In Prince Edward Island, history speaks French, and this language is intimately linked to our culture and intangible heritage. This history is set out below in the form of key dates and multiple births serving as a roadmap of the ambitions and struggles of our forbears. The Island’s history is remarkable and inspiring for both Acadia and our entire country. It was planted in the red soil with the arrival of the first colonists, with the ensuing centuries giving rise to many exceptional figures: pioneers, visionaries, enthusiastic members of a new society. These women and men have created and shaped economic, political, social and cultural movements that continue to influence life today. Our history is rich, and we are its proud heirs!
The colony of Île Saint-Jean was founded in 1720 by the first colonists arriving from France with the Compagnie de l’Île Saint-Jean. They settled mainly along Prince Edward Island’s north shore in the Havre-Saint-Pierre (today St. Peters Bay) area. Very few of these early French settlers stayed on the Island, and none of their descendants remain today.
That same year, two Acadian families from Nova Scotia settled on Île Saint-Jean. Michel Haché dit Gallant and Anne Cormier, who had been living at Beaubassin, near Amherst, N.S., came to Port-la-Joye. The other family, from Port-Toulouse (St. Peters) on Île Royale (Cape Breton, N.S.) was Pierre Martin and Anne Godin, who settled near the Mount Stewart marsh. Many descendants of both these pioneer families still live on the Island today.
Gilbert Buote, with support from his son François-Joseph (a teacher and printer), launched the Island’s first French-language newspaper, L’Impartial, in 1893. During its two decades in print, L’Impartial served as a voice for the Acadian nationalist discourse, publishing a great number of articles about the French language, education, religion, Acadian history, agriculture and colonization. It championed the Acadians’ interests and promoted the French language.