Where Did the Cajuns Come From and How Did They Get Their Name?

The answer to where did the Cajuns come from lies thousands of miles northeast in Acadia, a French colony founded by about 100 families near Canada’s Bay of Fundy in 1604.

During the French and Indian War in 1755, British troops drove the French Acadians from their homes. Of the 10,000 refugees, about 4,000 of them decided to relocate to French-speaking New Orleans, where they hoped they’d get a warm bon jour from the Creoles.

No such luck. For one thing, the Creoles fancied themselves French aristocrats. They didn’t cotton much to the Acadians, who were more democratic and plebian and less interested in creating fiefdoms than small ranches and farms.

The Acadians, or Cajuns as they came to be called by Americans, became marginalized. The hardships they suffered as tenant farmers led to another migration by many of them from Louisiana to Texas refineries and shipyards early in the 20th century.

Those who stayed, mostly in poverty, found their language and culture besieged, for example, the state of Louisiana passed anti-Cajun laws, including one that forbid using Cajun French in public schools in 1921.

Finally, in the 1960s, when other groups began to assert ethnic pride, young college-educated Cajuns began to do the same. In 1968, public pressure pushed the Louisiana state legislature to establish a council to reverse the decline of Cajun culture.

A renaissance of spicy Cajun cooking and good ol’ swamp music brought this little-known group to the attention of the nation, and probably made those dastardly Canadians feel a little sorry that they’d sent them away.

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