The Acadians: A New Life in Louisiana
The English soldiers herded the Acadians to the beach. They were being exiled from their homeland of 150 years. They didn’t understand what was happening. They were frightened.
“Andre, I’ll be right back. Cora needs these herbs for her sick baby,” said Amalie. She and Andre Landry had married only a month before. Amalie was a “healer” and had learned from her mother how to help the sick. At this time healers used certain plants as medicine.
Amalie turned away from her new husband for only a moment, but this moment caused them to lose each other for years.
Just as she disappeared into the crowd, the soldiers gave a push to those in the front. The exiles near Andre were forced into a boat. Andre struggled against the tide of people pushing against him. He dropped his bag of clothes. As he reached down, he was almost crushed. He couldn’t get through. “Amalie, Amalie,” he screamed, but he couldn’t move back to her.
Amalie heard Andre, looked up, and saw what was happening. She tried to squeeze toward him, but they were far apart now. A soldier grabbed Andre by the neck and pushed him into a boat.
In this way, the newlyweds were separated. Andre watched helplessly as the boat was rowed to the nearest ship. Soon, wind filled the sails of his ship and away they sailed. On the fateful day of the Expulsion, known as “Le Grand Derangement” by the French, many families were separated.
Luckily, Andre was forced onto the same ship with his brothers, Edmond and Albert, and their father, Pierre. The four were able-bodied seamen. As night approached, they planned to take over the ship and return to Acadia. Perhaps some of their family were still there. They whispered their plan to their fellow Acadians. That night they waited until most of the crew were asleep. With their knives as weapons, they surprised the night watch and were able to tie up the whole crew. The next day they left the ship’s crew on shore.
The route of the Acadians to Louisiana
Then a storm struck and for days the Acadians were blown out to sea. Weeks later, they made their way back to Acadia. They saw a sad sight. Their village of Grand Pre was in ashes: 700 houses, 11 mills, two churches, all burned. They searched the nearby woods. An Indian told them, “The English took everyone away.”
“How will we find our families?” was the cry of the unhappy exiles.
The Acadians sailed south in their ship. Afraid to be identified, they painted a new name on the ship, calling her Hope. They stopped at Salem, near Boston. Andre rowed into the port. He could speak English so he talked to a fisherman. The news was not comforting. “One ship stopped here,” said the man. “The captain wanted to dump those Frenchies here. But the Governor of Massachusetts said, “No exiles in this colony.” Maybe they went to New York.”
The Acadian ship stopped in New York. Still no luck. “Sailor, do you know anything about the Acadian exiles?” asked Andre.
“No Acadians were allowed to land here. I heard 12 ships took them south. They were dropped along the Atlantic coast. One ship went to the Caribbean. Some went all the way to New Orleans.”
The Hope sailed south. In Baltimore the Acadians were welcomed. Maryland was more sympathetic because many Catholics lived there. Some exiles found family members. When Andre questioned them, one exile said “Amalie left Baltimore with her family, the Thibodaux, on a ship headed for either the Caribbean or New Orleans and French Louisiana.”
The people on the Hope decided to go to Louisiana. Andre hoped Amalie had gone to New Orleans. More exiles joined the group. With little land available for farming left in Maryland, the Acadians were working as servants. They had always been farmers, and they knew there would be open land in Louisiana. When the ship arrived in New Orleans, it carried 210 individuals, 36 families and a few orphans.
At this time Louisiana was under Spanish control. Governor Ulloa sent the immigrants up the Mississippi River, giving them land along the banks. He also gave each family one cow with calf, six hens, one rooster, corn, gunpowder, bullets and a gun. The Spanish wanted more settlers there.
Bayou Teche and vicinty
When Andre’s group went up river, they had a few joyful family reunions. They celebrated by butchering a hog and making rice sausages. The Acadian farmers were adjusting to the warmer climate. They grew rice instead of wheat. They made their clothes from cotton instead of wool. They used sugar cane syrup instead of maple syrup on their bread. They grew okra, a vegetable brought there from Africa.
Andre went from house to house asking about Amalie. He found some people named Thibodaux, but not Amalie’s family. He was told, “Some other Thibodaux were here for a while. The papa wanted to go west to the Bayou Teche area. They all moved over there. One daughter was named Eulalie, or Amalie, or something like that.”
