The term "Acadian" refers to both the French Pioneers who established the colony of Acadia in the Bay of Fundy Basin in the seventeenth century and their modern-day descendants throughout the world. The former French colony became a permanent British possession through the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713, and the territory's name was changed to Nova Scotia. After nearly two decades of negotiation, the Acadians signed an unconditional oath of allegiance to Great Britain in 1730, thereby technically becoming British citizens. In 1755, the British government of Nova Scotia deported the colony's French-speaking population--which was estimated to have included 15,000 to 18,000 persons--in an ethnic-cleansing operation. Approximately one-third of the Acadian population was sent to the English seaboard colonies. Others were dispatched to England or France. Still others escaped into the Canadian wilderness. Exiles sent to the British territories were placed in concentration camps and treated as prisoners of war. Following the Treaty of Paris in 1763, the Acadian prisoners were given a grave period in which to relocate.
In the ensuing period of wanderings, Acadians made their way to the Falkland Islands, French Guiana, the West Indies, St. Pierre and Miquelon, Quebec, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Louisiana.
The largest group of exiles made its way to Louisiana's Bayou Country, where their descendants are now known as Cajuns.
Perhaps one-half of the Acadian population died of malnutrition, exposure, shipwrecks, and disease during the diaspora, known to historians as the Grand De´rangement. The Acadian population did not regain 1755 population levels until approximately 1810.
by Carl A. Brasseaux