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What's a Cajun? The Story Of Cajun People !! September 10, 2008 3:49 PM

What's a Cajun?

The Story of Cajun People


The roots of Cajun culture began almost 400 years ago when French travelers settled in the area that is known today as Nova Scotia, Canada. They were mostly seeking relief from economic and religious oppression in western France. Upon arriving, they acquired much knowledge from the indigenous Micmac people, not only as concerns survival in a new terrain, but also in witnessing a way of life in which all people were considered equal and power was awarded through merit, not inheritance. Being largely isolated from Europe, the settlers quickly formed an identity separate from any other, calling their new home "L'Acadie" after the Micmac word for "land of plenty." They became known as "Les Acadiens," or "Acadians". Though they still had ties to Europe, and were indeed destined to see their new home tossed around between England and France for another 150 years, they were no longer European themselves. They were an indisputable product of the western hemisphere, having combined many cultural influences to create a way of life all its own.

Governmental control of L'Acadie changed hands many times in the 17th and 18th centuries, but the Acadians maintained their identity in spite of this turmoil. They were under suspicion from both sides, and the English decided to settle the problem once and for all in 1755. They tricked many of the Acadians into coming to meetings, supposedly to discuss taxes. Once there, the English imprisoned them, eventually forcing them onto ships bound for English colonies and prisons. Some Acadians did escape this deportation, and there are many ways in which the different groups survived. All in all, this despicable act amounted to an attempt to exterminate the Acadian people altogether.

The attempt was not successful, however, due to the determination of the Acadians to hold on to their way of life. They found ways to survive; some escaped and hid in the woods near L'Acadie, some survived horrific sea voyages, some were imprisoned in England, some eventually made their way to France where they were ostracized and scorned. There are as many tales as there are Acadian families. Throughout this ordeal, however, there remained a constant dream of finding a new homeland where the Acadians could reunite and nurture their culture again. This dream became a possibility in 1764, when the word was sent out that the Spanish would welcome the Acadians to Louisiana. The vast territory was under Spanish control, and they were eager to fill it up with anyone besides the English settlers who were already pushing up against their borders. The Acadians began coming to Louisiana from around the world. The last major group arrived on seven ships from France, hired at the expense of the Spanish government, in 1785.

Once in Louisiana, the Acadians found themselves again in a new environment. They began farming and raising cattle, establishing a homeland for themselves even as control of the area changed from Spanish to French to American hands. The Acadians were determined to keep their culture alive. One way they did this was by allowing in outside influences- by being inclusive, not exclusive. The culture gradually absorbed influences from indigenous peoples of the area, from French and Spanish settlers who were already here, from Africans who began to arrive in greater numbers, from English, Irish and Scottish settlers who made their way in from the surrounding areas, from Germans immigrants, etc., etc. As this cultural transformation took place, the French word "Acadiens" gradually changed to "Cadiens" The same change took place in English: "Acadians" became "Cajuns." The roots were still as strong as ever, but a new branch was flourishing.

Today the Cajun people still survive, speaking much the same language their ancestors did 400 years ago. This cultural integrity had not been easy to maintain. The surrounding American mass-culture and the powerful reach of television have been perhaps the greatest threat of all to Cajun culture. But the Cajun way of life has survived, and regional cuisine, architecture, folklore, etc. have been maintained. It appears that these challenges have largely been met in Louisiana, with many young people now taking pride in their heritage. A clear example of this is with the language. In the 1950's and 1960's, many people were punished in school for speaking French. Today, there are French immersion schools in which all classes are taught in a language that was considered shameful only a few decades ago.

Perhaps the best known part of Cajun culture, however, is the music. The audience for this music has grown from an entirely regional following thirty years ago to a large international fan base today.




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 September 10, 2008 3:54 PM


Meals characteristically Cajun are "one pot meals" ––jambalaya, grillades, stews, fricassees, soups, gumbos, sauce piquantes and a variety of stuffed vegetable dishes. This doesn't mean that the Cajuns didn't incorporate cuisine from others. The andouille, smoked sausage, boudin, chaudin, tasso and chaurice, so prominent in Cajun meals is the result of the adoption of specialties and charcuterie of the Germans in Louisiana. Cajun cuisine is a creative adaptation of indigenous Louisiana foods.

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CREOLE PEOPLE ~~~ September 10, 2008 3:56 PM


Linguists find the roots of the word "Creole" to be in the Spanish "Criallo," meaning mixture of cultures or colors (the brand name "Crayola"™ has the same root), and the Latin word "creare," meaning to create. In essence, the sense is of a new creation of a multi-colored race. The Creoles, originally, were the children of European aristocrats, born in New Orleans. The Spanish, in order to establish New Orleans in the early 1690s, sought out aristocrats who, by being the second sons, were not entitled to inheritences. The intermarriage of the seven nations that settled the city in the late 1600s, created Creole culture in the larger sense. So Creole is Native American, French, Spanish, English, African, German and Italian.

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 September 10, 2008 3:58 PM

The food represents the sharing of these peoples:

FRANCE: Bouillabaisse –a soup from Provence, an important contributor to the creation of gumbo

SPAIN: Paella –the inspiration of Louisiana's jambalaya

GERMANY: Fine sausage making and dependable fine milk and butter – rarely available in South Louisiana prior to the arrival of the Germans.

ITALY: pastry and ice cream making

WEST INDIES: From Haiti came exotic vegetables and cooking methods. Braising –a slow-cooking technique, mirlitons, sauce piquantes and the use of tomato

NATIVE AMERICANS: The Choctaws, Chetimaches and Houmas, introduced corn, ground sassafras leaves or filé powder and bay leaves from the laurel tree

AFRICA: "kin gumbo" – the okra plant, and cooking techniques

Creole cooking is more complex than Cajun. It can be thought of as "city cooking."

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 September 10, 2008 4:00 PM

Learn Some Creole

bread / dipen

cabbage / deschou

beer / bè

dinner / dinin

drink / bwa

eat / manje

egg / dese

evening / swa

flour / lafarin

fresh / frech

grill / v griye

He who sleeps thinks not of eating.

The yapping dog never dies.

He who laughs on Friday will cry on Saturday.

Today for me, tomorrow for you. (Each in turn.)

When the rain falls, the frogs sing. (Everything succeeds naturally.)

He who plays with dogs catches fleas

Tell me what you love and I'll tell you what I am.

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 September 10, 2008 4:02 PM

happy / kontan

hungry / gen fem

kitchen / kisin

man / nomm

meat / lavyonn

mouth / ladjèl

smell / senti

supper / soupe

together / ensomn

wine / divin

woman / fom

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