If there’s one thing that the colonial Acadians had a lot of, it was pride. It enabled them to survive through some pretty awful situations. Being kicked out of your homeland, having to watch your home and your farm destroyed, and then your family torn apart and scattered possibly around the globe. Think about that for a moment. It’d be pretty hard to stomach, wouldn’t it? Despite that, despite famine and terrible winters, against all odds, the Acadian culture is still around.
I think that attitude lives on through the people of Madawaska.We have the ability to thrive in a small and close knit community in a world that values practically the opposite of everything that we hold to be true. Madawaska is a great place, one with tradition, family values, a cultural identity, pride in hard work, and a good relationship with our neighbors—both the people next door and those in places like Edmundston across the river.
As with many cultures, though, there is a struggle to keep it going. People assimilate or ‘marry out’ of their Acadian culture; people pass away or move away and lose touch with the things that made them part of something larger than themselves. All is not lost, however. There are so many great efforts to keep it alive. There’s the Acadian Cultural Festival, held every year right here in Madawaska. People from all over the world can come here to experience the traditions and culture of the Acadians, and there are many family reunions for those who do not live in the local area.
The language is passed down to children and spoken at home; as with any language, if it isn’t spoken for a good enough length of time, it can easily be forgotten. And since it is French but not French-from-France French, what we call “Valley French,” there is always a risk of it becoming a dead language. But if you walk around town at dinnertime, you’d likely hear a lot more French than English.
Another important aspect of preserving history is through family research. Genealogy work helps to connect people to their Acadian roots. The work being done online is incredible; there wasn’t always birth certificates and marriage licenses to look up. But the more in-depth family trees are, the more we can see how we are connected to others and it makes family reunions a lot more fun. One more project in a similar vein is documenting personal histories. There are no colonists left to ask our questions, but we do have ideas on what things were like based on letters, journals, and family stories. As we learn how valuable these accounts can be, we have started making more of an effort to keep our culture alive through the stories of our older relatives. Living histories are wonderful because they are documented information on events that maybe we wouldn’t have known about otherwise–there might have been a lack of, or damage to, any documentation.
I think with all the pride that Madawaska has in its history, we’re going to be fine for a long time to come.