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Episode 13: Arcadian Dreams

Updated: Aug 17, 2021

Tuesday February 23, 2021

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Champlain declared his hopes and dreams for the new settlement at l’Acadie to a group of Mi’kmaq people, stating, “Our sons will marry your daughters and we will be a single people.” Between 1604 and 1755, Acadians that settled under those hopes and dreams, lived as neutral people amidst colonial strife, that would eventually see them expelled at gunpoint without warning or preparation, in what is now seen as the first Government sponsored ethnic cleansing in North America – the expulsion of the Acadians from Nova Scotia. L’Acadie is a place long gone. The remnants of its existence prior to the expulsion can be seen in a few memorials and markers scattered about the province of Nova Scotia, Canada. John Mack Faragher, author of the book, A Great and Noble Scheme, offers 2 accounts of the origins of the name Acadie. In the first account, the name Acadie came from the Tuscan explorer, Giovanni da Verrazano, who was sailing for the French crown. Verrazano was so taken by the beauty of the North American coast that he would from that point on in 1524, refer to the place as Arcadia, after a prose pastoral of the same name, published in 1502. This work is said to have popularized the notion of a rural “golden age” among the ancients. As a result, Arcadia appears on 16th century French maps and charts as the place name for the Northern Atlantic coastal region. The use of the term Arcadia on maps gave rise to its common usage among French sea captains and fisherman. According to this explanation, l’Acadie was simply a corruption of the map label - Arcadie. In the second origin story of the term l’Acadie, parallels are drawn to the suffix, akadie, used in the Mikmawisimk language, meaning place of abundance. The suffix akadie is commonly used by the Mi’kmaq to mark important resource sites, as in Shunakadie – place of abundant cranberries, or Shubenakadie, place of abundant wild potatoes. Faragher argues though, that the combination of these origin stories make the most compelling explanation, suggesting that it was the intercultural exchanges between French traders and Mi’kmaq hunters that spurred the shift from l’Arcadie to l’Acadie. I like this fusion of origin stories because it is in keeping with the spirit of l’Acadie – creating something new together. It makes the linguistic shift not a corruption, but rather a dream realized, an Arcadian dream, that gave birth to l’Acadie. Welcome to the Maple Family Treehouse, I am Kael Sharman. Thank you for listening to this 13th episode, Arcadian dreams. I also want to thank John Mack Faragher for doing amazing historical research on Acadian history and culture. And what an amazing experience to pick-up a history book filled the names of my ancestors. I am overwhelmed with gratitude – thank you John Mack Faragher. A full reference to Faragher’s book will be in the show notes for anyone interested – and I highly recommend this book. It is engaging and accessible. If you have Acadian roots it is a must read. I also want to thank the Mi’kmaq people whose traditional lands were shared with my earliest ancestors. In the spirit of l’Acadie, lets continue that peace caring and sharing. I began doing this podcast with the intention of answering the question; How did I get here? In this episode, I bring to you, another migration story that contributes greatly to answering this question. Prior to putting together this episode, I had no idea that I am a direct descendent of many of the original Acadian settlers. The first permanent European settlers in l’Acadie were of a group of families, mostly French Catholic, but not all, who arrived with a set of skills and grit that allowed them to set up a new home and coexist on a new landscape with Mi’kmaq people. One memorial plaque lists 58 Acadian family names as they appeared on the 1671 census. Of those 58 names, 30 of those names are part of my family tree. With so many Acadian stories to tell, there will be many future episodes on the topic, but I had to choose one story to focus on today. And that story, will be the Cyr branch of my family tree because it most vividly represents the unique culture in Acadia as well as the devastating effects of the expulsion. The family name Cyr is one of the oldest Norman French names and comes from the borders of Normandy and Brittany. It is recorded in history to the year 1000”. Pierre Cyr/Sire/Sirre came from Touraine, France, a town just north east of La Rochelle. He settled in Beaubassin, L’Acadie. A census from 1671, indicates that Pierre was 27 at the time of the Census, and he was married to Marie Bourgeois, 18. They met in l’Acadie and were married the year prior to the cencus. Pierre worked as a gunsmith. They already had started their family – their son Jean was 3 months old. Guillaume Cyr, my 7 greats grandfather was born in 1680. Guillaume lived his entire life in Beaubassin, l’Acadie. Guilaume created quite a nice life for himself. And we have glimpses of that life from the records of Robert Hale a trader who would come to the region on business… “When Robert Hale of Massachusetts was in Beaubassin on a trading venture in July 1731, he recorded his daily routine in his journal. Boarding at a little Inn run by Guillaume Cyr and his wife Marguerite Bourg, he joined the family in a Sunday dinner of bonnyclabber – a type of fermented raw milk, soup, salad, roast shad – a type of large herring fish, bread and butter… Their diet was rich in protein and fat as well as stone-ground whole grains, and included plenty of cabbage, turnips, and fresh fruit and vegetables in season.” “The church also played an important role in Acadian cultural life. During his visit to Beaubassin, Robert Hale watched as Father Jacques de Lesclaches, accompanied by a sexton ringing a small handbell, circulated through the village each day on his way to celebrate mass at the chapel of Notre-Dame-du-Bon-Secour, which had been