In the 1750s, the British governor of Canada made the decision to remove the French people living in Nova Scotia from his territory. The story goes that the governor gathered the French people, placed them on ships and dropped them off along the East Coast area of North America that would later become the United States. The governor did not care if he split up the families, in fact he did not want them together once they left. During the voyage, over half the people died on the ships or soon after reaching landfall. When they reached land, they were not accepted by the British people who had already settled there.
They were told about new unsettled land in Louisiana. The unsettled land drew large numbers to the area in hopes of being accepted by settlers that had already settled there. When they arrived in South Louisiana, the assumption was that they would run out the Native Americans that were living in the area. In 1762, Spain took over control of Louisiana and the areas to the north.
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The Acadians were again faced with the threat of being forced out of their land. However, the Spanish were tolerant of the Acadian people and wanted to complete settling the land. The Spanish offered to transport the Acadians to any area that they wanted to go. Some went south to New Orleans and the rest settled in the areas all the way up to the central area of Louisiana, known as “Cajun Country or Acadiana”. Pg.
81The Cajuns language roots began with French and as they lived in the area, the language sound adapted to a deep southern accent. The founding families of the Acadians who first settled in Acadiana referred to themselves as Acadians. However, the English-speaking people could not say the word, so they began to call them, “Cajuns”. The Acadians who settled near New Orleans assimilated with the African American slave refugees from the Caribbean. The African Americans who were already settled there spoke French, but they were referred to by the “Cajuns” as “Creoles”. In 1803, the United States bought the Louisiana Purchase from France.
The Americans who spoke predominantly English, mandated that English would be the language spoken in the area. The Acadians again found themselves under the oppressive rule of English-speaking rulers. This caused the Cajuns and Creoles to deny their cultural identities. Pg. 82The Cajuns and Creoles kept their history alive through ballads or songs.
Most songs tell a story, while Cajun songs tell an emotion about an event or history. Superstition was also another factor in their songs and folklores. The Creoles’ songs were folklore about the “loup garon”, the werewolf. The song talks about how the werewolf was a little boy who was bitten by a werewolf and killed ten people. One of the townspeople devised a way to kill it by dipping his bullets into a mixture of gumbo rue and kissed by a Virgin.
He townsman went into the woods and he and the werewolf were never seen again. Pg. 85-86Leonard Deutsch, Dave Peyton. “Cajun Culture – an Interview.” Oxford Journals, 1979: 81-82, 85-86.Cajun French has withstood an unpopular and disenchanted history.
From the beginning of their history in Nova Scotia, the English-speaking people have pressure the Acadians to convert to their practices and language. The language and music were considered by the English-speaking people as backwoods and simple. Their culture was stigmatized and, in some cases, off-limits to the Acadians. Even though some viewed the Acadians as intruders in South Louisiana, they were able to colonize in the less hospitable grasslands and bayous. Despite the abuse from their English-speaking neighbors, they were able to preserve their history and cultural sense in their music. Their music was sung in Cajun French. pg.
283Acadians’ history has been filled with repeated displacement, loss and longing to belong. These experiences have manifested themselves in musical and poetic ways. Because of the historical sense of loss and unacceptance from the English-speaking people, Acadians began looking for other areas to settle. This caused some resentment towards them by the remaining Acadians. The Acadians began to sing songs about the ones who left Acadiana to go to places, such as Texas in search of better opportunities. The remaining Acadians’ sung about how the ones who left were trying to detach themselves from the stigma of being Cajuns. The most well-known phrase that is in many songs is, “tu m’as quitte pour t’en aller”.
pg. 286-287Emoff, Ron. “A Cajun Poetics of Loss and Longing .” Ethnomusicology, Vol. 42, No. 2 , 1998: 283, 286-287.Social scientists in the assimilationist practice have seen the intermarriage of ethnic groups with outsiders as both a process and consequence of their integration into mainstream society. Cultural integration resulted in the gaining of the language, norms, and values of the primary ethnic group.
Intermarriages completed the primary integration of immigrants by permitting them into the primary ethnic groups and institutions of the primary society. Pg. 1318Cajuns were the minority even in most of the main regions of southwestern Louisiana called, Acadiana. Cajuns were considered the lower classes among those of Acadian ancestry.
Creoles were of the higher class of large landowners and urban bourgeois and were integrated to the American society. Pg. 1321-1322Henry, Carl L. Bankston III and Jacques. “Endogamy among Louisiana Cajuns: A Social Class Explanation.” Social Forces, Vol.
77. No.4, 1999: 1318, 1321-1322.Cajun music is often associated with folk music. In some ways, that is an accurate assessment, but it is also a living history of a people. South Louisiana has a mixture of dialects in the French-speaking world.
There were three main dialects: the colonial French from the descendants of the French who first settled Louisiana in 1699, the Creole that evolved from the descendants of the African slaves and the Acadians that migrated south after Spain took over, and the Cajun French that evolved from the descendants of Acadians who settled in the bayous. The languages altered in the areas where the groups had frequent interactions. Cajuns who lived along the Bayou Teche spoke Creole just like their black Creole neighbors.
In 1812, the Louisiana Purchase caused French Louisiana to adapt to the language and culture of the United States. Pg. 1237Ancelet, Barry Jean. “Negotiating the Mainstream: The Creoles and Cajuns in Louisiana .
” The French Review, Vol. 80, No.6, 2007: 1237.
Cajuns and their music were for a long time isolated from the rest of the United States. Their songs were their musical journals of their lives and the lives of their ancestors. Their musical expressions were domestic, social, dance and religious rituals. Once the introduction of studio recorders and recordings became the norm, cultural tensions evolved between traditional and technological norms.
Traditional Cajun music was sung with the singer’s genuine voice and not technologically enhanced or altered. The technological enhancements were appealing to the masses of the outside society of the United States. Pg. 222Brasseaux, Ryan Andre. “Cajun Breakdown: The Emergence of an American-Made Music.” The Journal of American History, 2009: 222.