Seen from the International Space Station, Acadia of the Lands and Forests appears without boundaries. One can make out the long Saint John River, fed by a network of rivers, including the Aroostook and Allagash in Maine, the Grand River, the Quisibis, the Green and Iroquois Rivers in New Brunswick, and the large Témiscouata Lake in Quebec, which flows into the Madawaska River, a name that also applies to the large historical territory inhabited first by the Maliseet, and then by families of European origin, reunited in 2014 at the fifth World Acadian Congress.
America – unknown and unrecognizable by Europeans 500 years ago
In 1514, Christopher Columbus had passed away only eight years earlier, and Jacques Cartier, who would land in Gaspé in 1534, was only 23 years old. The cartographers of the day lacked knowledge, but not imagination. The map of Pierre Desceliers, drawn in 1546 for King François I, disorients the modern reader: Where is north? LA MEXIQVE [Mexico] and LA FLORIDE [Florida] are on the top of the map, and LA TERRE DV LABOVREVR [Labrador] on the bottom. The existence of Lake Témiscouata, and of the Madawaska and Saint John Rivers remained the secret of the First Nations.
Madawaska, the first and always the preferred link between Quebec and Acadia
The communication line between the St. Lawrence and the Baie française (Bay of Fundy) runs through Rivière-du-Loup, Madouesca (Témiscouata) Lake, and the Saint John River. Mgr. de Saint-Vallier, second Bishop of Québec, took that route in 1686. In Madawaska, he found no Europeans, but some Aboriginals, one of which spoke French. The journey appears clearly on this map of Jean-Baptiste-Louis Franquelin, drawn in 1688 for King Louis XIV. The place name of “New France,” which extends beyond the St. George River (Kennebec), foreshadows the future border conflict in the region.
A “New Acadia,” based on genealogy, was born when France and England made peace
When the Treaty of Paris (1763) put an official end to New France, the Acadians were widely scattered. The majority had been deported to the American colonies and to England and France. Some remained prisoners in the former Acadia. Others fled and sought refuge in Quebec and even in the forest. The late geographer Robert A. Leblanc’s population counts total 12,618. The Acadians would only settle in Madawaska 22 years later, that is, in 1785.
A little known chapter of the Acadian Renaissance: Acadia of the Lands and Forests
In 1991, Parks Canada and the Centre d’études acadiennes at Université de Moncton published a large poster or map entitled Acadie: L’odyssée d'un peuple/Acadia: Odyssey of a People. More than 40,000 copies have since been distributed. The map explains the current Acadian diaspora resulting from the deportations (1755-1762) and subsequent migrations. An artistic adaptation of this map is now found on a number of monuments erected at iconic locations of the Acadian Renaissance, including in Saint-Basile, the cradle of Madawaska and what is now called Acadia of the Lands and Forests.