LAFAYETTE — Lafayette attorney Warren Perrin thought he knew everything there was to know about Acadian culture.
He had served as president of the Council for the Development of French in Louisiana, authored several books on the subject and petitioned the Queen of England to apologize for the deportation of the Acadiana people from the maritime provinces of Canada — an apology he received in 2003.
But Perrin hadn’t known about the Lanaudière Acadian community near Montreal, Quebec, a settlement that began about the time Joseph “Beausoleil” Broussard and his contingent of Acadians had arrived in Louisiana in 1765. The group of disposed Acadians were invited to the Quebec area by the Canadian Catholic Church and given land in exchange for developing the region.
“I thought I had understood what Acadie meant,” Perrin said. “But I had no idea that this region existed. It caused me to think, ‘How many other places (exist) and what does Acadie mean today?’ ”
In 2012, Perrin, Kermit Bouillion and chef Pat Mould were invited to the Montreal region’s Festival Acadien de la Nouvelle-Acadie, a trip that would inspire Perrin to create a massive resource book on Acadian life, culture and people from around the world.
Titled “Acadie Then and Now: A People’s History,” the 470-page book is a collection of 65 articles written by 55 authors that showcase Acadians in communities in the United States, France and Canada.
The book’s Lafayette launch will be at 11 a.m. Sunday at Vermilionville. Profits from the book will be donated to 22 Acadian museums located in three countries.
The book was “co-directed” by Perrin’s wife, Lafayette artist and author Mary Broussard Perrin, and Montreal filmmaker Phil Comeau. Contributors to the book include Louisiana singer, songwriter, poet and activist Zachary Richard; Cajun folklorist, author and UL-Lafayette professor Barry Jean Ancelet; Acadian poet, playwright and professor Herménégilde Chiqsson; and activist and journalist Jean-Marie Nadeau, who began the inaugural Congrès Mondial Acadien, a worldwide Acadian reunion held every four years.
The book’s cover features Cajun artist George Rodrigue’s painting “Spinning Cotton in Erath (1977).”
The goal of the book, Perrin said, was to identify Acadian communities existing today, places where the Acadian exiles regrouped after the British expelled them from the Canadian maritime provinces beginning in 1755 and sent them to the American colonies, Britain and France. Regions that are home to Acadians today include the American states of Louisiana, Texas and Maine; the Canadian provinces of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Quebec; and the French regions of Nantes, Poitou, Belle-Ile-en-Mer and St-Pierre et Miquelon.
When the Acadians were exiled from Canada resulting in thousands of deaths, the British kept records of the expulsion secret. As the exiled Acadians made their way to Louisiana and other regions, little was written about them as well, including the loss of any personal letters that may have been written.
“There’s very little written about Louisiana — or any place,” Mary Perrin said. “We had to piece it together like a quilt.”
The book does include two rare letters written by Acadians when they arrived in Louisiana. One of the letters was from a man writing to his father in France, encouraging him and other family members to join him in Louisiana. He described “magnificent grasslands with the finest soil in the world” and other attributes of Louisiana.
In addition, book chapters examine aspects of Acadian culture such as music and food, maintaining the French language, regional histories and popular culture. All maps explaining the history are originals created by Comeau and Megan Barras, Mary Perrin said.
The book took years to develop, she said. Because they wanted to launch the book at this year’s Congrès Mondial Acadien on Aug. 18 in northern Maine, the deadline made the process even more stressful.
“We learned a lot,” she said with a smile.
“We got it within days of the festival,” Warren Perrin said.
At the Canadian launch, the authors sold about 200 books in an hour and a half.
“Acadie: Then and Now” is available in both English and French editions at the Acadian Museum in Erath and during the Vermilionville launch. The book will be distributed more widely at a later date, Warren Perrin said.