It was three years since the Landrys had left Acadia, but now at last Andre had information. “I’ll be glad to go west to Bayou Teche,” said brother Edmond. Most Acadians wanted to recreate their frontier farming society. And they wanted to be far from the hated English.
The four men paddled two flat-bottomed boats called pirogues through the swamps and bayous. It was difficult and dangerous, but they stayed with friendly fishermen at night. They arrived at Fausse Point, on Bayou Teche, early one humid August evening. The village was only a few gray cabins facing the bayou. Andre and Albert in the first pirogue saw people gathered on a pier. They were yelling and waving their arms. One woman was reaching toward something in the water. Everyone was excited. A big woman on the pier yelled, “Save him. Save Gabriel. He fell off the pier.”
Andre saw a small child bobbing in the water. Next he saw a large alligator swimming toward the child. “Albert, see that child! Paddle faster!” They paddled hard to get between the child and the alligator.
They arrived at Fausse Point early one humid August evening
“Grab the child, Andre, while I hit the alligator with my paddle,” said Albert. Albert struck the animal, but when Andre held his arms out for him, the boy disappeared under the brown murky water. Andre leaned over the side and reached into the water where the child had gone under. He grabbed an arm and pulled the boy out of the mud. Andre dragged him into the boat and held him face down over his knees. The boy coughed up the thick bayou water.
The alligator lost interest and slid underwater. Andre and Albert paddled to shore. They heard a scream from the pier, “Andre, can it be?” As Andre stepped on to land, a woman threw her arms around him. It was Amalie, his long-lost wife.
Amid laughter and tears, Amalie said, “And you’ve saved Gabriel.”
“And who is Gabriel?” asked Andre.
“Your son. He was born here just after we settled on Bayou Teche.” Andre had found his bride and been blessed by saving his son all on the same day.
The next night a “bal de maison,” a house dance, was held in honor of the Landrys’ arrival on the Teche. After a supper of crawfish gumbo served at midnight, they danced some more. The Acadians had always loved to dance. Amalie and Andre led the dances while Gabriel slept under the benches with the other children.
In 1604 a group of French people settled in Acadia, the area that is now Canadian Nova Scotia. They made friends “with the Native Americans, the Micmacs. They created a good life in the wilderness, fishing and farming. But in 1710 the English won control of Acadia. The Acadians would not swear allegiance to the English king. They wanted to preserve their way of life. They didn’t want to be assimilated into the Anglo-Protestant population. They wanted to retain their Catholic religion. They wanted to be neutral in wars between France and England. The English were suspicious of this independent foreign population.
In 1755, after 40 years of trying to rule these difficult subjects, the English governor exiled them from their home of 150 years. He forced 18,000 Acadians onto ships and burned their homes. Many migrated to Louisiana and settled near New Orleans. Eventually the English-speaking people called them Cajuns, a mispronunciation of Acadians. Today, although they have lived in the United States for 200 years, they still maintain a separate ethnic community, with their own food, music, and language. This is the story of one family’s difficulties during the exile.
Many of the 18,000 Acadians died during this Expulsion, but of those who lived, 4,000 landed in southern Louisiana. These “Cajuns” formed a solid working class group of fishermen and farmers, strongly anti-English. Later they lived side-by-side with English and other European people who came to settle in Louisiana, too.
|assimilate||adapt, absorb or be absorbed|
|exile||drive out, dismiss, expel|
|herbs||plants used for food or in medicine or for flavoring|
|healer||a person who cures the sick|
|struggle||fight, work, battle|
|squeeze||crowd, stuff, force|
|Expulsion||banishment, exile, being forced out|
|able-bodied||fit and strong|
|watch||the person who takes a turn of duty on a ship|
|dump||eject, to get rid of, to put down carelessly|
|sympathetic||supportive, understanding, appreciative|
|orphan||a child without parents|
|bank||edge of water, shore|
|Bayou||a marshy slow-moving small river|
|Teche||Indian word meaning snake. The Bayou Teche curls around like a snake|
|swamp||marsh, watery place|
|reach||to stretch out one’s hand, to touch or grab something|
|bob||to move quickly up and down|
|alligator||a reptile of the crocodile family|
|crawfish gumbo||a thick soup made with shrimp-like seafood|
1. In Your Opinion
1. What is the main idea in this story?
2. What is the most tragic event in this story?
3. What would have happened to Gabriel if Andre had not arrived at that moment?
2. Vocabulary Subsitution
From the following list, substitute the word or words closest in meaning to the italicized phrase in the sentences below.
