Acadian Culture

Acadian Flag
Acadian flag

The northernmost part of the State of Maine, comprised of approximately 20,000 souls residing in the crux of the Maine-New Brunswick-Quebec borders, is an area that is especially rich in local expressions, customs and traditions.

The 75 miles or so of the St. John River that serves as a small portion of the border between the United States and Canada is made up of about a dozen small communities, located like a string of pearls along the south shore of the river. The area was settled in the late 19th and early 20th century by a mixture of Acadians, French-Canadians, a smattering of Scot and Brits, and, of course, the Malecites who have been here for thousands of years before anybody else.

Even until the mid-1980s, a survey of Americans living on the south shore of the river showed that more than 85% of the residents considered themselves Acadians and Franco-Americans who still spoke French at home and with friends. Many still do.

However, Maine passed legislation in early 20th century that banned French from all school properties in Maine. This legislation was the result of the Ku Klux Klan having one of their members elected Maine governor. At one time there were more KKK members in Maine than in Alabama and Tennessee combined. The KKK in Maine were anti-French and anti-Catholic. Two St. John Valley legislators, Emilien Levesque and Elmer Violette, fnally had this legislation reversed in 1969. It was, for all practical purposes, cultural genocide.

The New Brunswick Acadians and Louisiana Cadiens (or Cajuns) are very well known throughout North America. However, the northern Maine Acadians remained isolated, wishing only to live in peace following a history of deprivation and deportation from their native lands in present-day Nova Scotia. The northern Maine Acadians are often referred to as “the lost Acadians” but we like to think that we weren’t lost, we were here all along, quietly building our communities and raising large families.

It is important to remember that today approximately 90% of those living on the U.S. side of the St. John River now speak English first and French as a second language. Conversely, approximately 95% of those living on the Canadian side of the river speak French first and English as a second language.

Because the area was isolated for the rest of North America for decades, the residents of the American side of the river gradually evolved their own variation of French. It is based on a mixture of 15th century French, Acadian French, Quebec French, English and Malecite.

The members of Les Chanteurs Acadiens are a product of this uniqe culture. Each member of the group grew up speaking French and still speak it today. The original mission of the group, to preserve and promote old French and Acadian songs, has evolved so that the aim today is to also raise awareness of our unique Lost Acadians culture and to celebrate it in song and stories. There is nobody like Les Chanteurs Acadiens. The music you will hear is fun, lively, educational, touching, and filled with love and respect for a small area of North America that is rightfully proud of its rich and varied heritage.

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