After the Great Expulsion, and even after being allowed to return to their homeland of Acadia in 1763, the Acadians struggled for basic civil liberties. Clearly, their most immediate objective was survival; their lifestyle was one of subsistence. But little by little they re-established themselves. By the time of Canada's Confederation in 1867 they numbered some 87,000 and at the turn of the century the Acadian population was at 140,000. In 1981 the 251,000 New Brunswick Acadians comprised 36% of the province's population; in PEI, the 15,000 Acadians made up 12.5% of the island population(11).
As their numbers grew, so too did the strength and confidence of their distinctive culture and heritage. Acadian pride had never faltered and in the mid 1800s it was further invigorated by a now famous poem. In 1847 American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow published a long poem entitled Evangeline. He had heard the story of the Expulsion and was able to capture its power and feeling in verse. For the Acadians, the poem - although a fictional interpretation of the Acadian experience- had a tremendous impact and bolstered their sense of self-worth. Long a neglected and forgotten people, they were now the focus of widespread and sympathetic attention. With the Acadian folk heroine of Evangeline to mark their past, the Acadians moved on toward building a future(12).
Perhaps the next major step forward for the Acadian community came in July of 1867 with the publication of the first French-language newspaper in the Maritimes. Le Moniteur Acadian gave Acadians a way of communicating and generating ideas. Another fortification of their identity came in the 1880s when an Acadian association was formed. An Acadian flag was designed and a national day of festivity inaugurated(13).
Could Philippe Muise d'Entremont have ever imagined what lay ahead for his people? The enormous price of freedom and distinctiveness? Through the centuries of sorrow and victory, d'Entremont's village of Pubnico still stands. Several generations of his ancestors join in the annual festivities to celebrate the struggle the Acadians have endured. Above all else, the d'Entremont clan and all Acadians celebrate perseverence. It is a refusal to become part of the melting pot, to be meshed into a commonality, and a fierce preference to remain distinctly Acadian.
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