While there is a tendency to glorify the Planters and Loyalists, we cannot realistically deny that the Acadians have influenced life here in numerous ways. The Acadians have put their stamp on agriculture, on place names and on our culture, for example, and this is evident anywhere we care to look.
The Acadian era is one of the most fascinating, most troubled and most tragic periods in Nova Scotia history.
There is little doubt that the Acadians were used as pawns in the struggle between England and France, but it isn’t the purpose of this column to dredge up ancient wrongs. Instead, from a file to which I’ve been adding bits and pieces of info for years, here are some glimpses of the Acadians and the Acadian period.
Piere Melanson, who may have given his name to the community of Melanson on the Gaspereau River, founded Grand Pre in 1682. Melanson, along with his wife and other young Acadian couples, migrated to Grand Pre from Port Royal. Grand Pre soon became the largest Acadian settlement in Nova Scotia. By the early 18th century, the majority of Acadians were living around Grand Pre, the population peaking at about 5,000.
Where they were first constructed isn’t known for sure, but the Acadians were building dykes in Nova Scotia at least as early as 1640. The reclamation of salt marshes by the Acadians is said to be the most distinctive characteristic of Acadian culture. By 1710 the Acadians had built dykes and aboiteaus on all the marshlands bordering the Minas Basin.
The Acadians are believed to have been limited when it came to agriculture, but this isn’t true. Besides producing sizeable wheat crops, the Acadians grew cabbages, turnips, beans, onions, peas, corn and several varieties of apples. For meat, the Acadians raised beef pigs, sheep and poultry. The Acadians also harvested and ate a variety of fresh and saltwater fish – journals from Acadian times mention smelts, flounder, gaspereaux, shad, bass, eels, salmon and trout. Archaeological evidence indicates that in some areas the Acadians supplemented their diet with wild game.
One Acadian fishing technique, the weir, may have been learned from the Micmacs. The Acadians referred to the weirs as nijagan, a Micmac word. Weir-fishing was also practiced by the Planters, Loyalists and other later settlers and one cannot help wonder if they learned this method from the Acadians.
More Acadians were deported from Grand Pre than from other areas because it was the most populated of all the settlements. About 2,200 Acadians were rounded up and deported from the greater Grand Pre area, which included present day Wolfville, Horton and Canard. An estimated 6,000 Acadians were deported from mainland Nova Scotia in 1755.
Grand Pre has become the symbol of Acadian expulsion, but the deportations actually began earlier in another area. After capturing Fort Beausejour (Cumberland) at Chignecto, the British rounded up the Acadian inhabitants of the area and shipped them to colonies on the eastern seaboard. The Grand Pre deportation began a month later.