Sunday, July 22, 2007

Franco-American Heritage Diverse

June 21, 2007
By Juliana L’Heureux

Although Franco-Americans share a common history and cultural heritage rooted in their French ancestry, there's actually diversity within the society.

For example, the Acadians' history, with roots in Nova Scotia (Acadie), differentiates them from the Quebecois in Canada. This difference oftentimes surprises people who consider themselves Franco-Americans, regardless of where their North American ancestors originated.

Franco-Americans like Francoise Paradis, a school psychologist living in Saco and native of Maine's St. John Valley (The Valley), says she's somewhat surprised to learn about the two distinctions.

"Well, from my experience living in The Valley, most everyone has a little of both the Acadian and Quebecois. Some are pure bred Acadians and some pure bred Quebecois," she says. "But they all get along as one culture. Over the centuries, they learned each other's idiosyncratic ways and language."

They understand the nuances of each other's particular "patois" -- a term used to describe any colloquial language. Acadian patois is rich with French slang words. Therefore, because the Quebecois and the Acadians understand each other, Paradis says, there does not seem to be a distinction between the two groups.

"I think Acadians everywhere have blended with other Franco- Americans. It attests to the adaptability of the Acadians. They like to blend in, wherever they are," she adds. "This may be a result of having to adapt to hostile environments after the 1755 deportation from Nova Scotia."

Paradis explains how the Acadians came to Maine to become farmers. Quebecois, on the other hand, largely came to northern Maine to find forestry work in the woods.

"My father had a lumber mill and hired many Canadians as well as Americans. They were good hard loyal workers," she says. "Acadians, I think, stayed on the farms."

Of course, now there are fewer farms in Aroostook County and The Valley. As a result, everyone has had to adapt to the changes, yet again. Many Franco-Americans from Quebec went to work for Fraser Paper in Madawaska. Those who could not get a job at the mill moved out of the area to look for other jobs. Yet, theirs was a different migration than that of the Canadians who moved into areas in southern Maine and around New England specifically to work in the factories.

The migrants from northern Maine entered various job markets including clerical, machinist, construction and other factory work.

"They were hard workers and highly sought by industries," she says.

Maine's Acadian Archives at the University of Maine in Fort Kent provides a wealth of history about the Acadian arrival and settling patterns in The Valley. The Web site is at

A definition provided on the Web site defines a Maine Acadian as, "An American of French descent connected by heritage to the Upper St. John Valley (along the St. John River), including but not limited to genealogical descendants of early Acadian settlers of Aroostook County."

Acadians can sometimes even differentiate themselves from each other. An example on the Web site describes how Maine Acadians respond when asked if they're French or American? Then will say they're Americans.
Juliana L'Heureux can be contacted at:


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello Monsieur L'Heureux,

I am behind a Web site named "Independence of Quebec - Resource Centre for the English-Speaking World". The address of the site is:

The site contains quantity of public domain documents as well as original French-to-English translations of text pertaining to the subject of Quebec's political history and culture.

One of the English-speaking population we are hoping to reach out with our site is of course the Franco American group, the most likely to sympathize with the just cause of liberating the homeland of their ancestors. Much like Irish Americans who played a key role in building a Republican State for the beautiful Island of Eire (at least the Southern half of it), Franco Americans are in a perfect position and fully entitled to enjoy the honour of giving birth to a new democracy in North America, hopefully one that will have learned from the mistakes of the 20th century.

But enough propaganda, I kindly invite you to visit our site and if you like it, write whatever you want on the subject in your blog.

If you have to read just one thing, I recommend the "Political Testament" of Louis-Joseph Papineau (1867), two things, I recommend "Sovereignty: A Legitimate Goal" by Les Intellectuels pour la souveraineté (1998), three things, well keep on reading and you'll probably end up being hooked on Quebec politics, history and culture like we all are here. ;-)

Best Regards,

Mathieu Gauthier-Pilote

4:39 PM  
Blogger Juliana Maine Writer said...

I hope Mr. Mathieu Gauthier-Pilote is not comparing Quebec with Norhtern Ireland. This is not a viable analogy for Franco-Americans who worked as employees for Irish bosses in the New England industrial mills. Independence from Canada will not likely win support from Americans by using Northern Ireland as the example.

5:23 PM  
Anonymous Mathieu Gauthier-Pilote said...

I am not certain I understand the comment about Northern Ireland.

I presume it is implied that referring to Northern Ireland would bring images of bombing, sectarian wars etc. to the minds of Americans. This would obviously be of no help, but I do not understand how it is related to what I wrote or to Quebec.

Absolute religious tolerance was established in Quebec in 1832. The last armed conflict we have experienced here occurred in 1838.

I mentioned to role played by Irish Americans in the battle for the freedom of Ireland in what I thought was an obvious analogy with Quebec and its New England diaspora. Franco-Americans, being native English-speakers for the most part, could play a determinant role in communicating, in their own words, through their own analogies, relying on American cultural references, the generally censored rational discourse held by contemporary advocates of Quebec independence.

In the 1820s and 1830s, Irish Quebecers, notably Jocelyn Waller, and Edmund Bailey O'Callaghan edited English language daily newspapers that were pro-Quebec (or Lower Canada as it was then called) and competed with the prevalent pro-British Tory newspapers. This made it at least possible for Americans and British people to compare the main political points of view in their own language, as was possible in French.

Since then, that means for the past 170 years or so, it has been only possible to read or hear all points of view in French, either from original sources or translations from English.

Non-bilingual English speakers are therefore completely in the dark, as all they ever read or hear in their daily mass media are all coming from the same radical-to-moderate spectrum of opinions held by individuals opposed to the independence of Quebec. The odd pro-independence opinions that make it into the media of English Quebec and English Canada, when they are genuine, express ideas that are so foreign to the generally received ideas of the public that they appear to come from planet Mars. But that is even less a problem than the fact that pro-independence advocates who venture to express their opinions in the parallel world of the English language immediately step onto a minefield carefully placed around them by their political adversaries. The mine sweeping that should have started decades ago is going to be long and painful...

A must read related to this topic is "In the eye of the eagle" by Jean-Francois Lisee (1990). 240 interviews, much dust removed from old archives documents in order to present the American viewpoint on Quebec during the 1950s to 1980s period.

To conclude, here is an excerpt of the last chapter of "Why I Am a Separatist", by Marcel Chaput (1961):

"A people that wants to live must do something else than not dying." - Lionel Groulx


One hundred and fifty pages to demonstrate the advantages of an independent Quebec is very little when each of the aspects being treated could produce an entire book. And still, one hundred and fifty pages is a lot. In fact, it is way too much. Unless one writes the word "dignity" one hundred and fifty times.

Is this patrioticking lyricism - to give a beautiful ending - worthy of crowning a work of this kind? Or is it a mathematical necessity imposed by the pyramidal chapter structure?

It is showing a profound misunderstanding of men and peoples to say something like that. Man does not only live on bread and the French-Canadian nation cannot be asked to live in daily contempt any longer.

These are neither words of anglophobia arising from a two-century old feeling of vengeance. It this was the reason of independence, the success of our cause would soon be compromised, because life teaches us that nothing stable could be built on the burning sands of hatred.

History decided that we be the vanquished in a battle whose stake was a continent. We are not rebelling against history. The English - is it necessary to say it? - are definitely established in America. But so are we, little people of six million, maybe eight or nine, from the Yukon to the Mexican Gulf, we are settled for good on this continent on which our ancestors were the first colonists.

6:39 PM  

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