Monday, March 10, 2014
By Juliana L’Heureux
An international leadership team is preparing for the 2014 World Acadian Congress to be held in Maine’s St. John Valley and New Brunswick’s Acadian Peninsula.
In fact, welcome signs recently put up in the St. John Valley are already heralding the event. In French, the conference is called Congres Mondial Acadian 2014 (CMA 2014). It’s a 2-3 week celebration held once every five years at a specially selected place to celebrate the Acadian and Franco-American cultures. It’s an important event because the Congress brings together the families and shared cultures of people who were separated by centuries of past displacements due to colonial wars and political treaties.
Jason Parent is a well known community leader in the St. John Valley. He speaks French and English. He was appointed President of the Maine delegation to the 15-member CMA international organizing committee. They are planning activities in Aroostook County, in Quebec and New Brunswick Canada. Their work is focused on a mission to bring international attention to the seemingly lost population of the Acadians and Franco-Americans of Maine and New Brunswick.
“The St. John Valley has a very strong Acadian Culture,” says Parent. “On a global level, we have been forgotten. People think of the Louisiana Cajuns or Acadians in other parts of Maritime Canada, but seem to forget we exist up here.”
Tragic historical events described by poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in his epic poem “Evangeline” described how the Acadians were purged from Nova Scotia by the British in the horrible events of 1755. Yet, comparatively little is written about the refugees who fled the deportation known as le Grand Derangement. Many found their way to the Madawaska region where they landed at St. David, in Maine. The Madawaska Historical Society protects the Acadian Landing Site as part of the Tante Blanche Museum complex in St. David parish, Madawaska.
Parent says Maine and New Brunswick worked hard to attract CMA 2014.
“The site selection is competitive and rigorous,” says Parent. Louisiana and Quebec also wanted to host. “We are honored to be the region selected.”
Planners expect to attract 50,000 people from the four corners of the world to the Maine and New Brunswick area for the festivities. Activities planned include 300 events like family reunions, local historical celebrations, commemoration ceremonies, musical, and theatrical productions, conferences, genealogy networking and sporting events.
The theme for CMA 2014 is “L’acadie des terres et des forets!” or “Acadia of the Lands and Forests.” Parent says the first of many welcome signs to promote the theme was unveiled on Aug. 9, specifically because the date marks four years to the day of the opening ceremonies planned for CMA 2014.
In addition, the date is significant for Acadian history because it marks the 168th anniversary of signing of the Webster-Ashburton Treaty on August 9, 1842. This treaty set the boundary between Maine and Canada along the St. John River. Unfortunately, the boundary split Acadian and Canadian families living on both sides of river. Once again, Acadian families were sadly separated by the border, after they had worked to build their lives following the 1755 expulsion from Nova Scotia by the British.
Celebrations of the pentennial Congress are scheduled around August 15th, the Acadian Feast Day to honor Our Lady of the Assumption, the patron saint of the Acadian people.
Parent says CMA 2014 will be a cultural and economic attraction. The committee is working on ways to provide smooth border crossings for the people who plan to attend festivities on both sides of Maine’s international border with Canada.