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A Brief History of Francophone Louisiana


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Title: A Brief History of Francophone Louisiana

A Brief History of Francophone Louisiana
After completing this program
  • You will have basic information concerning the
    inhabitance of the Mississippi River delta area
    before Europeans arrived.
  • You will have a general understanding of
    Louisianas history of colonial occupation and
  • You will know the origin of the word cajun and
    the origin of the Cajun people.
  • You will have general knowledge of slavery in
    Louisiana, and the movement towards civil rights.

Table of Contents
Native Americans
African Slaves
Spanish Exploration
Review Questions
French Exploration
Native American Presence
  • Although this is a French class, it is
    important to have a basic understanding of who
    was in Louisiana before any Europeans even
    thought about the possibility of a New World.
    The native culture today is present, alive and
    intertwined with the French and African culture
    in Louisiana. Throughout our nation, Native,
    European, Asian, and African cultures exist and
  • Remember that no culture is superior or more
    valuable than another. Even with all of our
    science, computer and mechanical technologies, we
    havent figured out exactly how the Egyptian
    pyramids were constructed which was way before
    there were cranes and bulldozers or
    computer-aided design.

  • Because there are so many Native tribes and
    nations in the U.S., it would be too difficult in
    this overview to adequately cover all the tribes
    and nations represented in Louisiana. Choctaw,
    Chitimacha, Coushatta, Tunica-Biloxi, Chawasha,
    and Washa have histories in Louisiana, but you
    will have a general idea of their collective
    history if we take a look at one of them the
    Chitimacha. According to artifacts found in
    their homeland, the area has been occupied as
    early as 4,000 BC, and continuously since 800 BC.
    Thats 2,499 years before the French arrived!!
    (World War II, which ended in 1945, seems like a
    long time ago, doesnt it, and yet that was only
    58 years ago.) Traditionally, the Chitimacha
    women grew beans, pumpkins, melons, squash and
    gathered fruits, vegetables, and nuts. The men
    supplemented this by hunting deer, buffalo,
    turkey, alligator and by fishing. Their main
    means of transport were canoes, some of which
    could hold more than 40 people!! They traded
    surplus food with tribes to the north in exchange
    for the stone to make tools and arrowheads.
  • From the start, the Europeans, Spanish and
    French, introduced themselves with abuse, plunder
    (to steal by force), rape, and disease. Often,
    before and after establishing colonies or forts,
    the Europeans would make agreements for land or
    trade with the Chitimacha, and if the Europeans
    became greedy and wanted more than what theyd
    agreed upon, they would kill the men that did not
    give them what they asked for, taking their wives
    and maybe even the children. Many of these men
    were driven by greed, but also by the idea,
    reinforced by a distorted view of Christianity,
    that the natives were animals, less than human.
  • Due to European killing and spread of
    disease, by 1700, the Chitimachas population had
    fallen by half. In 1718, they were relocated
    along the Mississippi River near the Washa and
    Chawash tribes, exposing all 3 tribes to disease
    and alcohol, so that by 1758, their combined
    populations had fallen below 400! Over the
    years, populations continued to fall until 1917,
    when they finally received federal recognition,
    and their last 260 acres (not even the size of
    most small farms today) were placed under trust.

