Acadian to Cajun
There are three Acadian cultural centers in the Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve that share the customs and stories of the Acadians who came to Louisiana and became the Cajuns. These people remained proud of their French roots as they adapted to a new land and new life in America.
The people who became the Cajuns came from mostly rural areas of the Vendee region in western France. These people began settling in Acadie (what is now Nova Scotia, Canada) in 1604 and thrived as farmers and fishermen. The ownership of Acadie changed many times. Great Britain has acquired permanent control of the colony in 1713, but many of the Acadians preferred to maintain their independence and refused to become British subjects loyal to the crown and church.
Later, in 1755, the British began removing the Acadians from their homelands and “outlaws” were taken into custody and put on British ships setting sail for locations unknown to the exiles. Some of these Acadian exiles were taken to Britain, the Caribbean, France, and British colonies on North America’s east coast. Because a lot of exiles were unhappy with their new homes, they moved on and some of them found their way to Louisiana and began settling in the rural areas just west of New Orleans. By the early 1800s, almost 4,000 Acadians had begun to settle in southern Louisiana.
Many of the Acadians lived in the bayou country and prospered by hunting, fishing, and trapping in the Mississippi River Delta. Some people moved southwest, to Louisiana’s prairies to raise cattle and rice. The Acadians learned new skills from and shared what they knew with the peoples already living in the area. The natives of the area included, immigrants from Asia, Europe, and the Americas, free and enslaved African Americans, and American Indians.
As they adjusted to their new home, the Acadians became Cajuns. Over time, their architecture, food, music, and even French changed. Today, the Cajuns are renowned for their culture and their ability to keep true to their traditions while also making the most of the present.
Jean Lafitte’s three Acadian cultural centers are the Acadian Cultural Center located in Lafayette, the Prairie Acadian Cultural Center located in Eunice, and the Wetlands Acadian Cultural Center located in Thibodaux.
When visiting the Acadian Cultural Center in Lafayette, you’ll learn about the origins, migration, settlement, and culture of the Acadians/Cajuns and other groups native to the area. There are also films, exhibits, and events that share local traditions such as storytelling, music, dance, and food.
The Prairie Acadian Cultural Center in Eunice uses exhibits, films, artifacts, and ranger programs to showcase the life of Cajuns living on Louisiana’s prairies.
At the Wetlands Acadian Cultural Center in Thibodaux, you can explore exhibits and watch films about Acadian/Cajun clothing, homes, recreation, religion, food, and fishing.