Acadie was the name used by the French to refer to the Atlantic coastal area which now includes Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and parts of Quebec and Maine. Inhabited by the Mi’kmaq and Algonquin, the first European settlement was established in 1604 on the Ile Ste Croix, now Dochet Island in Maine. After a terrible winter, during which thirty-five of the seventy-nine explorers with Champlain died of scurvy, the settlement moved to Port Royal, modern Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia, but following Champlain’s decision, in 1608, to focus settlement around lucrative fur exports in the St Lawrence Valley, Acadie and its cod exports ceased to be a significant concern of French administrators. Despite early English attacks and the attempts in the 1620s by Sir William Alexander to establish a Scottish colony in what is now Nova Scotia, Acadie remained a neglected French colony until 1710 when Port-Royal was captured by the British and took its present name.
Under British Rule, Acadie remained largely French speaking until the 1750s. While of limited economic interest, Acadie, at the mouth of the St Lawrence, was of strategic significance and, when in 1755, the Acadians’ spokesman wavered over a declaration of allegiance to British rule, the Governor of Nova Scotia began the deportations known as le grand dérangement. Within months, seven thousand people were deported to France and British colonies on the Atlantic coast. Hardly welcome in either place and with their sense of extended family destroyed, some moved to French-speaking areas of the Caribbean, Louisiana and modern Quebec. When the war was over in 1763, some returned to New Brunswick, which became the centre of Acadian culture and is now Canada’s only officially bilingual province.
The origins of the word “Acadie” are obscure and it could be either derived from the Algonquin name for the area or an allusion to the Arcadia of classical European literature.
Consulted for this post
The Voyages of the Sieur de Champlain of Saintonge, Captain in Ordinary for the King in the Navy, trans., W. F. Ganong, in vol. 1 of The Works of Samuel de Champlain, ed. H. P. Biggar (Toronto: The Champlain Society, 1922)
Christopher Moore, “Colonization and Conflict: New France and Its Rivals, 1600-1760” in The Illustrated History of Canada, ed. Craig R. Brown (Toronto: Key Porter Books, 2007)