  • Christianity has come a long way, and today
    recognizes that all homo sapiens are human
    beings, and, as in our Constitution, are
    deserving of life, liberty, and pursuit of
    happiness. It must also be said that not all the
    Europeans were hostile and greedy, and many
    traded peacefully and fairly with the natives.
    Others chose to leave their original colonies
    and/or people to become part of a tribe. The
    natives, though cautious, were often initially
    welcoming, assuming that invading Europeans could
    be trusted to behave peacefully and fairly. Over
    the years, although many Europeans (now
    Americans) have come to respect American Indians,
    many government policies continue to make it
    difficult for them to receive better education,
    which would in turn lead to better jobs, allow
    them to reacquire more of their land, and to
    preserve and pass on the many aspects of their
  • By 1950, 89 Chitimacha were living on the
    reservation with another 400 residing in the
    immediate areaUnfortunately, their small
    enrollment and success in finding work outside
    their reservation led to a governmental attempt
    to terminate their federal recognition in 1952.
    This was ultimately defeated, and the current
    Chitimacha constitution and bylaws have been in
    place since 1971. The tribe currently operates a
    museum, casino, fish processing plant, and school
    on the Charenton reservationthe Chitimacha have
    used the revenues from the casino and their
    other enterprises to reacquire land that was once
    part of the reservation. So far, nearly 1000
    acres have been added to the original 260.
    Current tribal enrollment is 900. (from
    http//www.dickshovel.com/chi.html )
  • Want to find out more about the Chitimacha?
    Check out this cool, official website
  • http//www.chitimacha.com/ . Let me know if
    youd be interested in having a pen-pal from
    their school!
  • Would you like to join the American Indian
    Movement (AIM) and help the First Nations attain
    equality and justice? Check them out at this
    website http//www.aimovement.org/ .

Back to Table of Contents
Spanish Exploration
  • Spanish exploration of the Mississippi River
    from the south was driven by a desire to find
    gold and/or silver. Hernando de Sotos
    expedition by land from 1539-43, a four-year
    rampage, was the first to confirm European
    discovery of the mighty river. Many historical
    accounts simply say that they were convinced to
    explore elsewhere due to the hostile climate,
    wildlife, and geography, but we now know that
    once they had established a bad reputation with
    the natives through their inappropriate behavior,
    they were responsible for rendering the hot and
    humid climate and maze-like geography even more
    hostile for themselves. They tried on numerous
    occasions to send other explorers (1558, 1559)
    but were unsuccessful, or decided upon arrival
    that it was too risky. Although they did not
    venture into the land of the Chitimacha again
    until 1763, their trade goods laden with European
    diseases made their way inland to the Chitimacha
    and many other peoples, infecting and decimating
    populations along the way.
  • In 1763, the Spanish took over from the French,
    and ruled until 1803.

Back to Table of Contents
French Exploration
  • From the north, canoeing the Mississippi
    River all the way from its source, came a
    determined fur trader named René-Robert Cavelier,
    Sieur de La Salle. The year was 1682, and he
    arrived at the Gulf of Mexico in April. The king
    of France at the time was the Sun King, Louis
    XIV, and in honor of the king, La Salle named his
    discovery Louisiane.
  • La Salle went back to France to convince the
    king that Louisiana should be in French control,
    and upon receiving approval, sailed back with 200
    colonists in 1684. Unfortunately for the group,
    they went off course, and landed in Texas instead
    of Louisiana. The Karankawa nation were not as
    welcoming as
  • the Chitimacha, and
    facing starvation, La
  • Salle tried to lead a
    party of his men by land
  • to the Mississippi River.
    Evidently not impressed
  • by his leadership, his
    own men murdered him
  • along the way. This left
    the rest of the group
  • stranded back in Texas,
    and within the year, they
  • were massacred by the

more on French history
  • King Williams War (1688-97) broke out
  • Europe between Great Britain and France and
  • quickly spread to North America. The distant
  • wilderness that La Salle had claimed wasnt
    very important anymoreespecially since it had
    very few beavers. France, helped out a lot by
    the naval exploits of Pierre Le Moyne, Sieur
    dIberville, emerged from this war in 1697 as the
    dominant power in North America. The successful
    end of the war allowed officials in Nouvelle
    France to direct their attention to their
    long-neglected province of Louisiana.

