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The territory's first European colonists, who would later become known as Acadians, were French subjects primarily from the Pleumartin to Poitiers in the Vienne département of west-central France. The first French settlement was established by Pierre Dugua, Sieur de Monts, Governor of Acadia under the authority of King Henry IV, on Saint Croix Island in 1604. The following year, the settlement was moved across the Bay of Fundy to Port Royal after a difficult winter on the island and deaths due to scurvy. In 1608, many of the settlers followed Samuel de Champlain north to found New France at the site of modern day Quebec City.
The French took control of the Abenaki First Nations territory. In 1654, King Louis XIV of France appointed aristocrat Nicholas Denys as Governor of Acadia and granted him the confiscated lands and the right to all its minerals. British colonists captured Acadia in the course of King William's War but Britain returned it to France at the peace settlement. It was recaptured in the course of Queen Anne's War and its conquest confirmed in the Treaty of Utrecht of 1713.
On June 23 that year, the French residents of Acadia were given one year to declare allegiance to Britain or leave Nova Scotia. In the meantime, the French signalled their preparedness for future hostilities by building Fortress Louisbourg on Cape Breton Island. The British grew increasingly alarmed by the prospect of disloyalty in wartime of the Acadians now under their rule.
In 1755, the British burned Acadian homes at the outbreak of the French and Indian War between Britain and France, accusing Acadians of disloyalty (for not having taken the oath) and guerrilla action. Those who still refused to swear loyalty to the British crown then suffered what is referred to as the Great Upheaval, when some 6,000-7,000 Acadians were expelled from Nova Scotia to France or the American colonies. Others fled deeper into Nova Scotia and other parts of the colony of Canada. The town of L'Acadie (now a sector of Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu in Quebec) was founded by expelled Acadians.
After 1764, many expelled Acadians settled in Louisiana, which had been transferred by France to Spain before the end of the Seven Years' War. The name Acadian was corrupted to Cajun, which was first used as a pejorative term until its later mainstream acceptance. Britain allowed some Acadians to return to Nova Scotia, but these were forced to settle in small groups, and were not permitted to reside in the former communities of Grand-Pre and Port Royal.
The poem Evangeline by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow is a romanticized account of the Deportation and its aftermath, telling the story of Evangeline, a (fictional) Acadian woman who never gives up the search for her lover. Additionally, the song "Acadian Driftwood" by The Band is a dramatized story of the Great Upheaval.
Origin of the name
The origin of the name Acadia is credited to the explorer Giovanni da Verrazzano (1480–1527), who had the Greek term "Arcadie", meaning the proverbial land of plenty, written on the entire Atlantic coast north of Virginia on his sixteenth century map. Another theory is that Acadia is derived from the Mi'kmaq term for "place", pronounced "akatie" (still found in place names like Tracadie and Shubenacadie) and the Malecite term "quoddy", also meaning a "fertile place".
The Dictionary of Canadian Biography says "“Arcadia,” the name Giovanni gave to Maryland or Virginia “on account of the beauty of the trees,” made its first cartographical appearance in the 1548 Gastaldo map and is the only name to survive in Canadian usage. It has a curious history. In the 17th century Champlain fixed its present orthography, with the “r” omitted, and Ganong has shown its gradual progress northwards, in a succession of maps, to its resting place in the Atlantic provinces."
Today, Acadia refers to regions of Atlantic Canada with French roots, language, and culture. In the abstract, Acadia refers to the existence of a French culture on Canada’s east coast.
In 1994, Acadians and Cajuns held the first Acadian World Congress in Moncton, New Brunswick. Subsequent world congresses were held in 1999 and 2004.
The national anthem of Acadia is Ave Maris Stella.