Yale professor, author says it is important to share history of Acadians
FORT KENT, Maine — More than 100 community members turned out for a special presentation Thursday at the University of Maine at Fort Kent by Yale Professor John Mack Faragher on the ethnic cleansing of the Acadians.
Faragher met with historians and other members of the community about his research in Acadian history prior to the special presentation where he specifically lectured on the Acadian removal and ethnic cleansing.
In his book “A Great And Noble Scheme — The Tragic Story of the Expulsion of the French Acadians from their American Homeland”, Faragher tells the story of the Acadians between 1755 and 1763. That is the period when the Acadians living in the maritime provinces of Canada “were hunted down, captured, scalped; their homes, livestock, buildings and documents destroyed; their family members separated; the families scattered throughout the hostile English Protestant colonies to the south.”
This was the fifth time that the Acadian Archives at UMFK, has hosted Faragher to talk about the survivors of what the Acadians referred to as “le grand derangement,” but which one English correspondent in Halifax described as “a great and noble scheme.”
Faragher’s book also is considered noteworthy because it brings light to the Americans’ involvement in this ethnic cleansing by the British. While the Acadians who survived thought they were being deported to France, Faragher writes in his book that the British were working with the Americans “to divide them among the colonies, where they cannot easily collect themselves again, and it will be out of their power to do mischief.”
Lise Pelletier, the director of the Acadian Archives, said it is important to hear the story because “we are the descendants of the survivors.”
After Pelletier introduced him to those in the crowded lecture hall, Faragher said, “It is clear to us that there is quite the community here.”
He began his lecture by relating the expulsion of the Acadians from the maritimes to the later removal of Native American tribes from their homelands in America. He read an account of a Native American refugee who lost his home and way of life one night and took “one last look” at his burning homestead that would be forever “seared into memory.”
The policy of the state was to remove people, according to Faragher. In the terms of the Indian Removal Act, over the course of the 19th century, some 2,000 people were removed from their homelands and forced onto reserved territories.
When officials were debating that act, Faragher said, there was a “great deal of discussion about the relevance of the Acadian removal, which had taken place some 80 years before.”
“You can never avoid the things that happened in the past,” he said. “Americans were talking about the Acadian removal as they made plans to remove native people.”
After the Acadian ethnic cleansing, Faragher said people would put in requests to the newspaper, often reading, “Have you seen my husband” or other family member. Most families were never reunited.
Faragher said these facts of history pertaining to the Acadian culture are often concealed from today’s youths. But the story must be told, he said.
“If we fail, we’re fated to make the same moral blunders as the past,” he said.