For many years eastern Canada was hotly contested between the English and French. Both countries had major commitments in men, materials and armies. The French lost. But there were many French people living here, some born here and this change of status worried them greatly. Their presence worried the British as well. There was also the religion factor. The French were mostly Catholic; the British Anglican viewing their king as the head of the church. The British were worried about French insurrections, in some cases rightly so. They tried to force the locals to become Catholic, to swear allegiance to the king. They tried to force French women to marry British men so they would produce loyal, Anglican babies. Some French acquiesced; some did not. Some left voluntarily; some were sent hither and yon, back to France, to the Caribbean, to various American colonies,. For Americans the most famous group ended up in Louisiana which was administered by the Catholic Spanish at that time. The Cajuns have retained a strong identity to this day and we love to visit them there and eat their great food and listen to their invigorating music. By the time America won its independence from the British the great dispersement was nearly over.
Thinking about these issues helps us to understand why the Quebecois did not do much celebrating on Canada Day, July 1. They still do not want to be British. They want to retain their language and culture. The law requires that they study English in school and the signs should be bilingual, but English is not all that useful around here. The Canadian French have come to terms with the fact that it does not make sense to secede from Canada, sparing that country from the Civil War that we endured. As we hear about our countrymen in the southeastern US, struggling with the Confederate flag and what it means and represents, we can see many parallels to the situation here. The major battles here occurred in the 1700’s; ours 150 years later. I hope it will not take us as long to stop feeling like us and them.
The Acadian Village open air museum was begun here to preserve and honor the traditional Acadian (French) way of life. More than sixty homes and significant buildings were moved from all around New Brunswick and are staffed by folks dressed in old timey clothes conducting themselves in old timey ways. Many demonstrate old crafts and discuss what life was like on their farms. More recently more modern buildings from the early 1900’s were moved here as well. The park was like a smaller version of colonial Williamsburg. Most of the visitors spoke French, but when we asked questions they were readily answered in English. Most of the women were busy cooking - no surprise there. Every day it is their job to feed their fellow workers in the park, cooking on wood stoves or in fire places depending on how their home is equipped. However, one woman confessed that the traditional diet had to be modified a bit. Eating salt pork or salt cod nearly every day was not good for people’s blood pressure.
After spending three hours enjoying this idyllic spot, we drove to the northern end of the peninsula to see the Miscou Point lighthouse. On the drive we saw prosperous, well tended homes. On a beautiful sunny day it was hard to imagine that the ice was still melting here six weeks ago.