the groups which contribute to our state's distinctive culture,
it is the Cajuns of south central Louisiana who most capture
the interest and imagination of travelers. In fact,
their culture has become so dominant that the region where
most live has been named Acadiana in their honor. The
Cajuns are especially important because, along with the Creoles,
it is they who give South Louisiana its French flair.
it is easy to confuse the Cajuns and the Creoles, it is important
to understand that the two groups are not the same people.
Both have French origins, but there the similarity ends.
Cajuns are descendants of Frenchmen called Acadians because
they originally settled a portion of Canada's eastern coast
which they named Acadia. A number of Acadians eventually
migrated to Louisiana after the British expelled them from
their Canadian homeland in the mid-1700s. These people,
and their descendants, eventually became known as "Cajuns"
through a corruption of the French word Acadien.
(The term began appearing in print during the Reconstruction
era and was in general use by 1900.) Today, the Cajun
culture is so popular and pervasive that any person born in
Acadiana can be called a Cajun whether or not he or she is
descended from an original Acadian migrant.
were already in Louisiana when the Acadians arrived, and their
culture dominated the area. For purposes of distinguishing
them from Cajuns, Creoles can be defined as New World-born
descendants of Europeans, most of whom were French.
(Click here for a fuller
explanation of Creole.) Perhaps because of their
preference for settling in isolated areas, the Acadians/Cajuns
were the only ethnic group the Creoles failed to absorb.
In fact, the Cajuns themselves absorbed other ethnic groups
with whom they intermarried.
the items associated with Cajun culture is the Acadian Cottage,
which reached the form we recognize today in the nineteenth
century. This house is a smaller and less elaborate
version of the Creole cottage and was adopted by the Cajuns
after their trial and error efforts failed to produce a dwelling
that could survive and function appropriately in South Louisiana's
moist climate. Cajuns living west of the Atchafalaya
River usually placed attic staircases on their homes' front
galleries, and it is these houses, whether small or moderate
in size, which today are typically thought of as Acadian cottages.
Without the stair, it is often difficult to distinguish between
the Acadian cottage and its similar Creole cousin.