Take Me Back
Published:
Mar/Apr2004

Above: Rocky parapets and numerous coves dot the coastline of the resort town of Ingonish, offering a scenic site for kayakers. Nova Scotia Department of Tourism & Culture photo

Below: Acadian dancers will be featured at various festivals during the Congrès mondial. Congrès mondial acadien photo

Before You Go
For more information on Congrès mondial acadien 2004, access www.cma2004.com. Contact Nova Scotia tourism–
1-800-565-0000 or www.novascotia.com online–
for maps and other information on places to visit.

AAA members should pack their membership cards when heading to Nova Scotia where the Canadian Automobile Association extends benefits (including maps and road service) to AAA members.

Stop by your nearest AAA service office for maps, reservations, TripTiks and TourBook guides. View a list of offices.

Order free information about Missouri through the Reader Service Card online and click on reader resources.

Acadians to converge on Nova Scotia
this summer for worldwide reunion.

B Y   L Y N N   G R I S A R D   F U L L M A N

eggy Matt of Lafayette, La., is looking forward to summer when she and a few thousand of her distant relatives will convene in Nova Scotia.

During Congrès mondial acadien, a worldwide reunion of Acadians, they will gather to remember their roots, to salute their heritage, to shake hands and share hugs and memories. For some, it will be a first meeting; for others, a renewal.

“It is a real emotional thing,” said Matt, who attended the previous reunion held in Lafayette in 1999.

Fairly disinterested in her roots until recent years, Matt regrets not having questioned her late parents more extensively about her heritage. She will, however, have the chance this summer to discover her ancestry during the international gathering that is expected to draw more than 250,000 participants who will meet throughout Nova Scotia from July 31 through Aug. 15.

Family reunions will be the basis of the third annual Congrès mondial acadien, which Matt describes as fascinating.

“We will see the land of our ancestors, see long-lost descendants and take time to pray for our ancestors,” Matt said of the upcoming reunion.

Planned this year

This year’s event coincides with the 400th anniversary of the French colonization of the Americas, as well as the founding of Acadia, making it even more significant.

Event organizers call Congrès mondial acadien the largest cultural event ever held in Nova Scotia. This summer’s reunion of Acadians is expected to pump $180 million (Canadian) into the Canadian province’s economy.

Music, local foods, amateur theater, fine arts, genealogical research and crafts exhibits are planned for the gathering, which will include some 2,000 activities that will be staged throughout Nova Scotia.

Although the Acadians will discover some differences in their preferences for food, music and language, they will experience a commonality.

Lest a legacy be lost

The reunions are vital lest the legacy of the Cajun people be lost, Matt observed.

All that many people know of the Cajun people, she said, is what they remember from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s epic poem, “Evangeline.”

The poem tells of a fictional character, Evangeline, who embodies the history and courage of the Acadians who were exiled from their homelands from about 1755 through 1763. Often, family members were separated from each other. For many, there would be no reunions.

In the poem, which intertwines history with legend, Evangeline is separated from her true love during the deportations and spends a lifetime searching for him. Years later, they find each other but, sadly, their reunion comes as he lay dying.

Meeting those with common ties is “like you’ve found yourself again after years of separation,” said Matt, whose family has helped to organize reunions of her family members scattered around the globe.

United we stand

Any family can put together a reunion, she said, explaining that dozens of reunions will take place. Generally, each reunion will draw from 200 to 7,000 people.

Months before the Congrès, some 100 families had plans under way for reunions, and others were being added. For an updated list, see the Web site www.cma2004.com. With ties to more than one family, some people will likely attend several reunions.

When the Acadians hold their closing show in Halifax, Matt, like countless others who share her lineage, plans to hold high a red, white and blue Acadian flag.

She will wave it across a summer sky as she remembers those who went before her, their sorrowful days and their strong and prevailing legacy.

To Matt, “what’s important is knowing our history, with deportations, families torn apart and the tragedies of so many who died.

“Even though it is sad, there are no hard feelings.

“By having the reunions, we are showing we still can get together; we are showing we survived and we're still here.”

How it
all began

lans to draw Acadians together date to the end of the 19th century.

There were national conventions orchestrated by the Acadian elite, who in 1880 hosted the Saint Jean-Baptiste celebrations. Held in Quebec, those events drew both Acadians and francophones from throughout North America.

Pleased with the results, Acadian leaders began organizing the first Acadian National Convention the following year. Held at Memramcook in southeastern New Brunswick, it was centered around the Acadians’ National Feast Day of Aug. 15.

When the Acadians gathered in 1884 during the second convention at Miscouche on Prince Edward Island, they adopted the Acadian flag, which resembles the flag of France with its blue, white and red colors but with a golden star added.

Although initial gatherings primarily drew local crowds, they spurred the Acadians to define themselves and to plan a series of Acadian World Congress gatherings that were held from the end of the 20th century into the 21st century.

In 1988, a group of Acadian visionaries met in Toronto, Canada, to discuss developing closer ties with all Acadians of the world. Six years later, southeastern New Brunswick was the setting for the Acadians’ first world-scale gathering. That year, during a two-week congress, 80 conferences and 81 family reunions were held, plus 150 events.

Five years later in Lafayette, La., the second gathering was integrated with Franco Fête celebrations that marked the 300th anniversary of the French presence within Louisiana. The legacy of that gathering, which included 61 family reunions, was the twinning of many Louisiana towns with their counterparts in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.

–Lynn Grisard Fullman


When in
Nova Scotia

n Nova Scotia, you will find natural beauty, sandy beaches, rugged cliffs, hiking trails and a sea that is never more than 22 miles away.

Walk narrow streets and explore the South Shore to find fishing, boat building and seafaring. Drive, stroll or cycle through scenic trails that wind through farmland and roam past orchards. Along the way, look for towering cliffs, beaches, bays and villages.

Save time to explore museums and heritage sites, such as the Grand-Pré National Historic Site, which was established in memory of the town’s Acadian settlers who were deported from 1755–63 to British colonies throughout North America. Visitors can also romp outdoors, kayak, hike, whale watch, sail, surf, bird-watch, beachcomb or golf.

–Lynn Grisard Fullman


Lynn Grisard Fullman is a contributor from Birmingham, Ala.

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