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Discovering our Acadian History

It has been a wonderful year teaching the Grade 8piFrench Sciences Humaines. Since September, we have delved into several aspects of Canada’s rich history and the several groups of people who have inhabited it. Our recent Grade 8 Quebec trip was a wonderful chance for the students to see what we have been learning about the founding of New France and the key events that shaped the relationships between the French, English, and indigenous peoples.

Most recently, we have been discussing French/English relations during the 1700s in eastern Canada. Of particular focus is the unique experiences of the French Acadian residents of Nova Scotia. These people were required to adapt several times during the changing of hands of the territories they inhabited from French to English control. Ultimately, they were eventually forcefully evicted from their lands in mainland Nova Scotia and New Brunswick in 1755 by the English military. The Acadian diaspora henceforth emerged once these displaced persons resettled all over the eastern seaboard, with many returning to the regions from which they were evicted after 1763 to find their lands occupied by English immigrants. Relegated to the margins of colonial society and resisting assimilation, the legacy of the Acadian peoples, especially in the Maritime Provinces, remains deeply entrenched and widely celebrated within the cultures of the Acadian descendants who are proud to keep their culture alive.

One of the most important sites from which these families were deported is within 20 minutes of King’s-Edgehill in Grand Pre. The entire Grade 8 class recently travelled to this historic site sponsored by Parks Canada to be led through an activity and receive a guided tour of the site.
First, the students were shown an interactive video depicting Acadian culture and the tensions with the English proliferated by their neutrality to the French/English conflict that eventually led to their deportation. Students were then given a tour of the lands of Grand Pre itself, learning of the region's history and in particular the famous poem of Evangeline. Written by an American who took interest in the story of the devastation of the deportations a century later, Evangeline recounts the love story of a young woman who is separated from her fiancé during the deportations, only to be reunited with him decades later on his death bed in Philadelphia. This poem, the students learned, is in large part why the Grand Pre historic site was founded and preserved. It is now a site to which Acadians around the world make pilgrimages to visit and see the statue of Evangeline and the site on which this fictional love story unfolded. The tour ended with a few students performing a re-enactment of the tragic love story as narrated by our wonderful guide, and himself Metis/Acadian, Francois.

From here, the students were led into the church where they played music on traditional instruments and learned a traditional Acadian dance performed at festivities and celebrations.

This unique experience has enriched and consolidated the students’ learning of this ever-relevant period of Canadian history, where the artifacts, physical spaces, and testimonials of those who lived and witnessed the deportations came to life. While a tragic event, it exemplifies the courage and resiliency of a people long oppressed who, facing great odds and assimilation, sought to resettle new lands and to maintain their language and cultural practices.

Marcel Rochon
Jr. School Sciences Humaines & French

Sometimes our teachers have the chance to 'telescope' their teaching right to the source! Read more about opportunities to travel and learn in 'Oh The Places You’ll Go!' photojournal.

Oh the Places You Will Go

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King's-Edgehill School is a coeducational boarding and day school for grades 6 through 12, located in Windsor, Nova Scotia, Canada.