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Swamp People For A Day

Our European visitors wanted to go on a swamp tour. We signed up for Cajun Country Swamp Tours [1], in the Atchafalaya Swamp near Breaux Bridge. It was a lot of fun. We saw plenty of gators.

IMG_6540 [2]

And we saw many beautiful birds, like this great blue heron:

(Photo by Philippe Delansay) [3]

(Photo by Philippe Delansay)

It was a good way to spend a couple of hours. Afterward, we went to Johnson’s Boucanière [4] for lunch (get the rib), and then motored out to Vermilionville [5], the folk life Cajun village on the banks of the Vermilion River. It was really something else. The village exists to show historical aspects of Cajun life, including domestic architecture (1785-1890), interior design, plants ground around household, and so forth. The parts I enjoyed the most was listening to my friend Philippe, a native Parisian, speaking French to a couple of Cajun volunteers.

One of them, a woman from Henderson who spun cotton thread, explained that she was speaking Creole. This was odd to us; we assumed that Creole was what black people living among the French spoke historically. This white woman told us that her husband is from Arnaudville, not too far away from her hometown, and he speaks Cajun French. This is just what she grew up with. Later, Philippe talked to a guide whose French was accentless.

We also saw this in the replica classroom, of the sort little Cajun kids would have been taught in many decades ago:

IMG_6544 [6]The culturally dominant English speakers tried to force Cajun school children to speak English by punishing them for speaking French in school. This seems terrible today, and a way of robbing a people of its language for the sake of erasing its memory and dominating them. On the other hand, this is how you unite a disparate nation. It is not pretty.

Driving back home, I told my wife that even though I am not Cajun, who the Cajuns are and what they’ve accomplished is what makes me proudest to come from south Louisiana.

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20 Comments To "Swamp People For A Day"

#1 Comment By Red brick On May 6, 2016 @ 1:05 am

Another policy our Federal government can be proud of.

Of course the left thinks it’s power can be used for good in their hands.

#2 Comment By Chris 1 On May 6, 2016 @ 1:43 am

My Creole in-laws have drilled into me this: Creoles were native and free citizens when the Acadians (now Cajuns) first set foot in Louisiana as refugees.

Creoles are educated, free and multi-racial, though not multi-ethnic. Cajuns are less educated, refugees and white.

We tend to conflate the two out of our ignorant assumption that all French-speakers on these shores must be the same, and the whites must be more important than the multi-racial. But Creoles, no matter their color, do not see the world thru that lens at all.

#3 Comment By Giuseppe Scalas On May 6, 2016 @ 3:12 am

Rod,

Thanks for sharing those pictures. What a beautiful land is yours!

#4 Comment By Alex (the one that likes Ike) On May 6, 2016 @ 4:00 am

The word Creole becomes even more ambiguous when referred to a person. In the West Indies Creoles are vernacular French-speaking blacks and half-blacks (Portuguese-speaking in Brazil). In Spanish America they are quite the opposite – pureblood whites who differ from Spaniards themselves only in that they were born in the colonies.

Here it is, the full list for those who are interested:

[7]

To your discretion, the reading may cause mild-to-moderate vertigo.

#5 Comment By dan On May 6, 2016 @ 8:45 am

Rod,

Have you ever tried Biere Pale from Bayou Teche Biere?

They are in Arnaudville. I was so excited to recently find a source for my favorite Louisiana beer here in Texas.

#6 Comment By mrscracker On May 6, 2016 @ 8:57 am

Hope y’all are returning for the Breaux Bridge Crawfish Festival today & Saturday?

#7 Comment By Johan On May 6, 2016 @ 9:08 am

“On the other hand, this is how you unite a disparate nation. It is not pretty.” Indeed. It raises the question of whether ‘uniting’ diverse people under a central state is really worth the downside.

#8 Comment By Erika On May 6, 2016 @ 9:13 am

Yay Cajuns! Yay gators! You realize that you are crazy to live within a hundred miles of creatures like that. The gators, that is. Did you get to feed them?

You are making me realize how much we missed when we visited Louisiana. My son is eager to come back.

#9 Comment By Bernie On May 6, 2016 @ 9:23 am

One of my best friends is from a tiny town in Cajun country in south Louisiana. Her family spoke only Cajun French at home, but the children spoke English at school. I don’t live in a Cajun part of Louisiana, but those early Acadian settlers were a great people and their heritage has had a profound effect on south Louisiana.

#10 Comment By Franklin Evans On May 6, 2016 @ 11:30 am

Point of clarification.

The linguistic term creole describes a language that developed from “pidgin”, broadly defined as one that evolved from two (or more, rarely) other languages. It becomes an independent language starting with the first generation born to those who participated in creating it. It’s accurate use is to qualify it for the source language(s) and/or region in which it is prevalent.

Lousianians don’t need this lesson. They use the term locally and properly, having a shared context. However, a distinction does need to be made especially in this modern era of mobility across regions and continents, as well as cyber mobility giving us exposure to such things from afar.

Stepping away from the lectern now… 😉

#11 Comment By cecelia On May 6, 2016 @ 11:42 am

it was not a federal policy – it was local. In Wales kids who spoke Welsh were forced to wear a large piece of wood hanging from a cord around their neck – in Ireland they had wheels made of straw – quite large – which were placed on the child’s shoulders – surrounding their neck. And of course their was shaming and corporal punishment.

Ah but – the languages lives on! Culture is hard to destroy.

#12 Comment By grumpy realist On May 6, 2016 @ 3:15 pm

Same thing in Japan as well. Gotta speak the Emperor’s Japanese, or else.

