St. Martinville was the site of the original landing of the Acadians fleeing the present day Canadian provinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island. This mass exodus resulted from British victory in the French and Indian War. A treaty signed in 1713 let the Acadians to keep their lands but some Acadians continued to pester the British by refusing to sign an unconditional oath of allegiance and aiding the French. Without making distinctions between the Acadians who had been neutral and those who had misbehaved, the bothered Brits finally ordered the Acadian Expulsion (1755–1764) .
Many moved to the region of the Atakapa in present-day Louisiana after following circuitous routes through France, other French holdings and British colonies along the east coast of what is now the United States. Led by Joseph Broussard, the first group of 200 Acadians arrived 1765 on the banks of the Bayou Teche. Bayou Teche was the Mississippi River’s main course when it developed a delta about 2,800 to 4,500 years ago. During the Acadian migration, the Teche was still a primary means of transportation. Broussard became militia captain and commander of the “Acadians of the Atakapas” region in St. Martinville in Spanish Louisiana, France having transferred Louisiana to Spain a few years before the Acadians arrived.
France and Spain were having a bit of a bromance at the time, in part due to their common Catholic religion. Under interim Spanish governor of Louisiana, Bernardo de Gálvez, the Acadians could continue to speak their language, follow Catholicism and settle in with minimal fuss. In an ironic twist, during the American Revolution just a few years later, the Acadians helped Galvez and his Spanish Regulars boot the British out of Fort Bute and Baton Rouge, thereby ending up on the winning side of that conflict.
The Acadians did not take over some uninhabited hinterland. The titular Atakapas and Chitimacha Native American tribes had made a home in the swamps, bayous and prairie and were already sharing them with Spanish Basques and Spanish Canary Islanders. While Acadians eventually formed the largest ethnic group in Louisiana, they combined their French-Canadian bloodlines with the natives and earlier settlers plus those of African American slaves and freemen, Mexicans, Cubans and even some early Filipino migrants known as Manilamen.
The Acadian language and culture remained prominent and was strengthened by the influences of the people surrounding them, strong enough to withstand the attempted suppression of what was now called the Cajun language and lifestyle in the enlightened 20th century. “Cajun,” a corruption of the word “Acadian,” became a derogatory label. After decades of Americanization, Louisiana Governor Edwards’ proud self -identification as an Acadian descendant changed the conversation. Cajuns also earned recognition in WW2 by acting as interpreters for American forces in France, using the skill that would have earned those same Cajuns a beating in elementary school.