“Last Acadian Coast” Symposium Hosted at Nicholls

In Early October, Nicholls State University hosted a symposium on the particularly unique history and culture of certain Acadian descendants in both Lafourche and Terrebonne Parishes, according to this new release from Nicholls. The symposium, which is titled: “The Last Acadian Coast: A Symposium on Acadian History and Culture in the Lafourche-Terrebonne” was held on Wednesday, October 5, 2022, in the Jean Lafitte Wetlands Acadian Cultural Center in Thibodaux, Louisiana.

The event is hosted by Nicholls State University, the Nicholls Coastal Center, the Center for Bayou Studies at Nicholls, the Lafourche Heritage Society, and the Wetlands Acadian Cultural Center. Additionally, this event is a part of the larger Grand Réveil Acadien 2022, which is a multi-parish experience that is designed to celebrate the lasting cultural impact of the Acadian people across southern Louisiana.

The Last Acadian Coast’s Symposium on Acadian history and culture in the Lafourche Terrebonne Area did so by featuring several notable speakers at their public event who spoke on the Acadians of the wetlands. The following speakers and topics were featured at the event:

  • Glen Pitre, “Historic Lifeways in the Lafourche-Terrebonne”
  • John Doucet, “The Last Acadian Coast: Settlement and Succession of the Wetlands Acadians”
  • Windell Curole, “Shaped by Tide and Thunder and Terror: Historical Storms and the Shaping of Coastal Settlement in the Lafourche-Terrebonne”
  • Nathalie Dajko, “French on Shifting Ground: Development of Unique Language in the Lafourche-Terrebonne”
  • Donald (Don) Davis, ”Historical Wetlands Seafood Culture and Industry”
  • Patty Whitney,A Cultural Gumbo: Terrebonne Parish’s 200th Anniversary”
  • Shana Walton & Helen Regis, ”Living off the Land in Lafourche: Hunting, Fishing, Planting and Community”

Prior to the “Last Acadian Coast” symposium, an event a part of Grand Réveil Acadien took place at Nicholls State University’s Chef John Folse Culinary Institute. The event was an “Acadian Chef Demo,” and it featured Chef Paul Thimot and Chef Shane Robicheau who cooked and prepared a traditional Acadian dish while highlighting the culture and food of Acadian culture and Nova Scotia in both the past and present.

After the “Last Acadian Coast” symposium, Grand Réveil Acadien also featured a Cajun Music Demonstration & Lecture at the Wetlands Acadian Cultural Center. This demonstration and lecture featured Chad Huval on accordion and Brazos Huval on fiddle as they demonstrated Cajun Music techniques while also teaching about the history of Cajun music and the preservation of music specific to Bayou Lafourche.

In providing more information on the Acadian descendants of both Lafourche and Terrebonne Parish, Nicholls provided the following information: “the migration of Acadian exiles to Louisiana largely concluded in 1785 with the landing of seven-passenger ships in New Orleans carrying nearly 1600 persons. Following earlier establishments of the First and Second Acadian Coast settlements along the Mississippi River, most of the 1785 Acadian immigrants were settled along the Bayous Lafourche and Terrebonne.”

The arrival of the Acadian immigrants didn’t only the largest single migration and settlement of Acadians in the entire world, but it also marked the final mass re-settlement of Acadians in history. Over time, these Acadian immigrants migrated south along the bayous toward the Gulf Coast, and they founded “not only the bayouside cities, towns, and villages we know today but also forging their own history and developing a unique wetlands Cajun culture.”

Furthermore, Grand Réveil Acadien described their multi-parish experience as a way to “encourage Acadians from around the world to continue to advance our unique lifestyle through shared memories, French-speaking events, bonding and fellowship over Cajun food and music, and the general celebration of our shared culture.” Because of this, there is no better sponsor than Nicholls State University to host a symposium on the rich tapestry of the history of Acadian people in both LaFourche and Terrebonne Parishes.

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Festival Acadiens et Créoles Creating New Series

In an effort to expand the cultural and educational aspects of the Festival Acadiens et Créoles year-round, festival organizers and supporters have introduced a free monthly series of Cajun music, culture, and history, according to this feature from The Acadiana Advocate.

The Founder of Festival Acadiens et Créoles, Barry Ancelet, wanted to create a monthly community event that honors the historical, contemporary, and future cultural traditions of Cajun and Creole culture. In conjunction with the Festival Acadiens et Créoles, Anaclet and festival supporters have organized Legacy Series, a monthly offering of lectures and musical performances that are designed to explore the art, music, and cuisine of Acadiana.

Barry Ancelet, also a professor and longtime folklorist, spoke about this new way for the local community to come together to not only be entertained by Cajun and Creole traditions but also be educated by them. Ancelot said, “the presentations will be entertaining but will also matter. We will explore the legacy from those who inspired us. We will consider what they gave us and how it continues to inspire us. The Festival team has been considering ways to have ongoing activity and presence throughout the year.”

Festivals Acadiens et Créoles launched its first event in the first Legacy Series on Thursday, July 7th at the Feed & Seed in Lafayette. The inaugural event featured “The Legacy of Dewy Balfa,” a Cajun musician and music ambassador from Mamou. Balfa’s musical legacy, recordings, and live performances all helped to shape and popularize Cajun Music far outside of his Acadiana homeland. The legacy of this prominent figure in Cajun music was told with performances from Dewy Balfa’s daughter, Christine Balfa of Balfa Toujours, as well as Grammy Award winner Steve Riley and fiddler David Greeley. Riley and Greely were both nominated for four Grammys as members of Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys, and Christine Balfa was nominated for a Grammy with Bonsoir Catin.

The event, according to Barry Ancelet, sought to not only hear, celebrate, and consider the musical legacy of Dewey Balfa, but to also “preserve the tradition” that he revered. In fact, the Balfa Brothers had played at the first informal Festival Acadiens et Créoles event on March 26, 1974. The event was then called “A Tribute to Cajun Music,” and it saw crowds of local music enthusiasts gathering at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette to listen to musical legends of the craft. Performers included the Balfa band, Dennis McGee and Sady Courville, Clifton Chenier, Nathan Abshire, Marc Savoy, and many others, all of whom performed the concert for the benefit of French Journalists as well as the local community.

When starting the planning and conception of the event, Barry Ancelet and Pat Mould, the organizer and promoter of the Festival Acadiens et Créoles, were always very cognizant to imbue an educational aspect to their Legacy Series, through what Ancelet affectionately refers to as “guerrilla education.”

He spoke about the Legacy Series’s connection to the Festival Acadiens et Créoles by saying, “like the festival itself, this series is designed to honor those who have left us so much of what we celebrate today. It is focused not only on their past contributions but also on the ongoing impact of their legacies, as contemporary musicians continue to use the past to create the future. The series will give us the opportunity to produce and present informed entertainment throughout the year.”

Ancelet revealed that the next performance in the ongoing free monthly series will feature the music of Joseph and Cléoma Falcon and that he already has a list of over 60 programs to present in the Legacy Series, making for many more educational and entertaining performances for the Acadiana community.

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