In the mid 1600s, a group of farmers from the France arrived in Canada to colonize the region of Canada now known at the Bay of Fundy. They brought with them the technology to harvest the tides, creating dikes to turn swampy areas into large, fertile meadows. Tragically, about a hundred years later, the British took over the area and forced the Acadians into exile, in what was to be known at the Grand Dérangement. The Acadians had little choice. They either pledged allegiance to the British Crown, which would certainly involve taking up arms against their former allies and countrymen, or they would have to forfeit their lands and belongings to the Crown. They were sent to all corners of the earth, mainly France, Spain, French colonies in New Brunswick and Louisiana territory. The men were rounded up in boats, their wives and families joining them a month or so later to be sent on long and perilous journeys where many died of disease (or heartbreak).
Grand Pré National Historic Site is a testament to those brave people. It was their main agricultural settlement in the 17th century, the site of a large village, a cemetery, a church and of course, large agricultural fields. We visited the site, walking through the former village area, the church (which was built in 1922 to honour the Acadians) and the area which would have been the cemetery. The visit was particularly moving as the lady that was touring with us had an ancestor who had lived and was buried in the Grand Pré site.
The site is also marked with the statue of Evangeline, a fictional character that represents the Acadian diaspora as revealed in the poetry of Longfellow. It seems Longfellow was a professor at Harvard and had read many documents about the Acadians’ plight which inspired his poem.