Dwells another race, with other customs and language.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, 1847
Honoring the Ancestors
Congrès Mondial Acadien
Thronged was the hill with the descendants of those blithe Acadian peasants who long ago, by order of he British Crown, were deported from their land in L'Acadie.
It was the Feast Day of Our Lady of Assumption, the Acadian National Feast Day, when a reported 8,000 people gathered for the closing mass of the third Congrès Mondial Acadien.
Many a welcome spake the descendants of the British soldiers who executed the order of deportationon that fateful day in September 1755.
For two weeks they had journeyed as pilgrims in the beloved land of their ancestors.
They had come from neighboring hamlets of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick,
and other parts of Canada.
They had come from Louisiana, New England, and other parts of America.
They had come without wains and without their household goods and gods.
They had come with anticipation, with their questions, their hopes, and their dreams.
They had come with hearts open and brains alert.
They had come to L'Acadie, the vast land of ancestral hopes and dreams.
They had come to see the "forest primeval" where their ancestors had found refuge from
the oppression in their mother country.
They had come to walk on the dikes that their ancestors had built to create the fertile land
from which they fed their families, their friends, and their enemies.
They had come to sit under the weeping willow trees that their ancestors planted nearly four
hundred years ago.They would hear the reverberant branches and the wailing of their forebears.
They had come to step foot on the spot from where their ancestors were loaded onto boats
and scattered along the Atlantic seashore nearly two and a half centuries ago.
They had come to the spot where now stands a cross to make sacred the site, with its
small floral Acadian flag laid as a blanket in the ground beside it.
They came to try to understand and to forgive.
They came to remember and to honor.
They came to pay homage.
They came to celebrate their survivance Acadienne.
They came to meetand celebrate their découverte famille.
They came to find pieces of their soul.
They listened to stories about the trials and tribulations of their ancestors.
They found their names on placards among those deported or escaped.
They read the Queen's proclamation of July 28 as a "Day of Commemoration of the
Some bowed their heads with acceptance and forgiveness; others sneered with distain at
the lackings of the gesture.
They watched archeologists, ever so delicately, unearth pieces of their ancestors' lives.
They ambled along a field of photographic images, tracking the journey of the Acadians
from their past to their present.
They walked along the plains smelling the rosa rugosa.
They reveled at the kaleidoscope of colors in the many flower gardens, glorious in the
fullness of their summer blooms.
They shared rappie pie, tourtière, boudin, gumbo, and jambalaya with their new found
families and new friends.
They watched theatrical interpretations and listened to soulful laments written and
performed by Acadians, young and old.
They drank and dined in the joie de vivre of L'Ordre du Bon Temps.
They "merrily whirled the wheels of the dizzying dances" (HWL) at night.
They sang the familiar French songs of their ancestors.
They tasted wine from the grapes that now are grown on their ancestral dike lands.
They filled their bags with books about the arduous journeys of their ancestors.
By the stately statue of Evangeline, Longfellow's heroine whose story tells of a nation
molested and fragmented, they stood in awe.
At his bust, they paid tribute to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow for giving them
the key to unlock their history.
They peered at the exhibition that outlines the impact of Evangeline's story on the
reunification of a nation without boundaries.
They listened to and recited lines from Longfellow's epic poem.
Evangeline, they revered as the symbol of Acadian idealism, devotion, and tenacity.
Tears of grief were shed for the ancestors buried at sea and those smote to an early grave.
Anger welled up at the wrongs that were perpetrated onto them
Ancestral pain was purged onto the "The Land of Evangeline."
Hearts were filled with the love of cousins they met at their family reunions.
Peace from knowing their history, the stories of their forebears, finally was found.
Grown in esteem from knowing, finally, who they are, they walked with heads held high.
And finally, on the cloudless Sunday morn, on foot, they came in procession
from the deportation cross where early in the morning they did ceremony.
In a procession of cars they arrived from afar, driving on the dike roads.
Thither they walked up the hill to stand in front of the grand chancel where set the
altar, with the steeple of the Church of Saint-Charles-des-Mines in the
background forming the steeple of this open church.
They congregated on the greensward of the hillside, carrying with them
their chairs and their colorful umbrellas.
Five dollars they fain paid for a program of the great mass.
Around the placards of their family names the jocund folks swarmed.
They stood as sentinels and prayed for those departed and those yet to come.
They faced the altar where sat the priests, the bishops, and the choir of angels all dressed
in the fanciest of copes and mantles.
Side by side the faithful stood in each other's shadow or shared umbrellas as the sun
radiated the heat of its soul onto them.
More tears were shed as the choir belted out Ave Maria Stella,
the guiding song of their people.
"Amen" they chanted when they were asked to pray for their ancestors' molesters.
They forgave and received God's benediction; and they were healed.
They ate the body of Christ and drank his blood to seal their experience into their memories;
to change forever the DNA of the Acadian soul.
They rejoiced with their people as they sauntered down the hill
and walked across the road to partake of the feast and find the perfect souvenir
of an expedition that was more supernal than reverberant.
And thus they had come, the descendants of those smirched Acadian peasants
of olden times.
They came and they were nourished, honored, blessed, and enlightened.
And now they've left the land of their ancestors, "The Land of Evangeline," to return
to their homes and families.
They left L'Acadie wimpling with new understanding, new families, new awakenings,
and mended souls.
"Still stands the forest primeval--- [the metaphor still works]
[And the dikes built by our ancestors are still there too]
While from its rocky caverns the deep-voiced, neighboring ocean
Speaks, and in accents disconsolate answers the wail of the [ancestors]."
Will they return next year, these enlightened Acadian descendants, to commemorate
the 250 year anniversary of the deportation?
Or will it be a whole different assemblage who does their pilgrimage then?
Will the Acadians of Maine be there, perhaps, to establish their presence in the world?
Will they go to share their history, their music, their ployes, and their hooked rugs?
Will the Acadians of New Hampshire be there, perchance, with their stories and their wares?
And those from Massachusetts, Vermont, New York, and Pennsylvania?
And what about those from the Carolinas, Virginia, Connecticut and Maryland?
And those scattered in more distant corners of the world?
Do they know who they are?Will they go to hear the Queen read and make official her Proclamation to launch the Day of Commemoration
of "Le Grand Dérangement"?
Will they go to celebrate the survivance of a people whose nation was shattered?
Will they go to L'Acadie to show the world that they, like the phoenix, have arisen
and will prevail?
Copyright: Françoise Paradis, Ed.D., August 2004
Grand Pré National Historic Site
The outdoor mass 8-15-2004
Church of Saint-Charles-des-MinesHenry Wadsworth Longfellow bust.
with Evangeline Statue
"Blomidonrose--.Sea-fogs pitched their tents"
Archeological dig, showing possible
foundation of original St Charles church.
Wain or cart
"The dry bed of the creek which is in sight a few paces Floral Acadian flag by the deportation cross.
in the water is the SPOTwhere THE VICTIMS OF
THE EXPULSION OF THE ACADIANS OF 1755
were embarked on the small boats to be rowed over
to the transports lying at anchor in Minas Basin."
Grand Pré willow in all its glory.