The Arrival of the Acadians in Louisiane in 1785

 

"The arrival of the Acadians in Louisiana" is a mural done in the trompe l'oeil technique by artist Robert Dafford for the Acadian Memorial in St. Martinville, Louisiana.

Acadians began to arrive in Louisiana in small numbers shortly after their exile from Acadia in 1755. But it was not until 1785 that the great majority of our ancestors arrived aboard seven ships which brought them out of exile in France to their new home in Louisiana.

Our ancestors went through a horrible ordeal. They saw their homes burned to the ground. They saw their husbands and their fathers being taken away; many of the families were exiled separately, loved ones were never seen again. "We are now hatching the noble and great project of banishing the French neutrals (as the Acadians were called at that time) from this province", a New Englander bragged in his diary in August 1755. "If we can accomplish this expulsion, it will have been one of the greatest deeds the English in America has ever achieved."

In the next 20 years after their exile from Acadia, perhaps as many as 8,000 found their way to Louisiana to begin a new life. The Acadians faced every conceivable ordeal and survived but not without loosing a great number of their loved ones. Only when you compare the horrors inflicted on other minorities in the 20th century does this terrible scheme of scattering the Acadians to far off places seem somewhat less than an act devoid of humane feelings.

What the Acadians found in Louisiana was a peaceful place where they could live their lives without the fear of being uprooted again. Somehow, the grief was lifted from their hearts and slowly they put their lives together. Little was passed on from generation to generation about what their parents, grandparents and great grandparents had gone through but somehow the pain lingered. It lingers today as we read their  names on the Acadian Memorial in St. Martinville and as we look at the faces on the beautiful mural depicting our ancestors' arrival in Louisiana. We pause and read their names and we remember.

And now, we Acadians in South Louisiana have just experienced a life time event. We celebrated the 2nd Congrès Mondial Acadien and welcomed our cousins from around the world. Yes, in 1999, the Acadians came to Louisiana! But this time, it was for a most joyful event. This time dear cousins, we welcomed you, we embraced you, we met for the first time. We shed a tear for those who did not make it in 1785 and those who could not come in 1999.