The year 2020 marked the tricentennial of the founding of the colony of Île Saint-Jean by France.
It was the celebration of the 300th anniversary of the arrival of the first French and Acadians in Prince Edward Island. With them, these newcomers brought commercial farming and fishing. The year 2020 was therefore a twofold source of pride as we celebrated two milestones in the settlement of the territory. Many Islanders are direct descendants of these original settlers.
Why and what are we celebrating?
Celebrating this 300th anniversary provided an opportunity to acknowledge our origins and showcase the major contribution of the French and Acadians to what is today Prince Edward Island. We were also celebrating the fact that 300 years later, French is still spoken on the Island!
The First Nations have been living on the Island for thousands of years. During this anniversary year, it was important to reaffirm these historical bonds of friendship between the Mi’kmaq and the French and Acadians.
The 300th anniversary consequently also provided a unique opportunity to recognize the impact of French rule (1720–1758) on the Island, notably from a toponymic perspective, since countless places still bear the names given to them by the French.
It was also an opportunity to highlight the fact that a great number of Islanders have Mi’kmaq, Acadian and French roots. Even if they no longer go by their names of old, how many MacDonalds, McNeills, Sheas, Maddixes, O’Briens, Fennesseys, McKinnons, McPhees, Stewarts, Camerons and many others simply have not yet delved far back enough into their genealogical roots?
How to celebrate?
To mark this very special year, we celeberated our history and heritage by discovering—or rediscovering—landmarks that bring to life the stories of the French and Acadians before the Deportation. These include Skmaqn–Port-la-Joye–Fort-Amherst National Historic Site, which commemorates the first permanent European settlement on the Island.
We also showcased their contributions across a broad range of areas and celebrating the vitality of the French and Acadian language. Though the year 2020 has now passed, let’s continue to visit these historic sites, and to welcome and express our pride to the French-speaking newcomers who will further enrich life on the Island for years to come!
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