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The Cajun People

"Cajun" is an evolution of the French pronunciation of the word "Acadian," the name of the original region in Nova Scotia, and the name applied to them when they settled in Louisiana.


Photo credit: Louisiana Office of Tourism


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Cajuns are the descendants of Acadians who came from Nova Scotia to Louisiana as a result of their refusal to swear allegiance to the British Crown. "Cajun" is an evolution of the French pronunciation of the word "Acadian," the name of the original region in Nova Scotia, and the name applied to them when they settled in Louisiana.

At the time of their eviction around 1755 there was a war going on in what is now Canada between France and Great Britain over the colony of New France, which is today Quebec.

The Acadians refused to support the French but they also refused to swear allegiance to Britain, wanting nothing to do with the war and wishing to remain neutral. Fears remained among the British that the Acadians might join the French in the war and so the Crown chose to evict those Acadians who refused to swear allegiance.

Cajun French (derived from Acadian French) although a dialect of the French language, differs in some areas of pronunciation as well as in some areas of vocabulary with Parisian French. Most of the older generations in Acadiana are bilingual, having grown up with French in the home and learning English in school.

In recent years the number of speakers of Cajun French has diminished considerably, however efforts are being made to reintroduce the language among the youngest generations. CODIFIL (or the Council for the Development of French in Louisiana) was established during the late 1960's, and continues to teach a version of French somewhere between the older Cajun dialect and "Parisian French".

Today Cajun areas of Louisiana often form partnerships with Acadians in Canada who send French teachers to teach the language in schools.

Acadiana is the region most Cajuns called home. The traditional definition of the region includes the parishes (Louisiana's equivalent of counties) of Vermilion, Acadia, Lafayette, St. Martin, St. Mary, St. Landry, Iberia, and Jeff Davis. Cities within the region include Lafayette, Abbeville, New Iberia, Eunice, Mamou, Opelousas, Franklin, Crowley, Rayne, St. Martinville, and Breaux Bridge. This definition has become fuzzier over the years, and now many Cajuns live other parts of Louisiana, and in the "golden triangle" area of Texas (Houston, Beaumont, and Port Arthur) where they followed oil field jobs during the "oil bust" of the 1970's and 1980's.