The Acadians (French: Acadiens [akadjɛ̃]) are the descendants of the French who settled in Acadia during the 17th and 18th centuries.

Modern Acadian flag adopted 1884
Total population
~500,000 – 2,000,000
Regions with significant populations
United States
96,145[1][2] or at least 500,000[3]
Quebec, Canada32,950
New Brunswick, Canada25,400
Nova Scotia, Canada11,180
Ontario, Canada8,745
Prince Edward Island, Canada3,020
Maine, United States30,000
Louisiana, United States815,260
Acadian French (a variety of French with over 300,000 speakers in Canada),[4] English, or both; In southeastern New Brunswick and other areas speak Chiac; those who have resettled to Quebec typically speak Quebec French or Joual.
Predominantly Roman Catholicism
Related ethnic groups
French (Poitevin-Saintongeais and Occitans), Cajuns, French-Canadians

Acadia was located in what is now Eastern Canada's Maritime provinces (Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island), as well as parts of Quebec, present-day Maine to the Kennebec River, and on the West coast of Newfoundland. Acadia was a distinctly separate colony of New France. It was ethnically, geographically and administratively different from the other French colonies and the French colony of Canada (modern-day Quebec). As a result, the Acadians developed a distinct history and culture.[5] The settlers whose descendants became Acadians primarily came from the southwestern region of France, also known as Occitania, such as the rural areas of Poitou-Charentes and Aquitaine (Gascony).[6]

During the French and Indian War (the North American theater of the Seven Years' War), British colonial officers suspected that Acadians were aligned with France, after finding some Acadians fighting alongside French troops at Fort Beauséjour. Though most Acadians remained neutral during the war, the British, together with New England legislators and militia, carried out the Great Expulsion (Le Grand Dérangement) of the Acadians between 1755 and 1764. They forcefully deported approximately 11,500 Acadians from the maritime region. Approximately one-third perished from disease and drowning.[7] In retrospect, the result has been described as an ethnic cleansing of the Acadians from Maritime Canada.[8][9]

Most Acadians were deported to various British American colonies, where many were put into forced labour or servitude.[10][11] Some Acadians were deported to England, some to the Caribbean, and some to France. After being expelled to France, many Acadians were eventually recruited by the Spanish government to migrate to Luisiana (present-day Louisiana). Their descendants gradually developed what became known as Cajun culture.[12]

In time, some Acadians returned to the Maritime provinces of Canada, mainly to New Brunswick.[13] The British prohibited them from resettling their lands and villages in what became Nova Scotia. Before the American Revolutionary War, the Crown settled Protestant European immigrants and New England Planters in former Acadian communities and farmland. After the war, it made land grants in Nova Scotia to Loyalists (including nearly 3,000 Black Loyalists, slaves of rebels given freedom after joining British forces). British policy was to establish a majority culture of Protestant religions and to assimilate Acadians with the local populations where they resettled.[7]

Acadians speak a variety of French called Acadian French. Many of those in the southeastern region of New Brunswick speak Chiac and English. The Louisiana Cajun descendants speak Cajun English. Many also speak Cajun French, a close relative of Acadian French from Canada but influenced by Spanish and the West African languages.

Estimates of contemporary Acadian populations vary widely. The Canadian census of 2006 reported only 96,145 Acadians in Canada, based on self-declared ethnic identity.[1] However the Canadian Encyclopedia estimates that there are at least 500,000 of Acadian ancestry in Canada, which would include many who declared their ethnic identity for the census as French or as Canadian.[3]