Evangeline, Acadians, and Tourists

Author: Rita Ross
E-mail: [email protected]
Department: Canadian Studies Program
Institution: UC Berkeley
Title: Evangeline, Acadians, and Tourists
In the Canadian Maritimes, and to a lesser extent in Louisiana, one is surrounded by
Evangeline's name and image. Until recently there was a regional newspaper by that
name in New Brunswick; in Nova Scotia one can visit the Evangeline Trail and the
Evangeline Mall; in Prince Edward Island the Evangeline Credit Union and even the
Evangeline Funeral Parlour. The park at Grand-Pré, with its statues of Evangeline
and Longfellow, is paralleled in Louisiana by the park and statue at St. Martinville.
Although her status today is problematic, Evangeline has served, and in some ways
still does, as a model for Acadian identity within the group as well as a symbolic link
between Acadians and Cajuns. Most importantly for the purposes of this conference
she functions as a representation of Acadians to outsiders, especially tourists.
In this paper I will briefly look at the construction of a legendary Acadian heroine on
the basis of a fictional poem, and also at the phenomenon of Evangeline tourism.
The park sites in Nova Scotia and Louisiana, the souvenirs that are widely available,
and the “Evangeline” and “Gabriel” figures that appear at Acadian celebrations,
played by Acadian teenagers, have added layers to the original story told by
Longfellow. Ev now exists in an imaginary cultural realm created from a complex
mixture of literature, history, folklore and nationalistic yearnings. The actual
geographical spaces associated with her are also to a greater or lesser degree
imaginary, but they are now inextricably linked with her name and attract tourists
to this day.
Author Bio (English):
Rita Ross is an anthropologist and folklorist who has spent many years looking at
the impact of the fictional character Evangeline on the cultural heritage of the
Acadians. She is at present the Assistant Director of the Canadian Studies Program
at UC Berkeley.
Author Bio (French):
Rita Ross est anthropologue et folkloriste qui a passé de nombreuses années à la
recherche sur l'impact de l'Évangéline, personnage de fiction, sur le patrimoine
culturel des Acadiens des provinces maritimes canadiennes. Elle est actuellement le
directeur adjoint du programme d'études canadiennes à l'UC Berkeley.