Monday was moving day, from Houma, north west to Thibodaux. Expecting rain, we made it our destination and plan to visit one of a series of National Parks, the Acadian Wetlands Cultural Center here.
The French settled a place in Nova Scotia in the 1600’s and called it Acadie. These Acadians were expelled by the Brits in the 1700’s. Many of them ended up in Louisiana. Called cajuns, every aspect of life in Southern Louisiana has been influenced by the Acadians, and the polyglot of migrants that settled here.
When we visited Eunice, I was enthralled by cajun culture without making a connection to my own background. Across the state, this unique mix of French speaking peoples and their exciting music captivated and excited my interest.
Jim and I have often discussed the similarities in our upbringing, church, religion, food, attitudes and games from our similar French backgrounds. My maternal grandparents refused to teach their children French, claiming, instead, it was best to assimilate. Until I visited this museum, I didn’t realize that assimilation came by threat and laws passed in 1916 banning the French language. Children were required to attend American schools and punished if they spoke French. Children in school had to wet their pants if they could not ask to go to the bathroom in English. They were humiliated and beaten if they were caught speaking French to each other. Suddenly, I understood, rather than blamed my grandparents, for what I considered a regrettable decision, that my mother and her brothers and sisters never learned French. Now I understand why my grandmother would refuse to teach me even a word of French when I would ask. Jim bought a tape for his family to learn about their culture and I bought a book for mine.
The Acadians were self sufficient in Nova Scotia for 100 years and had only remembered ties to France when they were expelled. In Louisiana, they started anew and learned to use cornbread rather than wheat. To weave with cotton, rather than wool.
They did every type of work they could, harvesting spanish moss, fishing, hunting, and trapping while adjusting to the changing terrain of a flooding, sculpting river.
Their music and strong sense of family sustained them just as it had in Nova Scotia. (The washboard above was turned into a musical instrument and is still used today.)
The Parrish here is named Terrebonne, French for good earth.
We exited the facility into the face of the beginning squall predicted for this area.
In minutes, it was pounding and rocking the motor home, cascading in sheets off a building next to us and formed a veritable lake in front of our warm and cozy tube.