Those visiting New Brunswick - or those planning a trip to go - may be wondering, who are the Acadians? How does their culture differ from Canadian customs, history and traditions? Curious travellers will be rewarded with rich experiences when touring the Maritime province. The heart of Acadian culture beats strong and there are plenty of landmarks to touch and cuisine to sample. Read on...
Arrival of French settlers
In the 1600s, land in North America was claimed by nations across the seas. The coastal provinces now referred to as the Maritimes, along with a portion of Quebec, were a colony of New France known as Acadia. It had been freshly inhabited by French settlers bravely seeking a new life. During the 17th and 18th centuries, settlers intermarried with the five principal First Nations groups in the area. This new population were known as the Métis. Over the years and through several wars and land divisions, the region maintained distinct populations of Acadians (French settlers), the Wabanaki Confederacy (First Nations) and the Métis.
The three populations in the region led surprisingly different lifestyles. The Wabanaki Confederacy living much as they always had, the Métis adopting a more nomadic lifestyle and the Acadians engaging in farming. Small, family-owned farms were highly productive and the Acadians prospered. They engaged in commerce, trading food, fish and textiles for goods they couldn’t manufacture themselves. The tight-knit communities of the 18th century have retained culture and celebrate traditions that can still be seen today in New Brunswick.
Village Historique Acadien
A road trip along the northern coast of New Brunswick offers plentiful opportunities to step into Acadian past. The Village Historique Acadien near Caraquet allows visitors to fully immerse themselves in Acadian culture. Interpreters, dressed in period costumes “live” in the village, demonstrating traditional tasks and hobbies of 18th century Acadians. Each inhabitant has a life history and traditional custom to be shared with visitors. Whether it’s painting a picture of the rigors of farm life, the duties of a merchants or the hardships of fisherman. While some of the buildings are replicas, others date from the 1700s and are original to Acadia.
Festival Acadien de Caraquet
Similar to the Village Historic Acadien, Le Pays de la Sagouine is a historic re-enactment of Acadian culture set on a fictitious island in Bouctouche. The “land of the washerwoman” is inspired by Canadian author and playwright Antonine Maillet. Visitors are invited into Acadian culture through a mix of theatre, music, dance and comedy in an event that is something of a mixed bag. The interactive live theatre show is an experience like no other that will leave you both entertained and educated.
Visit Cap-Pele, a colourful Acadian village that offers guided tours. Unlike VHA, Cap-Pele is a living, breathing village that retains the charm of old-world Acadia. Learn about the Maritime history of the village at the Smokehouse Museum before heading to the wharf to see the lobster pound. More than 200 years of history are written in the streets of the village, closely watched over by the statue of the angel that protects the fishermen.
Musee Acadien de l'Universite de Moncton
The Musee Acadien de l’Universite de Moncton contains the largest collection of Acadian artifacts in the world and includes photographs and objects. A permanent exhibit presents the regional history of Acadia in two different formats. Follow the journey of Acadians in a chronological exhibit or walk through the themed sections that highlight religion, education, business and domestic life.
Le Pays de la Sagouine
The Festival Acadien de Caraquet is two weeks of fun while celebrating Acadian culture. From the 1st to the 15th of August, the little town of Caraquet welcomes thousands of visitors, excited to watch some 400 artists perform music, cabaret shows, poetry and much more. Fashion your own carnival mask at a workshop and enjoy all aspects (and flavours!) of Acadian culture.
The islands of Lameque and Miscou lie off the northeastern tip of Gloucester County, and both are steeped in Acadian culture and natural beauty. The islands are peaceful places to enjoy the wild beauty of the coast, but they also offer a unique way to explore culture and learn about the history of the region. Stop at the information center and pick up a treasure map to kick off your adventure. By car or bicycle, the map leads treasure hunters through key landmarks, along fishing wharfs and to notable churches. While you're hunting make ample stops to sample fresh seafood. What treasured will you find?
Traditional fare can be found many places, often blended with other styles of cuisine to create regional interpretations of recipes. In Campbellton the very traditional meat pie, a staple of many Acadian homes, takes the appearance of a meat-filled biscuit that is eaten by hand. The fish pancakes of the north are made with crab and lobster cakes when eaten in the southern reaches of Acadia. Alternatively, rich stews (Fricot) vary in seasonings throughout the province, but little else. Poutine Râpée has become so engrained in modern New Brunswick culture that it’s often included in fast food menus and at restaurants.
After an authentic experience? How about hopping aboard a traditional fishing boat and trapping lobsters the ways it's been done for centuries? Bonus - you eat what you catch! One opportunity for a amazing fishing trip can be found at Camping Plage Val-Comeau. The day trip wraps with a lobster dinner prepared in an authentic outdoor cauldron.
Do you know all about Acadian culture?
What's your favourite Acadian cusine, tradition or landmark?
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