I could feel the tears welling in my eyes as I listened to the character narration of Acadian Elizabeth Thibodeau veuve Cosme Brasseur. This widow’s story tells how she lost her husband in the deportation from Canada, struggled to care for her children, and eventually begged for passage out of Maryland to Louisiana. With five daughters and two sons, she settled on Bayou Manchac in 1767. Hers is just one of the many the stories of the men, women, and children who began arriving in Louisiana in the mid-1760s after begin exiled from Nova Scotia by the British occupation.
The Acadian Memorial in St. Martinville, Louisiana pays tribute to these refugees. Of the more than 10,000 Acadians forced to leave Canada, some 3,000 settled in Louisiana. “The Queen of England apologized to the people of Canada, but she never offered an apology to the people of Louisiana for her country’s actions,” Memorial Hostess Betty Laviolette offered in a sad, low whisper.
The Memorial’s audio tour brought Brasseur and other Acadian refugees to life who were portrayed on “The Arrival of the Acadians in Louisiana” – the 12’ by 30’ wall mural by Robert Dafford. The Wall of Names lists 3,000 persons identified as Acadian refugees in Louisiana. The Coats-of-Arms for 31 families of Acadian descent lay in mosaic tile in the Memorial Garden under The Deportation Cross and around The Eternal Flame. The Cross is a replica of one that stands at Grand-Pré National Historic Site, Nova Scotia – a commemorative site from which Acadians embarked into exile. The Flame symbolizes the Acadians ability to rekindle their culture despite hardship. Their descendants are the Cajuns - new faces for a new day – “Joie de Vivre” joy of living - perhaps a new mural of the people we see in Louisiana’s Cajun Country.