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The Acadians were a group of French settlers who lived in Canada during the seventeenth century. They established a colony on North America’s Atlantic coast, in Canada and the state of Maine. Samuel de Champlain, the French explorer who later founded Quebec, visited the Acadian colony in 1604, as did French explorer Pierre de Gua.
Acadians in the French and Indian War
The Acadian colony attained historical prominence during the French and Indian War, a conflict between France and England in the in the middle part of the 18th century. As part of the Treaty of Utrecht, signed between Britain and Spain, the Acadian lands came under possession of Great Britain. However, the Acadians were allowed to keep their land as long as they swore allegiance to the British crown. The Acadians were reluctant to accept that condition for two main reasons. First, the Acadians’ primary religion was Roman Catholic, while the British were Protestant. Second, the Acadians feared that accepting British rule would leave them vulnerable to attack from the Mi’kmaq, a native tribe living nearby that deeply disliked the British. Due to this, the Acadians chose to remain neutral.
Fighting Against the British
During the French and Indian War, the Acadians began sending supplies to the French fortresses, and fought together with the Mi’kmaq tribes against the British. Military officer Charles Lawrence was angered by the Acadians’ behavior and set into motion what is known today as The Great Upheaval. On Lawrence’s orders, over eleven thousand Acadians were forcibly removed from their homes and colony. The first wave of removals sent the Acadians to rural parts of Connecticut and New York; the second forced them to France, Britain, and Halifax, Nova Scotia. Of the fourteen thousand Acadians residing in the colony, only 2,600 were able to escape capture and removal by the British.
Forced Away From Their Lands
The Acadians began forming their own French-speaking colonies across the world; one group settled in southern Louisiana and are known today as the Cajuns. After the end of the war and the Treaty of Paris in 1763, Britain took control of Canada, and the Acadians ceased to exist as a political group. Acadians were allowed to return to their home if they signed allegiance to Britain; some groups traveled to Nova Scotia or New Brunswick. In 2003, Queen Elizabeth II issued a royal proclamation and formal apology to the Acadian people for their forced displacement.