Lise Pelletier, director of the French Acadian Archives at the University of Maine Fort Kent (UMFK), has been honored for her work by Canadian radio.

As a French speaking native of the St. John Valley in New Brunswick Canada, Pelletier admits there was a time when she knew little about her family’s French Acadian culture prior to attending college.

“We grew up as a French speaking minority group,” she says.

All that changed when she became interested in Acadian literature. Today, her academic life’s work is advocating for the French Acadian language and culture.

Pelletier’s academic achievements and support for her Acadian culture was recognized on May 9th when she was picked by Atlantic Radio-Canada as the personality of the week. Recognition by Radio Canada will bring awareness about the Acadian culture to Maine.

“I share this honor with a great many people who fought tirelessly, and for many years for the recognition and respect for Acadians, a distinct yet American people within the State of Maine,” Pelletier says.

Typical of many children born in the St. John Valley, Pelletier was born on one side of the St. John River in Fort Kent but raised in Clair, New Brunswick.

“I grew up in a bilingual home where my mother was American-born in Eagle Lake and my father was from Connors, New Brunswick.”

Her career as an Acadian cultural advocate began as a non-traditional university student who earned her undergraduate degree at the Universite de Moncton, NB.  Her academic achievements began when she was 36 years old. She felt it was essential for a working mother to have an education if she was to provide for her children.

“It was equally important that I be a role model for my kids.  So, I started going to college,” she says.

She earned a Masters in Acadian Literature at the University of Maine in Orono (UMO) and is currently completing coursework towards a PhD in Acadian Literature.

In January 2008 she became director of the Acadian Archives at UMFK. She oversees two modern climate-controlled storage areas that contain collections of all types of documents, including photographs, manuscripts, books, microfilm, DVDs, CDs, maps and scrapbooks about the Acadian history and culture.

The archive is also a resource center for people who want to learn more about the Franco-Americans of the St. John Valley. This includes both sides of the international boundary between Maine and New Brunswick.

Since Pelletier became director and increased outreach to area schools, visits to the archive have jumped from only 200 visitors a year to about 8,000 today.

In presentations to students of all ages in the St. John Valley, Caribou and Presque Isle, Pelletier explains how the St. John Valley is unique in having the largest concentration of French-Canadian descendants and percentage of French-speaking people in the United States.

People in the St. John Valley have maintained their heritage and cultural identity despite oppressive laws to restrict their use of the French language, enacted in 1919, and the prejudice of the Ku Klux Klan when they actively opposed minority groups like the Franco-Americans in many Maine communities. (Information about these activities are available at the Acadian Archives at UMFK and the Holocaust and Human Rights Center of Maine in Augusta.)

“I hope visibility of the Acadian Achives will lead people to visit here to see for themselves all it has to offer,” she says.

Donations of archival materials are accepted at the Archives. Original documents can be duplicated and returned to donors, if requested. Contact email is: [email protected]