Les Acadiens, who eventually settled in the Tor Baie region of Guysborough County (NS) undoubtedly had a difficult journey to even get to this place, having left George’s Island detention and deportation centre in Halifax Harbour, and other similar smaller forts within the region, eventually making it to Chezzetcook on the Eastern Shore after the first Treaty of Paris (1763), only to be displaced again a generation later (1783) by United Empire Loyalists fleeing the New England & New York after the American Revolutionary War/War of Independence. This time these Acadians settled in one of the more isolated areas of Nova Scotia, where the soil and rugged coast were more suited to forestry and mining than farming. Thus, these traditional Acadians reinvented themselves once again as fishermen and woodsmen, eking out a living from the forests and the sea, along with subsistence farming of root vegetable in rocky soils, and learning from their Mi’kmaq friends to seek sustenance among the woodland berries, edible plants and native animals/birds of the land and shores.
While there is little doubt that Les Acadiens of Tor Baie, Guysborough Co. were more isolated and indeed, were largely “forgotten” by most, (see Avery’s first book, The Forgotten Acadians © 2019; 2020), readers also need to be aware they were not, until recently, even included by FANE on their map of Acadian Communities of this province, and were barely on the radar of the federal or provincial governments until July, 2019 at Festival Savalette, with the dedication of Place Savalette. Their story of survival in a harsh environment is not only a remarkable testimony to their resilience and their dedication to the creator through their religion, as well as to one another, which not only sustained them, but forced them to invent their own unique forms of socialization, entertainment, games, recreation and culture out of what the natural environment provided.
This latest work by Jude Avery, Joie de Vivre/Love of Life, covers a wide range of Acadien culture and qualities, and while it aptly describes the local scene, with unique communities, family names, as well as geography and climate than differs from other Acadien communities, a quick look at the book’s ‘Table of Contents’ reveals a list that may well be very familiar to Acadians living in many other parts of the Maritimes. Topics such as Acadien culture – a resilient people; neighbours more like family; Roman Catholic religion/the influence of priests and nuns; Feast days and Celebrations; home grown theatrical presentations; Maritime Acadian Music and its performers – from all three Maritime provinces – and “Cajun country”; food and its preparation; winter vitality – sport and recreation; summer fun; rural politics; the influence of culture and history on tourism … would seem to apply widely within the Maritime region. What was different was the geography, degree of isolation and the distance from larger communities and urban centres … and the separation of time – the communities of Tor Baie being more economically and technologically isolated well into the second half of the Twentieth Century.
Again. while the specifics are different in time and place, many Acadians, indeed many others who lived in isolated, rural locations, may well relate to the struggles of living off the land and available resources. Even those of different cultures were often sustained by their beliefs and ‘religion’ and in looking out for their neighbours more as family, both in safety and economically. Growing up in many of the more isolated areas of Atlantic Canada meant being without many of the amenities that public infra-structure, transportation, recreation and goods afforded urban dwellers, so they too learned to be inventive, using one’s imagination and ingenuity to create what the author refers to as fun!
One suspects many individuals could relate to much in their own upbringing related to hard work, caring for others and the role of faith in our personal growth and development. Within the larger world, one can appreciate those who are different from themselves, for family, faith and culture are what binds us as humans. In those aspects we are hopefully, more alike than different … and can appreciate the differences among us, as certainly we could use far more tolerance today in a sorely divided world.
More specifically, having travelled widely for nearly 40 years, experiencing many cultures, I saw much in common among peoples who have struggled, not only with their environment, but with the political and economic realities of the world in which they found themselves. And having been fortunate to have shared the special hospitality of Les Acadiens in all three Maritime provinces during a primary working career in education and in organizing national programs for youth, I would argue strongly Les Acadiens are to be especially admired for their fascinating culture, resilience and joie de vivre.
While the book is geographically placed in the land of the “Forgotten Acadians”, in remote Guysborough Co., NS, it is recommended to all Acadians as a shared experience, but also to anyone who can relate to what was required by people internally, not only to survive, but indeed to thrive under difficult circumstances, including isolation.
A final comment on the author: In March 2021, Jude Avery was among the first of six initial recipients of the Lieutenant-Governor’s Award of Excellence for l’Acadie and la Francophonie of Nova Scotia, awarded for his life-long contribution to Acadian affairs and history, which included writing stories on his region for over thirty years, teaching French for even longer in regional schools, helping out in Baton Rouge, Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina, working with others to bring Le Congrès Mondial Acadien to this region and a driving force behind the recognition of Place Savalette by the federal and provincial governments, commemorating a lesser-known, but very important historic meeting between Captain Savalette and Samuel de Champlain in 1607 (at Port Felix, NS) before the latter founded what became the City of Quebec a year later – truly significant Canadian historic events.