1. The ship had to be renamed so that it couldn’t be recognized.
2. Amalie tried to force herself between the people.
3. Andre fought against the people around him, try ing to get to Amalie.
4. The Cajuns were forced out of their homes.
5. After the Acadian Expulsion, there were many children without parents.
6. The people of Boston were not supportive of the Acadians.
7. Many slow-moving small rivers in Louisiana are moved by the tides.
8. Some ethnic groups don’t want to be absorbed into the major culture.
9. The men were strong seamen.
10. The child was bouncing up and down in the water.
3. Chronological Order
Number the items according to time sequence.
1. _C_ A. Andre picked Gabriel out of the water.
2. ___ B. The Landrys in the Hope stopped in Baltimore.
3. ___ C. The French people settled in Acadia.
4. ___ E. Andre and Amalie were reunited in Louisiana.
5. ___ F. The Landry men crossed the swamp, going to the Bayou Teche area.
6. ___ G. The English expelled the French from Acadia.
7. ___ H. The Landrys went up the Mississippi River.
8. ___ I. Andre Landry and his brothers took control of the ship.
4. Finding Information
Read the question. Find the answer in the story. Write it down.
Ex.: How do Amalie and Andre get separated?
She goes to help someone while they are being pushed on to the boats.
1. Why do Andre and the other Acadians take over the ship?
2. Where do they take the ship after they take it over?
3. How are the exiles treated in Baltimore, Maryland?
4. What happens to the people on the Hope when they get to New Orleans?
5. Why does Andre go to the Bayou Teche instead of settling on the banks of the Mississippi?
6. What had happened to the child Gabriel right before the Landrys arrived by boat?
5. Role Play
Students take parts. Plan the dialogue or improvise on the spot.
A. English governor and Acadian official: they argue about the planned exile of the Acadians.
B. Andre and Pierre: they plan how they will take over the ship that night.
C. Amalie and her mother: the night of the exile the mother tries to console Amalie.
D. Andre and Edmond: argue about staying in Maryland or going to an unknown place, the Caribbean or Louisiana.
E. Andre and Albert: they persuade each other about which route to take through the swamp.
F. Andre and Amalie: They talk about whether to stay with the Thibodaux or live with the Landrys.
2: 1. identified; 2. squeeze; 3. struggled; 4. expelled from; 5. orphans; 6. sympathetic; 7. bayous; 8. assimilated; 9. able-bodied; 10. bobbing
3: C, G, I, B, H, F, A, E
1. They want to return to Acadia to look for family members.
2. To Acadia, then to Boston, New York, Baltimore and New Orleans.
4. They are given land on the banks of the Mississippi River.
5. Because he thinks Amalie is there.
6. He had fallen into the water.
A crayfish is called “crawdad” in Louisiana and the South, and is like a small lobster. Cajuns catch them in their bayous and cook them in various delicious ways.
Get up old man, you slept too late, honey
Get up old man, you slept too late, babe
Get up old man, you slept too late
Last piece of crawdad on your plate
Honey, baby mine
Get up old woman, you slept too late, honey
Get up old woman, you slept too late, babe
Get up old woman, you slept too late
Crawdad man done passed your gate
Honey, baby mine
What you gonna do when the lake goes dry, honey?
Tell me, what you gonna do when the lake goes dry, babe?
What you gonna do when the lake goes dry?
Sit on the bank, watch the crawdads die
Honey, baby mine
I heard the duck say to the drake, honey
I heard the duck say to the drake, babe
I heard the duck say to the drake
There ain’t no crawdads in this lake
Honey, baby mine
You get a line and I’ll get a pole, honey
You get a line and I’ll get a pole, babe
You get a line and I’ll get a pole
We’ll go down to the crawdad hole
Honey, baby mine
By Myrtis Mixon
From Americana Historical Spotlights in Story and Song