Prologue: The Forgotten Acadians
For Acadians, tracing their history has been a challenge that has spanned several centuries. Little was known of their story beyond some oral accounts, and the titbits of written information available were most often written by someone other than Acadians and subsequently discovered to be riddled with biases and inaccuracies. For that reason, it was difficult to learn this story based on facts and have the information presented such that Acadians were not seen as villains, but victims of a dark period in Canadian history. Most Acadians grew up believing that if our ancestors had signed the Oath of Allegiance to the British Crown in 1755, the atrocities of the Deportation would have been avoided and everyone would have lived happily ever after. Due to an initial lack of education and laws that prevented our ancestors from attaining the truth, Acadians remained in a “black hole of knowledge” for centuries. However, political and social forces can only succeed in maintaining forceful ignorance for so long before small rays of light begin to penetrate the abyss.
Having lived under a ban of possessing written materials, Acadians were slow to accumulate information that countered allegations of our ancestors’ short-sightedness and involvement in Mi’kmaq uprisings. Through eventual cracks in oppressive education practices, new information began to emerge that led to demands for corrections, justice and basic human rights. Slowly, political, legal and social wheels began to turn, such that Acadian unrest and demands grew stronger. However, early changes were mostly witnessed in the larger Acadian communities within the Maritimes, while smaller and more isolated ones remained locked in ignorance much longer.
Such was the case with the Tor Bay Acadian region of Guysborough County. Where writers, politicians and educators from other larger Acadian areas were contributing their research and knowledge for their people, local populations in the easternmost corner of the Nova Scotia mainland benefitted little from those early efforts. Isolation kept communities too removed from the key “movers and shakers” from being awakened by those discoveries and impacts. Obscurity caused the local population to not only miss this awakening, but they were off the radar screen so that few other Acadian regions even knew they existed. Local discoveries came much later than other areas of the Maritimes, but those community education processes (outside formal institutional education) provided a deeper knowledge of who they were as this education became recognized and entrenched.
One great failure for Tor Bay Acadians was to have someone who lived there relate their story from the Acadian point of view and with local input. This book is an attempt to correct this with the hope that as many as possible will read it and learn with appreciation some information that will make readers see our communities as having a rich and noteworthy history. It is hoped that others will follow with contributions in music, art, poetry or any other expressive medium to tell our story from different perspectives. In his initiative, the writer does not use the approach of an historian, but attempts to weave a combination and compilation of historical information, folklore, culture, and traditions into a local historical tapestry.
During his entire teaching career, Jude was involved in Acadian affairs and served as regional representative and member of le Conseil d’Administration de la Fédération Acadienne de la Nouvelle Ecosse. This was a natural extension of his Acadian life and interest that evolved into a passion. Upon retirement, he was able to devote more time and effort in educating himself in his culture, genealogy and history. The first Congrès Mondial Acadien held in the Moncton area of New Brunswick in 1994 and subsequent ones held every five years in different Acadian/Cajun areas, proved to be the real catalysts for him and many others to be drawn into this discovery process.
Through Jude’s involvement with F.A.N.E., many doors were opened via meetings with a wide range of people from many regions, which then provided access to even more significant sources of information. Visits to Louisiana, France and all Acadian regions of the Maritimes led to a growth in knowledge and a greater feel for the Acadian saga.
When Nova Scotia hosted the 2004 Congrès Mondial Acadien, Jude got involved in the organization of the local Pellerin/Bonnevie /Retrouvailles/family Reunion celebrations. He followed Brad Pellerin as President of the newly formed Société des Acadiens de la Région de Tor Baie after Brad’s death in 2002. This Association was established for the sole purpose of planning and steering the 2004 Pellerin/Bonnevie family reunion celebrations in the Tor Bay area. However, the celebrations proved to be so moving and exciting for the entire Tor Bay Acadian region, that an expressed desire to continue the process was made and the “Forgotten Acadians” of the Tor Bay shores were awakened and continue to make “cultural noise”. As a result of this Réveil/Awakening, several celebrated additions have been made to this forgotten Acadian region that has evolved into tourism gems for the area and province.
An annual Festival Savalette has been established and will be celebrating its 15th anniversary in 2019. Plans for a unique Parc de Nos Ancêtres were conceived and developed in 2006/2007 as ten professionally painted chapter scenes by Moni Deursch and Charlotte Petitpas/Pitts on rocks were created. These were accompanied by bilingual interpretive panels as a means of presenting and interpreting in a unique way, the Acadian history from the 1604 departure from France to settlement on the shores of Tor Bay in the late 1700s. This park was developed in an anchor shape (see p. 19, as well as the photo on the page opposite) signifying the Acadian qualities of determination, attachment, perseverance and adaptability. A “Salle Acadienne” Resource Centre was developed and built in 2011 where visitors and locals can discover and expand their knowledge of history, culture, and genealogy. An 8 x 16 foot Moni Deursch historical mural (painting) is a featured part of this facility highlighting twenty-five local memorable scenes from the early 1900s to 1960.