The Cajuns were from Canada? The Great Expulsion and the exile of the Acadians.
Today Cajun culture has become synonymous on the State of Louisiana, providing a cornerstone for its language, cuisine, and religion throughout history. So would you be surprised that the Cajuns did not originate from the bayous of Louisiana but instead were from Eastern Canada?
By around 1700 the British had settled the thirteen colonies of the east coast while France claimed Eastern Canada and much of the lands of the Ohio Valley and Mississippi River delta. In modern day Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island a large group of French settlers populated the region and founded the French colony of Acadia. Since Acadia was governed independently from France and French Canada, the Acadians developed a culture and language that was significantly different from that of the European French and Quebecois.
However in 1710 France was at war with its longtime nemesis Great Britain and the British conquered Acadia. The Acadians were permitted to keep their lands and live undisturbed as long as they swore fealty to the king and conducted themselves as loyal British citizens. However the Acadians were not very happy being a British colony and often aided the French in the many colonial wars that occurred between 1710 and 1755. In 1754 war once again broke out between Britain and France, known as the Seven Years War or French and Indian War in the colonies. Once again the Acadians came to the aid of the French, supplying troops and guerrilla fighters for the French cause. As a result in 1755 Gov. Charles Lawrence ordered and oversaw the removal and forced deportation of the Acadians from the region, now known to history as “The Great Expulsion”. The British plan was the remove the Acadians and turn the land into a fully British province. From 1755 to 1763, 11,500 Acadians were forcibly deported, those who remained were forced to blend and assimilate with the new British colonists.
Most Acadians were shipped to either the thirteen colonies, where they assimilated with American culture, or were sent back to France. However many Acadians who were relocated to France did not fit in with European French culture and wanted to return to the New World. 1,500 under the leadership of Henri Peyroux de la Coudrenier resettled in Louisiana, then transferred to the Spanish after the war. They named their new colony Acadiana after their old homeland.
In Louisiana the Acadians maintained their old culture while adopted the culture of those already living in the colony. Over the next 100 years the Acadians intermixed between the Spanish, Native Americans, African Americans, and French Creoles, creating a unique and vibrant culture. After the American Revolution Louisiana again became a French colony, until in 1803 it was sold by Napoleon Bonaparte to the United States. Suddenly the Acadians became Americans and the slang term “Cajun” was created. Today there are around 3 - 5 million people who claim to be of Cajun ancestry, most of whom live in Southern Louisiana.