PETIT DE GRAT: The forgotten history of some Guysborough communities is now being recounted in a new book.
On November 6, the official book launch of The Forgotten Acadians… A Story of Discovery, by Jude Avery of Larry’s River, took place at Centre La Picasse in Petit de Grat.
The book is described as the culmination of years of effort to reveal a lost chapter in Canadian and Maritime history.
Avery said the loss of Acadian priests and local schools was the start of the decline of the Acadian culture and language in parts of Guysborough County.
“Our own people forgot the fact that we were Acadians at times because we were just so isolated that Acadian culture was lived but it was never taught, it just kind of happened,” Avery noted. “Externally, other Acadians from different areas, there were very few that knew we existed, except for people from Isle Madame here. They pretty well always knew that we were here because there were strong connections and families.”
The author said the World Acadian Congress in 2004, which was hosted by Nova Scotia, was a turning point for many in Guysborough County.
“We were unknown, we were forgotten, and that’s why I chose that name, I thought it was appropriate because we kind of discovered ourselves,” Avery said. “We discovered a lot about Acadians, they discovered a lot about us and we, all of a sudden, developed a new pride that ‘we can be part of that group and we want to be a part of that group.’”
From then on, Avery and others in the small Acadian community started doing historical research.
“We got to know our background and the more we got to know it, the prouder we became and the more we wanted to discover,” Avery stated. “Then it becomes, ‘how do you hold on to those things,’ and the book form is one of the most natural way of preserving stories.”
Avery is a retired high school teacher and double graduate of StFX, who spent years compiling documents and photographs to detail a history that begins with the early 16th century Mi’kmaq and Basque seasonal presence on Nova Scotia’s Eastern Shore, then Samuel de Champlain’s visit to Tor Bay.
The book offers readers not only a detailed account of the early oppression and genocide Acadians suffered at the hands of British rule, but the subsequent important contributions their descendants made and continue to make to Nova Scotia communities.
The book also delves into the “Quiet Revolution” in Quebec, the first Acadian Premier of New Brunswick, the emergence of the “Three Wise Men” who impacted the national perspective on bilingualism and multiculturalism in Canada, and finally into the present day.
“That generated an interest in cultural and linguistic rights and that spread to New Brunswick,” Avery recalled. “That spilled into Nova Scotia… You see a whole big movement, a big wave that came in.
“The more they realized their inherent rights and once Canada realized that bilingualism was something to promote, it was an awakening.”
The author’s hope is that this book will not only inform readers about Acadians’ contribution to Nova Scotia, but entice readers to visit Guysborough forgotten shores to uncover the wealth of Acadian history, including “Parc de Nos Ancêtres” commemorative park in Larry’s River and “Place Savalette National Historic Site” in Port Félix.
Plans are also in the works for book signing events at the Guysborough library and Coles bookstore in Antigonish.
“The people from the area, although they know basically they’re Acadians, they don’t know the story behind so this is an attempt to tell that story, to share it with our own people,” Avery said. “The more we share it, the more they discover, the more proud they become, and the more they want to see it done, so we’re just continuing that movement.”
The Forgotten Acadians will be sold in the Chapters/Indigo/Coles chain bookstores, as well as independent bookstores and in selected gift shops. It can also be purchased directly from New World Publishing (Canada) by calling 1-877-211-3334.