Yikes! That rivers crazy!
  • Two years later, in 1699, Pierre Le Moyne,
    Sieur dIberville sailed into the Gulf of Mexico.
    His party reached the mouth of the river on
    Shrove Tuesday, and celebrated Mardi Gras with a
    mass Te Deum. He was afraid that large ships
    would get stuck going into the mouth of the
    river, so he established the permanent settlement
    of Fort Maurepas right there on the Gulf.
  • When he returned to France for more supplies
    and settlers, his brother, Jean-Baptiste Le
    Moyne, Sieur de Bienville, continued to explore
    the Mississippi. He must have had his heart set
    on establishing a settlement along the river,
    despite his brothers insistence that it was not
    navigable. Almost 20 years later, in 1718, de
    Bienville founded Nouvelle Orléans on a
    crescent-shaped section of the river 100 miles
    from the mouth. He named it after the Duc
    dOrléans of France.

Lets catch up to today
  • 1755 Le Grand Dérangement begins and thousands
    of Acadiens are deported. The word Acadien
    becomes Cadien and then Cajun.
  • 1762 France cedes la Louisiane to Spain.
  • 1785 Seven shiploads of almost 1600 people
    arrive in Nouvelle Orléans from France.
  • 1789 La Révolution de France brings many French
    immigrants to Louisiana.
  • 1800 Spain cedes la Louisiane back to France.
  • 1803 Thomas Jefferson (3rd president of the
    U.S.) makes a deal with Napoléon Bonaparte
    of France, buying la Louisiane for 80 million
    francs (15 million).
  • 1812 La Louisiane becomes an official state of
    the U.S.
  • 1915 The State Board of Education suppresses
    French language in the schools. Children are
    punished when they speak French. Homeschooling
    wasnt an option because the 1916 Mandatory
    Attendance Act obligated parents to send their
    children to school.
  • 1928 Joe Falcon and Cléoma Breaux make the
    first recording of a Cajun songAllons à
  • 1941 World War II begins and many young Cajun
    men serve as interpreters in Europe.
  • 1969 Arrival of the first teachers from France
    and Québec.
  • 1971 La Louisiane elects its first
    French-speaking governor of the 20th century
    Edwin Edwards.
  • 1970s 80s Cajun music and food gains
    international recognition. Its cool to be
  • 1981 First French immersion program introduced
    at La Belle Aire School in East Baton Rouge
  • 1991 Arrival of the first Acadien teachers
  • 1998 Louisiana State University begins a
    program in Cajun French Studies.
  • 2000 Creation of the first francophone section
    of the Louisiana Bar Association.

Back to Table of Contents
African slavery - History
  • The idea of Africans as slaves in America began
    in 1619 when a cargo of twenty Africans was
    brought to the Virginia colony. Initially, both
    the Europeans and Africans who came to America as
    slaves were really considered indentured
    servants. Both were allowed to work off their
    wages and to buy their freedom eventually, which
    was set up on a 7-year period of servitude. By
    the late 1600s, however, Virginia and other
    Southern Colonies began to pass laws which
    prohibited African indentured servants from
    purchasing their freedom. Instead, a legal
    institution was developed which defined African
    slaves as property to the owners.
  • In Louisiana and throughout the States, they had
    no legal right to marriage, so children belonged
    not to their own parents, but to their parents
    owners. The law gave masters the authority to
    judge and punish. Laws prohibited slaves from
    receiving a basic education, meaning, if they
    were caught with paper or a pencil, they were
    subject to disciplinary actions such as whipping.
  • Africans were a powerful
    cultural force in Louisiana, mainly because
    they were introduced in large numbers during
    short time periods (especially the 1770s
    80s) and came mostly from one region in West
    Africa (Senegambia), and thus related more
    easily to one another. From this period through
    the antebellum era (post Civil War), blacks
    made up the majority of the population.

Evolution of African presence
  • African slaves realized early on that their best
    chance for freedom was in banding together with
    fellow Indian slaves. By the 1720s, the French
    had added considerable numbers of Taensa and
    Alabamon slaves to their already sizeable
    collection of Chitimachas. Indians held the key
    to successful uprisings because they knew the
    geography, the languages, and the indigenous
    peoples of the country.
  • One example of this when
  • several Africans joined Natchez
  • warriors in their attack on the morning
  • of November 18, 1729. They killed
  • more than 200 French and liberated
  • nearly 300 African slaves and about
  • 50 white women and children.