rebuilt after Benjamin Church burned it in 1696. Hale was surprised to see his hosts, the Cyr family, on their knees each morning and evening, saying their prayers.” Hale was surprised, because Inn keeper of the day had notorious reputations, Priests complained that Acadian Inns and taverns remained open on Sundays, doing business during the celebration of mass. One missionary reported that not only were men and women seen dancing after sunset but they could be heard singing chansons lascives—lascivious songs. For 2 generations the Cyr family settled into new routines, of their family business’. It is the 3rd generation of the Cyr family – Paul, my 6 greats grandfather that would experience the Acadian expulsion. Paul and his family were forced onto a boat headed for Boston Massachusetts. They eventually made their way the French islands of St. Pierre and Michelon. Paul died there in 1772. His family had to resettle once again, due to the limited space on the tiny French islands. They moved inland where there was more space for the family to resettle. Paul’s daughter, Louise Cyr my 5 greats gradmother, married Ettienne Vigneau, and settled in Quebec City. I wanted to give a shout out at this point to Ettienne Vigneau, my 6 greats grandfather. Ettienne was born on 26 Dec 1755 LaRochelle, France. He was born in France because his parents, Jean Vigneau and Marie J Bourgeois, like many others, were boarded onto ships headed down the coast during the fall of 1755, but turned away. With no where else to turn the ships brought Acadians to France, where they stayed for a short period of time. So while Marie was 7 months pregnant she crossed the Atlantic – If that is not a testament to how tough Acadians are, I don’t know what is. Louise Cyr & Ettienne Vigneau resettled once again on the Magdalen Islands to raise their family. That is where their son Jean Edouard Vigneau started his family, which included Henriette Vigneau, my 4 greats grandmother. It is unclear when or why Henriette relocated, but her son Villebon Talbot was born in Natashquan, Quebec. Sometime after Villebon’s birth the family relocated to St. Theophile, Quebec on the border of Main. It is here that the family began to set down roots. Villebon was an Iron worker who helped to build a church in town that still stands to this day. My great-grandmother, Thais Talbot was born in 1878 in St Theophile, where she lived her entire life. The first generation to live in one place since Guillaume Cyr who was born in Beaubassin before the expulsion in 1680. It took 150 years for my family to finally resettle permanently. Thais Talbot and Edouard Chamberland raised my grandfather after his mother Alice died in childbirth. My grandfather lived through the great depression, world war 2, and the 1950’s - a decade that sparked the quiet revolution in Quebec. He would relocate his growing family to Magog, move to Toronto, then to Windsor, Rochester, New York, back to Windsor, Dearborn Michigan, he become a snowbird upon retirement living partially in Windsor, and partly in Florida each winter, he lived for a short period in Manitoba, before passing away in Sun City Florida in 2007. While he made most of his moves for work, and later pleasure – it seemed as if moving around for my grandfather was home. No matter where my grandfather went though, he always returned to us for short periods of time. Windsor was a home base because it was where most of his children were at the time. What this family history tells me is that it takes 2 key ingredients to set down roots: 1. Connection to the land you live on, and 2. Connection to your people who know the land as well as you do. If you have those two things, you can provide for your family in a way that fills your soul. What made the Acadians so successful is that they had knowledge, skills and alliances that immediately connected them with the land. A lesson that their Mi’kmaq neighbours knew all too well. In fact, it was support given from the Mi’kmaq people that enable the Acadians to survive initially. The first few winters were hard. It took a few years for the dyke systems to build soil that could support healthy crops. The thing that made l’Acadie possible - working together. Perhaps this is why the Acadian motto is: Strength Through Unity. Thanks for listening to this 13th episode of the Maple Family Treehouse - Arcadian Dreams. Oh hey, before you go I want to introduce you to my 12 greats grandfather, Louis Hébert (c. 1575 – 25 January 1627) is widely considered to be the first Canadian apothecary as well as the first European to farm in Canada. He was born around 1575 in Paris to Nicolas Hébert and Jacqueline Pajot. He married Marie Rollet in 1601. In 1606, he accompanied his cousin in law, Jean de Biencourt de Poutrincourt et de Saint-Just, to Acadia along with Samuel Champlain. He lived at Port-Royal (now Annapolis, in southern Nova Scotia) from 1606 to 1607 and from 1611 to 1613 when Port-Royal was destroyed by the English deputy governor of Virginia Samuel Argall. In Quebec his apothecary and small store of grain from a grist mill he built were lifesaving. Hebert succeeded in clearing and planting some land. Champlain, on his brief visit of 1618, found cultivated land “filled with fine grain” and gardens that produced a wide variety of vegetables. In 1617, with his wife, Marie Rollet, and their three children, Guillaume (3 years old), Guillaumette (9 years old), and Anne (14 years old) settled in Quebec City where he passed away in 1627. Statues of Louis Hébert, Marie Rollet, and their children are prominent in Parc Montmorency overlooking the St. Lawrence River in Quebec City. Thank you again for listening to the Maple Family Treehouse, Episode 13: Arcadian Dreams. Join me Tuesday March 8 for the next episode. Cheer! SOURCE: Faragher, John Mack. A Great and Noble Scheme: The Tragic Story of the Expulsion of the French Acadians from Their American Homeland (p. 191). W. W. Norton & Company. Kindle Edition. S1 Episode 13: Arcadian Dreams Kael Sharman

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