Monday, September 12, 2016

Grand Pre- A UNESCO World Heritage Site

In 2011, when I started this long road trip one of my goals was to reach this very spot...

Designated as the first Rural Historic District of national significance, Grand Pre was placed on Canada's list for UNESCO World Heritage Sites.  

Located on the edge of an expansive "grand pre" (large meadow),  Grand Pre National Historic Site of Canada is of national significance for the tumultuous and tragic history it witnessed.  It is the Acadians most cherished historic site.
Here the Acadian French established their settlements to take advantage of the potentially fertile salt marshes.  For some 70 years before their forcible removal in 1755, the Acadians collectively transformed the extensive salt marshes into the Grand Pre.  

The landscape of Grand Pre was created in the 1600s, by the Acadians in a coastal zone where tides  are among the highest in the world.  They used traditional techniques of dykes, aboiteaux and a drainage network, as well as a community-based management system still in use today. Once dyked and rainwater had washed out the salt from the rich soil deposited by the Bay of Fundy tides, the area became extremely fertile.

The expulsion of the Acadians began  on the eve of the Seven Years' War.  Frustrated with the neutrality of Acadians who refused to swear an unconditional oath of allegiance to the Crown, British forces began the 'grand derangement.' Over the next eight years, more than 10,000 Acadians were dispersed throughout the American colonies, England and France.    

This is my take on the history:

When the British took control of these lands in the mid-1700s,  many of the Acadians signed the loyalty oath but the British still did not believe in their loyalty or their vow to be neutral in any conflict with France.  This suspicion eventually led to the deportation.   

 I believe the resentment caused by the deportation helped incite France into joining the American colonies in their Independence Revolution from England.  Without the aid of the French it is doubtful the colonies would have ever gained their Independence.

This statue of Evangeline, heroine of Longfellow's epic poem, "Evangeline: A Tale of Acadie", is a powerful, emotive symbol of the deportation.  It connects the story of Evangeline to the history of Grand-Pre. (and the Cajuns of Louisiana)

For me, growing up in Louisiana meant the required reading of Longfellow's great epic poem, "Evangeline, A Tale of Acadie".  The Cajun (Acadian) folk of Louisiana look to this poem as a sacred chronicle of their own history.  


"Where is the thatch-roofed village, the home of Acadian farmers, 
Men whose lives glided on like rivers that water the woodlands, 
Darkened by shadows of earth, but reflecting an image of heaven?
Waste are those pleasant farms, and the farmers for ever departed!
Scattered like dust and leaves, when the mighty blasts of October 
Seize them, and whirl them aloft, and sprinkle them far o'er the oceans;
Naught but tradition remains of the beautiful village of Grand Pre."

"Fair was she to behold, that maiden of seventeen summers.
Black were her eyes like the berry that grows on the thorn by the wayside, 
Black, yet how softly they gleamed beneath the brown shade of her tresses."

This Cross marks the site of the Acadian cemetery of the Grand-Pre parish.  The stones for the cross came from the remains of the foundations found in the area.  

 The Acadians had occupied the land along the Bay of Fundy for over 100 years.  The British burned the settlements to discourage the Acadians from returning.  The Acadians were scattered mostly among the American colonies however being French and Roman Catholic they were not welcomed among the English. Many went to France and others to the French colony in New Orleans.  


Evangeline and her true love, Gabriel, were separated during the deportation and the long epic poem describes the trials and tribulations they and the Acadians endured over the next 1/2 century.

1807 - 1882
"Evangeline," his poignant tale of the Acadian lovers of Grand Pre has enshrined in the hearts of the world the tragic memory of the expulsion two centuries ago.

When Longfellow published his poem in 1817, it generated enormous interest in the Acadians and the Deportation.  The success of the poem helped create the Grand-Pre National Historic site of Canada.

"Still stands the forest primeval; but far away from its shadow, 
Side by side in their nameless graves, the lovers are sleeping."


Items in Italics are from the literature at the center in Grand Pre.

Items in bold Italics are from Longfellow's poem, 'Evangeline'.

1 comment:

  1. Some heart wrenching history, thanks for more background about the Acadians.