SUMMERSIDE – An illustrated history of the Acadians of Summerside was launched recently by La Belle Alliance. It is the first study of an urban Acadian community in Prince Edward Island.
© Submitted photo
Book cover of “The Acadians of (Les Acadiens de) Summerside.”
Researched and written by the local historian, Georges Arsenault, and translated by Nova Scotia historian, Dr. Sally Ross, this 221-page bilingual book covers over 150 years of Acadian presence in Summerside.
“The Acadians of (Les Acadiens de) Summerside” examines various aspects of the Acadian community as it evolved over the years, including contributions to the economic and cultural life of the city. The book contains a number of historical maps and 109 photos, many of which come from family albums.
The majority of Acadian men and women who settled in Summerside came from Acadian villages in Prince and Queens counties. Young people looking for work usually came first. They were often followed by their parents who wanted to spend their old age near their children.
Today the Acadians constitute about one-third of the population of Summerside, but, according to the 2011 census, French is the mother tongue of only 5.2 per cent of the population.
The author discusses the various factors that explain why so many Acadians lost their French. He also elaborates on the efforts that have been made, especially since the 1940s, to stimulate a sense of pride and belonging with regard to the Acadian culture and the French language in the Island’s second largest city.
Arsenault also describes the giant steps that were made to open the French-language school and the French-language community centre, known as École-sur-Mer and the Centre Belle-Alliance. These establishments have become beacons for all French-speaking people in Summerside and, as Arsenault states, are “visible monuments that bear witness to the presence of Acadian men and women in this Island city for over 150 years.”
The book, commissioned by La Belle Alliance and published by La Grande Marée, was made possible through financial contributions of the federal and provincial governments. It is available at the Centre Belle-Alliance, Acadian Museum in Miscouche, and in a number of bookstores on the Island.