Now there’s been a resurgence of interest in the local dialects. I’m quite used to the fact that when I visit Osaka I’m liable to get someone talking to me in the local dialect. It’s close enough to standard Japanese that I can understand it. (Doesn’t work if you’re down in Kagoshima, unfortunately.)

Read somewhere about a radio station in Louisiana that is giving lessons on how to speak French Creole. Hope that someone decides to put them on the web as podcasts.

#13 Comment By DRK On May 6, 2016 @ 3:22 pm

In some places, it was federal. Starting in 1860, Native American kids were taken from their families, in many cases forcibly, and sent to federally operated boarding schools, where they were beaten if they spoke their native languages. Not until 1978 did Indian families win the right to keep their children at home if they desired to.

In Louisiana, the policy of forcing kids to learn English came at the state level. In Texas, the same thing, but with German speakers.

As an aside, it’s interesting to reflect that the meme where immigrants have always, up until Those Hispanics, come to this country and promptly learned English is completely untrue. Particularly back in the day, many immigrants came to this country, formed clusters in certain areas, and held onto their languages until forcibly compelled not to.

#14 Comment By Moone Boy On May 6, 2016 @ 5:44 pm

I feel a bit of a heel raising this in a post about such a lovely excursion, but…

You mention in passing (I know, it’s not meant to be a philosophical treatise, it’s a bit of an aside in a travelogue, I’m not playing “gotcha”):

“On the other hand, this is how you unite a disparate nation. It is not pretty.”

Another way of putting that would be: this is how you destroy any alternative nation-forming, or potential threat to a strong central state. As others pointed out, this was par for the course worldwide – most especially in expansionary, imperial-style states requiring a standing army and industrial workforce.

Considering your other post about the obnoxious gang in line (a sub-example of what might be regarded as cultural shock troops for the newer order), and your own take on the Benedict Option:

Do you think social-liberals might have a point that, “you may not like it, but we require you and your kids’ adhesion to these new norms in defence of a unitary nation?” á la Française?

[NFR: Don’t apologize; this is exactly the point! To continue the comparison, I think we are going to have to continue “speaking French,” so to speak, no matter what the overculture tells us. One of the French speakers at Vermillionville said that very few young people speak Cajun French anymore. We didn’t get to talk about it much, but I would say that television and mass culture has more to do with it than anything the government did. We orthodox Christians are going to have to learn from this example. I wonder if the Cajuns, knowing what they know now, would have done things differently from, say, 1940 through today, for the sake of preserving their language, which was the vehicle for their distinctive culture. — RD]

#15 Comment By Clare Krishan On May 6, 2016 @ 8:49 pm

‘nation’ is a political term for a state formed under submission to a prevailing power: Louisianians were ‘purchased’ much like slaves from their Spanish overlords “this is how you unite a disparate nation.” by liberation theology, mutualizing native-grown ‘criatures’ (Spanish for ‘children’) raised under a different religious cult and understanding of “patriotism” — one that tolerates subsidiarity of multiple mother tongues so long as they all worship their Father in Heaven in solidarity in Latin at Mass (ie Catholic, meaning ‘universal’) — with another that denies liberty of subsidiary in order to privilege a more constrained concept of solidarity in public worship explicitly NOT universal.

You reap what you sow: one’s idol of fatherland depends not so much on a given eikon of mother church so much as her ideology of independence, an intellectual independance divorced from her embodied nature and her creoles.

#16 Comment By Gretchen On May 7, 2016 @ 12:00 am

I listened to an interview with Lakota Sioux women tonight. One elderly woman remembered the Bureau of Indian Affairs removing her from her home and sending her to boarding school at age 5. She didn’t see her mother and father again for 9 years. She was given to an older girl to be looked after, but the pairings were changed frequently so they wouldn’t form bonds.
This group is trying to revive their ancestral religion, which was illegal under federal law until the late ’70s. They practiced it in secret until then.
“This is how you unite a disparate nation.” Within my adult lifetime, my country tried to unite a disparate nation by separating children from their parents and suppressing a minority religion. The desirablility of uniting a disparate nation by suppressing the minority depends on whether you’re in the minority or the majority.

#17 Comment By Gretchen On May 7, 2016 @ 12:03 am

I live near the Shawnee Indian Mission here in Kansas. Children were forcibly removed from their families and sent here to learn American ways. They were forbidden to speak their language or see their parents. Sometimes the parents would travel here and hang around the edges of the property, hoping to catch of glimpse of their elementary-aged children whom they would otherwise not see for years. The place has an eerie feel.

#18 Comment By Gretchen On May 7, 2016 @ 12:15 am

I cried when my five-year-olds went to kindergarten, knowing I’d miss them until lunchtime. I can’t imagine the grief of a mother having her five-year-old taken from her permanently because someone thinks they can do a better job of raising her than her mother.

#19 Comment By mrscracker On May 7, 2016 @ 11:06 am

You know, different scenarios, but tribes who kidnapped white settlers, black slaves, other Indian tribe members, etc didn’t appear to give much consideration to preserving previous family ties, language or culture either. Sometimes they adopted captives, or kept them as slaves, sold them as slaves, sold them for ransom and so forth.
The Comanches behaved very much like ISIS.
Human nature is pretty flawed. Some cultures have better records than others, but under the skin we don’t really differ much.

#20 Comment By Kris D On May 7, 2016 @ 11:14 pm

This is very interesting. My mom was born in Michigan in 1932 & her 1st language was French. She was not allowed to speak that in school & all she remembers are insults like “cochon blanc”. My grandmother (Mimmy)said she could understand Cajun better than the French spoken in Montreal. She also sounded just like Justin Wilson & listened to the Grand Ole Opry.