|October 9, 2003 Calais Advertiser
Queen's Representative Tours St. Croix Island
CALAIS- French hearts welled with pride Monday as Hermeneglide Chiasson, Lieutenant Governor of New Brunswick, Canada, visited St. Croix Island and walked in the footsteps left almost 400 years ago by Samuel Champlain and Sierre Dugua, Sieur de Mons.
A white French naval flag, much like the one that once flew over the original settlement, fluttered in the breeze to welcome Queen Elizabeth II's representative.
Chiasson, an Acadian said, he was very moved by the experience. "This is very emotional because this is where it all started," he said of French history in North America.
In 1604, French explorers Samuel Champlain and the Sieur de Mons, sailed up the St. Croix River and established a small settlement on the island that predates the English colonies at Jamestown, Virginia (1607) and Plymouth, Mass (1620).
Chiasson was recently appointed to the position of lieutenant governor and said one of the first things on his agenda was a visit to the St. Croix Island Coordinating Committee, was with Chiasson on the visit and said he attended the Lieutenant Governor's investiture and then sent him an information packet about the island and the approaching 400th anniversary celebration.
Allan Gillmore of St. Stephen, New Brunswick, co-chair of the St. Croix Island Coordinating Committee, was with Chiasson on the visit and said he attended the Lieutenant Governor's investiture and then sent him an information packet about the island and the approaching 400th anniversary celebration.
"His Honor got in touch with us almost immediately and suggested he would like to come for a visit," Gillmore explained.
Chiasson is well-known as an accomplished culturalist. At the time of his appointment, he taught at the University of Moncton. He is an author, film and stage director, playwright, journalist and researcher. In addition to two Bachelor degrees, he holds two Master's degrees and has a Doctorate from the Sorbonne.
He recently produced a film titled, "1604" and is familiar with the history of St. Croix Island.
Marcia Babineau, his wife, is the executive director of Theater L'Escaouette in Moncton, and is currently producing a play about the Acadian experience on the island in 1604.
"You can see that this is quite a moving experience for us", she said.
Chaplain and Dugua picked St. Croix Island as a place of settlement because they felt it offered protection from other explorers such as the British.
"This site was not to keep them separated from the native people," says Norma Stewart, executive director of the St. Croix Coordinating Committee, who was with Chiasson on the visit. "They were here (...with a group of settlers...) living on the island as well."
She said the French plan was to make the St. Croix Island settlement the capital of Acadia, of New France.
"But on October 6, 1604, a severe storm hit the area and it was a very bad winter," she said. More than half the settlers died as a result of scurvy and other illness and, as a result, the settlement was abandoned and the French moved to Port Royal in Nova Scotia.
Chiasson, standing on the knoll where the Sieur de Mons had his house, reflected on the visit. "I read a brochure I found at Old Government House in Fredericton (New Brunswick)", he said. "It listed the names of the Governors of Acadia and here I am, standing where the first one lived. This is where his house was...and for me, as an Acadian, it is very touching. I have had tears in my eyes ever since I set foot on this land. To look at the same land that they saw, the same land that they walked on, that they are buried in, is very touching.
"Being here connects the story with reality", he said.
"I'm surprised the island is as small as it is. I also thought it would be very rough land and it is a combination of rough and gentler territory. It's very friendly."
Chiasson said he would be back to the island many times, particularly next year for the celebration. He also believes Acadian descendants will come to see the land of their forefathers.
"They will come and, like me, will be touched by what they see," he said.
"This is a way of coming to terms with our history. For too long we've lived with what happened in 1775 (the deportation of the Acadians by the British) and now we are looking at our entire history. That is a good thing," he said.
Following the boat tour of the island, provided by the National Parks Service, Chaiasson toured the Red Beach Interpretation Site. Several weeks ago six bronze statues were erected to commemorate the island and the 400th anniversary of the first French settlement in North America. The statues commemorate the French explorers as well as the Passamaquoddy people who welcomed them.
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