The History of Cajuns
Cajuns originated in the mid-1700’s after the British forced them from their home of Acadia, which was once a part of Canada. After refusing to bow down to the British Crown, the Acadians were forced to leave by boat to other countries where they would start new lives and eventually be known as the Cajuns.
But, there’s more than just the Cajun name to these French ancestors. There is a story untold, before they were famous for their cooking and music. A story that is as sad as it is tragic.
Around 1755, a colony of French Canadians found themselves helpless as a British army attacked, and their country of France ignored their desperate pleas for help.
These people were known as the Acadians. Because of their Christian beliefs, the Acadians refused to give into the British’s attempt to take over their religious beliefs. After all, the British had already taken their land and enslaved their children. So instead, the Acadians were given 18 months to leave their beloved colony and many were eventually sent to the U.S as a result.
The trip by boat was not easy however, and many of the Acadians died along the way from disease and malnourishment. Those that did survive settled on the swamp and land regions of New Orleans because many U.S. colonies refused to accept them. Some refused to give up their old life and returned to their homeland of Acadia, only to be imprisoned.
Those that settled the Louisiana lands were faced with diseases, death and a new territory. But the Acadians did not give up. They used what resources were given to them and turned the land into a profit. They trapped and fished; making shrimp, oysters, crawfish and crabs a main source of income. Some farmed the lands, making rice, okra and peppers, profitable.
Despite all that had happened, the Acadians did not keep to themselves. They made friends with the Spanish and Native Americans who were local to the area.
The Acadians Become the Cajuns
Soon the English knew them as the Cajuns, rather than the Acadians. The “A” was made silent and the “di” became a “J” since this was how their native ancestors pronounced it. The result became the word, Cajuns.
For a while, life was good for the Cajun people, but by 1921 the U.S had decided it was time the Cajuns learned the English language.
Cajun children were forced to go to formal schools and beaten if they refused to learn the English language. If the children spoke their native language in school, they were punished. As a result, the Cajuns began to speak less of their native tongue. However, this did not stop the Cajuns from teaching their French language at home.
By 1939 at the start of World War II, the U.S. changed their determined ways. The Cajun’s used their French language to translate and help the American Soldiers in France.
It wasn’t until the 20th century however, that people began to truly accept the Cajuns. Today, they are famous for both their cooking and their music.
Cajun cooking however, has been the most popular in their culture. Many Cajun based restaurants strive to be the best in Cajun cuisine while grocery stores carry their own versions of Cajun foods.
Cajun culture has certainly improved to a society that once turned a deaf ear to this French colony.
The Cajuns have allowed us to share and experience their wonderful culture. For that, we are blessed.