From Acadia to Acadiana: Tracing the exile of the Acadians from Nova Scotia to Louisiana (1755-1785)

This page and project is authored by Stephanie Cox, Carleton College.
This material is replicated on a number of sites as part of the SERC Pedagogic Service Project


In FREN 241 «Marginality and Renaissance in Francophone North America» students study the historical reasons for the presence of French through works of literature (novels, travel writing, poems, theater). Generally, I redesign this course each time in order to focus on a different theme such as women of New France. In one unit of the course, students learn how Evangeline, a fictional character invented by Longfellow in 1847, influenced the notions of Acadian and Cajun identities. Set in Nova Scotia, this epic poem is the tale of the Great Deportation of 1755, or the removal of all Acadians by the British authorities. This dispersal divided about 10,000 people into ships with different destinations (13 colonies, France, England, French Guyana, Caribbean Islands, Falklands) in order to insure the dissemination of the culture. Ten years later, 1,000 of these Acadians arrive in Spanish Louisiana where they will become today's Cajuns. In this project, students will trace the complex 30-year exile on a 3D time line, using data of different types (statistics, video clips of interviews, images, maps, reports, letters), which they will research, collect, and analyze in groups. Each group of students will focus on a particular segment of the deportation in terms of the place of departure and of arrival as well as on a particular cluster of people traveling together. This time line will be the first resource to regroup visually and quantitatively data pertaining to the entire Deportation historical episode. The final product will be given to the Center for Cultural and Eco-Tourism at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, an organism affiliated to the Center for Louisiana Studies. Students will conduct Skype interviews with the director, Dr. Carl Brasseaux, who will evaluate and comment the final product.

Students will create 3D time lines using Bee Docs® tracing the different branches of dispersal caused by the Great Deportation of the Acadians from Nova Scotia in 1755. According to Carl Brasseaux, about 4,000 people were removed by the British and dispersed by boat to the thirteen colonies, France, England, French Guyana, Caribbean Islands and the Falklands in order to insure the dissemination of the culture. Some of those (% ??) who were able to escape created a new Acadia in New Brunswick. Though the most well known survivors are known today as the Cajuns, students in this class will also tell the story of the others by creating a visual and quantitative narrative. Each group will collect data a given spatial and temporal segment, delegating among themselves who will focus on maps, statistics, photos & sketches, video clips of interviews and correspondence. The project will grow from several writing and research assignments due for a grade. A production team has been assembled to assist the students and I for this task during a couple in-class labs and individually: a librarian (online resource guide customized for my course), an academic technician (tutorials and assistance with Bee Docs) and visual technician (Skype interviews and video captures). Students will interview the Carl Brasseaux, director of the Center for Cultural and Eco-Tourism at the University of Louisiana via Skype and incorporate several clips through video capture into their time line. They will present their group project at the end of the term and evaluate each other's work. Before the collections of time lines can be donated to the CCET, Dr. Brasseaux will evaluate and comment them.

Learning Goals

  1. 1. Language goals (French)
    • Improve written proficiency (accuracy, style, syntax, etc.)
    • Improve high order thinking (argumentation, analysis, paraphrasing, etc.)
    • Improve reading comprehension
    • Improve oral skills through discussion, presentations (individual and group)
  2. 2. Content goals
    • To create a 3D time line that CCET could use as a resource on its website
    • To continue the connect with Louisiana scholars and research centers
    • To explore the notion of creating a new society
    • To recognize Louisiana as multi-cultural and multi-ethnic society (Cajuns do NOT live in New Orleans)
    • To dissect the experience of exile to understand the cultural trauma and the significance of the survival
  3. 3. Skill setting goals
    • To develop new technological skill (using Bee Docs 3D time line)
    • To conduct research from given resources
    • To pose interesting and relevant question involving quantitative data
    • To compare quantitative data to cultural narrative

Context for Use

This text should help faculty understand the types of teaching situations for which this activity is appropriate. Important types of context include educational level, class size, institution type, etc. Is it lab, lecture, or field exercise, or a longer project? How much time is needed for the activity? Is there special equipment that is necessary? Are there skills or concepts that students should have already mastered before encountering this activity? How is this activity situated in the course? How easy (or hard) would it be to adapt the activity for use in other settings?

