family Names, that nearly three quarters of the families whose names compromised the list of people deported from Acadia did not ever reappear in Acadia after the deportation. A certain number of the names disappeared naturally, either the couple in question had no surviving children or no surviving sons. Others perished as a direct result of their deportation, especially in group disasters, such as shipwrecks or epidemics. Certain families survived and even flourished in the new Acadies into which they were transplanted. Among the names that survived only among the Cajuns in Louisiana are Arcement, Gravois, Heuse, Mouton and Naquin.

 

Perhaps the plight of the Cajun people is bestl described by the American  historian Stevens, Who writes “These seven thousand condemned people were scattered like leaves in gusts of an autumn wind, in the midst of a people who hated their religion, detested their country (France), and made fun of their customs and laughed at their language.  Cast-off on foreign shores, these people who had known abundance and well-being suddenly and for no known reason, became outcasts, vagabonds and beggars ,with no one to heal their broken hearts or alleviate their suffering.”

Deportation Numbers & some historical information from the book “Scattered to the Wind”  by Carl A. Brasseaux.

 

Quotes And Some Cajunn Sayings

At certain points in this book you may enjoy reading some of my favorite quotes I have copied from various sources.  I used quotes because  I think they offer a good diversion of the brain and may even be amusing at times.  I hope you enjoy quotes as much as I do.  Is it so true that certain quotes or brief sentences are priceless in their ability to give one the feeling that nothing remains to be said

 

The defination of some Cajun words I have spredd through this book, I do hope serve the same purposeare as quotes. But even more important is that I consider it imperative that you understand their full meaning. The proper defination of cajun words will allow you to better appreciate and understand the cajun culture as I attempt to expressed and explain it in my stories.

Boucheri    A Boucherie   is very much like most cajun gatherings, a party.  It is a group of Cajun families, neighbors and relatives, getting together and butchering a hog.  A lot of the meat is cooked and consumed on site and a lot of gratons *cracklings are made.  One of the major ingredients necessary for a Boucherie was an ample quantity of wine.  The gathering is sort of a loose knit club that exists only for the Boucherie.  All members’ families share equally in the division of meat and take turns in furnishing the hog or hogs.  The Boucherie is held at the home of each member in rotation.  The membership could be as little as 2 or 3 families and as many as 10 or 15.  Someday, I may even explain to you the killing and bleeding of the hog.  The blood was a necessary ingredient in the recipe for the making of 

 Boudin    A unique cajun sausage made of pork, rice, onions, seasoning and then stuffed into the intestine of  the butchered hog. Boudin may or may not contain blood from the hog, depending on ones prefance. As a point of information, at our home boudin always contained the blood from the hog,

 Graton  Cracklings, in cajun french is called -Graton- Deep fried pork shin. One of the steps during the butchering of a hog is the making of Graton,. The Skin is cut off of the hog along with about a half inch of hog fat.  The slabs of skin and fat, as they are removed from the hog, are cut about a half inchwide and two or more inches long,and held on the butchering table until they are all prpaired for cooking. They are then all dumped into a large pre heated black cast iron pot which was sitting on an open fire. The Gratons then deep fry in their own lord until golden brown. They are best eaton hot and right out of the pot.  Caution: Try this only if you are a cajun. 

 Zydeco      A style of popular music that has emerged from the Cajun and black Creole cultures of Louisiana's bayou region. With a driving syncopated rhythm, zydeco combines the lilting sounds of traditional Cajun music with elements from BLUES and ROCK MUSIC.  Both styles are sung in French, and the central instrument is the accordion, but where Cajun music uses acoustic instruments such as the fiddle and the triangle, a zydeco band usually includes a rub board (a piece of corrugated steel worn like a vest and played like a washboard), a saxophone or trumpet, and electric bass.

Zydeco is a French word meaning (beans)

Pirogue- The term Pirogue refers to a types of thin, elongated small craft and is pointed at both bow and stern. Most Pirogue were designed to be poled or paddled on the marsh lands and waterways of Louisiana by the Cajun people.  It is usually hewed from a Cypress log taken from the Louisiana swamp, but not necessarily. Some were built out of Cypress planks. For the early settlers from Arcadia the Pirogue was a way of life. It was used extensively by trappers, and fisherman because of its shallow draft. The Pirogue could be navigated in just a few inches of water and when the water ran out it was easily drug over land or  any of the many swamp (*trace).   For that reason it became an indispensable toll in the livelihood of the Cajun people. It was the only boat that could be navigated in the shallow marsh trails that were the livelihood of Louisiana Cajuns. 

Trace - A French word meaning trail.)

 

 


RONALD PAUL RICHOUX, SR. WOULD

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