June 20, 2019
Beginning in 1916-1921 French was deemed a foreign language in Louisiana, despite the fact that it was less foreign than English at the time, and as a result, education in French was forbidden. French could only be a foreign language class and such classes were often not available. Louisiana was also anglicized in its institutions since it was conquered and occupied by the Union army in 1862. The Constitution of 1864 imposed by the Union removed bilingualism. The post-occupation Constitution of 1868 provided that “no laws shall require judicial process to be issued in any language other than the English language.” These constitutions reduced the status of French in Louisiana.
In those new English schools in Louisiana, the policy was of course one of assimilation. Children were chastised and humiliated when they spoke French in school. In order to spare their children this humiliation, their parents allowed them to assimilate, which resulted in them never learning French, and those children, since they lost the language, would often lose their identity shortly after, or that identity would become completely alienated and removed from its proper context.
The government’s goal of totally eradicating the French language in Louisiana is nearly complete, as evidenced by the U. S. Census. In 1970 over one million residents of Louisiana identified themselves as French speakers. Currently that number stands at approximately one hundred thousand.
It appears that, in south Louisiana, there has been renewed interest in the French language and French education. Numerous groups, organizations and individuals have worked, and continue to work, tirelessly to preserve the French language. The most promising sign of such is the involvement of the younger generation in conducting social events and activities in French. The number of French Immersion Schools continue to grow. These French immersion schools provide an education in French to the children beginning in the kindergarten classes.
Louisiane-Acadie, Inc., a nonprofit corporation, is recognized in Louisiana, Canada and France as the united voice for Louisiana’s Acadian/Cajun population. It’s founding members and board of directors created the Grand Réveil Acadien/The Great Acadian Awakening in 2011, a mini World Congress of Acadians showcasing our unique culture, language, music and joie de vivre. The GRA is a ten-day event that takes place across south Louisiana. GRA2020 will be held between the dates of October 03–11, 2020. We encourage all who identify themselves as Cajuns to actively participate, involve themselves, their families, and friends in this ten-day event. To successfully preserve our culture, music and food, our joie de vivre, it will take a concerted effort of all of us working together toward that end. We can no longer sit idly by in hopes that our culture, music and food will miraculously be preserved for future generations. Please save the dates, plan on attending the many events in October 2020, or better yet become actively involved in the planning of the events.
Randal L Menard, President