Saco native and French-Acadian descendant Richard Thibodeau found the land his colonial ancestors once lived on in Poplar Grove, Nova Scotia. Thibodeau's documentary film about the Acadian expulsion and his reunion with the land his ancestors once lived on will be featured in a Canadian Broadcasting Corp. documentary at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday September 18 at the Dyer Library in Saco
Thibodeau located the property owned by Alexis Thibodeau in western Nova Scotia before the family was expelled by the British on Oct. 14, 1755, during "le grand derangement."
Genealogical research led Thibodeau to the property his ancestors inhabited before British Col. John Winslow executed the devastating order to remove all French Acadians from their homes.
"Your lands and tenements, cattle of all kinds and live stock of all sorts are forfeited to the (British) Crown with all your other effects, saving your money and household goods, and that you yourselves are to be removed from this province" was the directive read to the Acadians just before they were deported.
This event occurred during the colonial religious wars fought with the French for control of North America. British soldiers burned the Acadians' land after the families were dispersed and deported. As a result, documented proof of original ownership was destroyed. Nevertheless, the Thibodeau tradition of oral history and genealogical records document the family's roots in western Nova Scotia, in land called "Acadie" at the time, by the French.
"Expulsion -- The Story of the Acadians," produced by the CBC, has been shown on Canadian television. "The film realistically captures the history, drama and tragedy of the expulsion," says Thibodeau. Hundreds of people have seen the film. The impact of the story stirs an extraordinary response by the viewers, he says.
"I'm surprised by the number of people who have no idea this terrible expulsion event happened," he adds.
Maine's famous poet, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, captured the tragedy of the deportation in his epic "Evangeline: A Tale of Acadie." His prose describes the horror as, "Naught but tradition remains of the beautiful Village of Grand-Pre."
In the CBC production, the Thibodeau's family experience is told alongside the mirror story of the Shaw family, the people who acquired the Nova Scotia land after Alexis and his family were deported. The documentary shows how the two families, who are descendants of this historical event, were affected by the deportation.
In 1760, Arnold Shaw acquired "Thibodeau Village" in a Crown land grant, offered by the British to a group of New England planters who moved to Nova Scotia.
"The Shaw family has owned this land for seven generations," says Thibodeau. "They love the land my ancestors cultivated," he says.
Moreover, the Shaw family even welcomes Acadian visitors to their property every year. "They have farmed the land for the past 350 years," says Thibodeau.
Thibodeau admits to having had a "spiritual feeling" when he first set foot on the very land where his first ancestor lived.
"I show this film at every opportunity I can, to remind people about this tragedy," says Thibodeau, "and because I'm proud to be part of the heritage described in the story."
In fact, Thibodeau is scheduled as a featured speaker during the 2009 "Fourth World Acadian Congress" (Congres Mondial Acadien)
to be held in the Acadian peninsula of New Brunswick.
Thibodeau and his wife Therese continue researching the family's long history by traveling to all places in North America where Thibodeau descendants live.
Portland Press Herald - September 13, 2007
By Juliana L'Heureux