A Quick-look Timeline
  • 1719 First shiploads of African slaves arrive in
    New Orleans.
  • 1777 Vermont was the first state to abolish
  • 1787 The U.S. Constitution allowed a male slave
    to count as 3/5 of a man in determining
    representation in the House of Representatives.
  • 1811 Slaves revolted in 2 parishes about 35 miles
    from New Orléans.
  • 1862 LUnion, the first black newspaper in the
    South founded in Louisiana.
  • 1863 The Emancipation Proclamation freed all
    slaves in states in rebellion against the United
  • 1865 The Thirteenth Amendment, outlawing slavery,
    was passed by Congress.
  • 1868 (July 28) The Fourteenth Amendment was
    passed. It made blacks citizens of the U.S. In
    Louisiana, the states constitution extended
    voting and other civil rights to black males,
    established an integrated, free public school
    system, and guaranteed blacks equal access to
    public accommodations.
  • 1875 (March 1) Congress passed a Civil Rights
    Bill which banned discrimination in places of
    public accommodation.
  • 1883 Supreme Court overturned the Civil Rights
  • 1915 The name of jazz is given to music of New
    Orleans origin.
  • 1925 A. Philip Randolph organized the Brotherhood
    of Sleeping Car Porters.
  • 1952 After keeping statistics for 71 years,
    Tuskegee, Alabama reported that this was the
    first year with no lynchings.
  • 1977 Ernest Morial is elected mayor of New
    Orleans, becoming the citys first black mayor.
  • 1981 The first Zydeco Festival took place in
    Plaisance, LA.

Back to Table of Contents
Review Questions
  • What year did the first Europeans discover the
    land that is now known as Louisiana, and which
    European country was it?
  • Choose 2 American Indian nations that were/are
    present in Louisiana.
  • Name the superior culture of Louisiana.
  • Which two factors decimated the American Indian
    population of Louisiana?
  • Who did La Salle name Louisiane after?
  • The end to what war allowed France to redirect
    its attention back to the Louisiana territory?
  • In 1718, Sieur de Bienville founded what city?

1539 French
1539 Spanish
1684 French
1563 British
American Indian
No superior culture
Natural disaster
European killing
Louis Armstrong
Louis XIV
Louis Pasteur
Joe Louis
King Williamss War
French and Indian War
Revolutionary War
Baton Rouge
New Orleans
Review Questions

  • Review Questions
  • In 1915, the Louisiana State Board of Education
    suppressed which language in the schools?
  • The term Cajun refers originally to which group
    of French in Louisiana?
  • In the 1600s, Southern colonies began to pass
    laws which prohibited African indentured servants
    from doing what?
  • American Indians and African slaves never joined
    forces due to religious reasons.
  • The Thirteenth Amendment outlawed slavery.
  • The Fourteenth Amendment made blacks citizens of
    the U.S.
  • No lynchings took place in the United States
    after World War II.
  • New Orleans has never had a black mayor.

From France
From Martinique
From Acadia
Purchasing their freedom
Receiving basic education
Having children
Back to Table of Contents
Sorry! Wrong answer.
Try again!
bien!!!!(Very good!)
More review!
  • All of the cultures discussed have resulted in
    an integrated, largely bi-lingual culture.
    Louisianas history of French and American rule
    has resulted in Francophones and Anglophones
    (speakers of French and English). Within this
    group, there are variations in the French
    language, such as Cajun, standardized, and
    Créole. All of these cultures have intermingled,
    and French has become a common language in
    addition to English.
  • The Cajun and Créole French, previously thought
    of as vulgar or ignorant, have both been
    legitimized and recognized as valuable through
    the publication of Cajun and Créole Dictionaries.
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