ShoreLINES: Heritage Notes from Parks Canada's Special Protected Places in PEI - Fall 2012
National Acadian Feast Day
Port-la-Joye—Fort Amherst National Historic Site played a very important role in Acadian history of Prince Edward Island, making it a perfect location to celebrate National Acadian Feast Day. On August 12, 2012, Parks Canada, with much appreciated collaboration from the Comité de la Réunion Michel Haché Gallant, the Société Saint-Thomas-d’Aquin, and the provincial Library Services, hosted the third annual National Acadian Feast Day.
The day began with a Mi’kmaq purification ceremony offered by Elder Judy Clark of the Abgeweit First Nation. This was followed by the raising of the Acadian flag and the singing of the Acadian National Anthem, l’Ave Maris Stella. Aline Bouffard-Cohen, Executive Director of the Société Saint-Thomas-d’Aquin offered remarks on behalf of the President, Gabriel Arsenault. This closed the ceremonial part of the day and participants were later able to participate in conferences, interpretive activities and a musical extravaganza.
Audiences in both French and English enjoyed conferences led by Melvin Gallant, retired professor from the Université de Moncton, on the life of Michel Haché Gallant who was the first Acadian to settle at Port-la-Joye with the arrival of the French settlers. Mr. Gallant has recently published a book on this subject as well. During the afternoon, Parks Canada staff offered a music-led interpretive activity called “Let the Fiddle Take you Back”. This time travel experience ended in a present-day finale showcasing today’s Acadian community’s “joie de vivre” with semi-professional step-dancers stepping to the Sainte-Anne’s Reel. Later in the afternoon, the Ross Family took to the outdoor stage and pleased the audience with a lively combination of virtuosic keyboard playing, guitar playing, violin playing, singing and step-dancing.
The day culminated with une Tintamarre (a noisy parade!) Une Tintamarre is the Acadian custom of marching through a given area (usually a festival site) making noise with noisemakers, pots and pans and musical instruments or improvised instruments, usually in celebration of National Acadian Feast Day. The term originates from the Acadian French word meaning "clangour" or "din". The purpose of the custom is to demonstrate the vitality and solidarity of the Acadian community, and to act as a testament to the presence of Acadians in our society. Its present-day application seems to have originated in the mid-twentieth century (probably 1955) and was most likely inspired by an ancient folk custom practiced by many cultures. The early practice in France was known as the Charivari.
Those who missed out on the festivities this year will not want to miss out on it again next year!
Another way to enjoy the site is to explore the newly established 5km trail network and view the interpretive panels to discover its long and fascinating history. Port-la-Joye – Fort Amherst National Historic Site is of national historic significance because it served as the seat of government and port of entry for settlers to Prince Edward Island from 1720 to 1770 and because of its role as a colonial outpost in the Franco-British struggle for dominance in North America. This site and the surrrounding lands and shores have been part of traditional Mi’kma’ki since time immemorial. With the arrival of 300 French settlers in 1720, the first permanent European settlement was established at this harbour location. The four cultures that converged at the site– Mi’kmaq, French, Acadian and British-- and the friendships, conflicts and alliances forged in the 18th century set the stage for what would become Prince Edward Island.
Port-la-Joye – Fort Amherst National Historic Site is just one of many historic sites and national parks that Parks Canada preserves and presents to the people of Canada as part of a national network of natural and historic treasures.