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Acadian Odyssey: The Saint Martinville Tour

About This Daily Classroom Special
Acadian Odyssey, created by Ron Dupuis, explores the culture of his ancestors by visiting "real" Cajun towns, presenting folk stories and language, describing the unique Cajun way of cooking, and allowing web site visitors to experience numerous Cajun-related festivals in Southern Louisiana. Ron is a teacher at Scotlandville Magnet High School in Baton Rouge (LA) and former Teachers Network web mentor. 

The St. Martinville Tour

One place not to miss on a tour around South Louisiana is the small town of St. Martinville. This was one of the first settlements of the Acadians when they arrived in Louisiana and were given land rights by the Spanish. Today, this town boasts one of the most complete Cajun heritage locations in the state. With a memorial dedicated to the Acadians which features the painting "The Arrival of the Acadians in Louisiana" by Robert Dafford and plans to add a genealogy department with up-to-date computer file retrieval systems, St. Martinville could be considered the focal point of Cajun ancestry. Oh, of course there is the famous Evangeline Oak in this town as well. Maybe you have heard of Longfellow's poem, Evangeline...

Where is the thatch-roofed village, the home of Acadian farmers
Men whose lives glided on like rivers that water the woodlands,
Darkened by shadows of earth, but reflecting an image of heaven?
Waste are those pleasant farms, and the farmers forever departed!
Scattered like dust and leaves, when the mighty blasts of October
Seize them, and whirl them aloft, and sprinkle them far o'er the ocean.
Naught but tradition remains of the beautiful village of Grand-Pre.
Ye who believe in affection that hopes, and endures, and is patient,
Ye who believe in the beauty and strength of woman's devotion,
List to the mournful tradition still sung by the pines of the forest;
List to a Tale of Love in Acadie, home of the happy.
(courtesy of University of Virginia Library's Electronic Text Center)

In Longfellow's epic poem about two lovers torn apart, it was said that they would meet again under this very oak on the shores of the Bayou Teche. Today, you can visit that tree in St. Martinville and feel the emotions that led Longfellow to write such an enduring story of the two young Acadians, Evangeline and Gabriel. Not far away next to the church that is the replica of one in Grand-Pré, you can find a statue commemorating poor Evangeline.

Next to the Evangeline Oak, there is a little shop filled with Acadian memorabilia. It's in this store where you can buy your ticket to the Acadian Memorial, not even a block down on the Bayou Teche. If you are lucky, National Park Ranger Ed Laviolette will be there reading his paper. As you walk in, the Memorial may look a little empty, until you see the beautiful mural on the left wall. Laviolette will take you over and begin his extremely interesting and thorough explanation of the history of the Acadians and the ones pictured in the mural in particular.

Each one of the Acadians presented in the mural was researched and is an actual person. In many cases, the descendants of those depicted were called in to model for the artist, so that the forms on the mural could look something like the original persons coming to Louisiana.

After describing the mural, Laviolette will take you to view more detailed paintings which pictorially describe the lives of the Acadians from their settling of Nova Scotia to some time after the Grand Derangement. Finally, you have the chance to look up relatives (if you are Cajun, of course!) in the Memorial's already extensive collection of names, which will be included in the future genealogy records when that part of the museum is completed.

After a long day of discovering more about Acadian history and culture, it is time to reward yourself with good home-style Cajun cooking. St. Martinville has many great restaurants all within walking distance of the Acadian Memorial which serve up all kinds of Cajun delicacies. From alligator to shrimp, you can find it all if the season is right.

After eating, if you are extra lucky, you might find a couple of musicians sitting around the Evangeline Oak singing and speaking in Cajun French. These are most probably the Romero Brothers, as they are know here in St. Martinville. These two continue the rich tradition of Cajun music and language by entertaining others and possibly even themselves!


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