I designed this 200 level course for the setting of a liberal arts college classroom, in the department of French and Francophone Studies where the average class size at this level is capped at 25. The course is taught in French and readings are also in French. Usually language proficiency levels are mixed in such courses, as students can register right after completing their language requirement, but also after several terms of advanced classes or a term abroad. The assignment would be adjusted according to how many students enroll and their overall proficiency. Although this course is designed as an introduction to Francophone Literature, my approach combines literary theory and culture studies, which opens the field of research and enables to study marginal cultures whose literature, for example, does not appear in the traditional literature course corpus.

Since this project is non-literary and time consuming, I will devote one day of week starting week 7 to the completion of each group's portion. Because it is important to establish a relevant and supportive relationship between the time lines and the literary content, several modeling assignments will be given at the beginning of the term on the settlement of Quebec. Then, in groups they will analyze documents that I have gathered and create a rough draft of a time line on the Francophone First Nations during class. This will give them an idea of what types of data is available and how they 'tell a story'.

Description and Teaching Materials

Part 1. Students will sort through a dossier of various types of documents (maps, statistical charts and tables, photos, newspaper articles, letters, literary texts, sketches, etc.). Each member of the group will be assigned a category of document. Through group discussion (based on questions prepared by the professor), each group will analyze and evaluate each document in order to choose which ones will be used to build a time line on the settlement of Québec and the contact with First Nations.
(Example of documents: Statistics Canada, Statistics US, travel writing, Jesuit relations...)
Part 1 - assignment description (& evaluation rubric) (Microsoft Word 42kB Jan12 10)

Part 2. Students will write three (3) 100-word paragraphs justifying their choice of documents for each section of the time line they are individually working on. This paragraph will be graded by the professor and corrected by the students in order to be included into the time line text.
Part 2 - assignment description (& evaluation rubric) (Microsoft Word 30kB Jan12 10)

Part 3. Students will form groups, delegate the categories of documents and choose one segment of the Great Deportation (ex: from Halifax, Nova Scotia to London, England / 200 people / 1759). They will conduct research together and individually and create a rough draft of a time line to submit as a project proposal.
Part 3 - assignment description (& evaluation rubric) (Microsoft Word 41kB Jan12 10)

Part 4. Each group will present their 3D time line in class.
Part 4 - assignment description (& evaluation rubric) (Microsoft Word 35kB Jan12 10)


I. Short assignments:
  • Students' proficiency and accuracy in French writing, as well as oral and reading comprehension
  • Students' ability to demonstrate an understanding of the theoretical and historical literature
  • Students' ability to integrate those insights into their analysis of the individual documents as a primary source.
II. Final paper. Students will justify their contribution to the time line by writing a narrative (final paper)

III. The time line:
  • Students should be able to demonstrate an understanding of the different ways that quantitative data can be used and represented.
  • The time line should demonstrate an understanding of how to ask historical questions of quantitative data and find documents to in attempt to answer them
  • The time line should demonstrate an ability to compare qualitative and quantitative evidence.
  • The time line should demonstrate a student's ability to effectively represent data in different forms.

References and Resources

Digital resources: (listed in the course research guide)

Library resources
  • Special Collections:
Longfellow. Evangeline: A Tale of Acadie (several editions)
  • Primary sources:
Brasseaux, Carl. A Primer to Francophone Louisiana, LSU UP, 2005.
Bernard, Shane. Americanization of a People, UP of Mississippi, 2003.
  • Secondary sources:
«Tintamarre» by André Gladu (2004)
«Contre vents, contre marées» by Zachary Richard (2002)
«Against the Tide» by Pat Mire (2003)
«Mon cher camarade» by Pat Mire (2008)
Course handouts (excerpts: travel writing, Jesuit relations, maps, poems, etc.)