After three years of work, the public was invited to the Centre Belle-Alliance in Summerside on September 10, 2005 for the official unveiling of the six large paintings by artist Claude Picard, paintings that tell the story of the 120-year history of the Acadian national symbols. These paintings are now hung permanently in the Galerie Claude-Picard at the Acadian Museum of Prince Edward Island.
A PATRON SAINT AND A NATIONAL DAY FOR ACADIE
As proposed the day before in the report of a commission by a vote of 12 to 4, the Acadian people chose on July 21st, 1881, a National Day. This occurred in the plenary session of the First Acadian National Convention held in Memramcook, N. B. This choice of Our Lady of the Assumption as patron saint and “August 15th” as the National Day was approved by the bishops of the Maritime Provinces on September 16th, 1881, decreed by His Holiness Pope Pius XI on January 19th, 1938 and twice proclaimed by Mgr Arthur Melanson on March 25th, 1938.
During the plenary session of the Second National Convention of the Acadians held in Miscouche, P.E.I., in the afternoon of August 15th, 1884, the Acadian people chose a motto, L’Union fait la force (In Unity there is Strength) and an insignia of blue silk comprising the motto, a red and white rosette, a star and a ship flying a flag inscribed with the word Acadie. For a national flag, the Acadians adopted the tricolore étoilé, a star-studded French tricolour, the star called the Stella Maris representing Our Lady of the Assumption, their patron saint, adopted three years earlier in Memramcook, N. B. Most of the motifs of the said insignia will be incorporated in the national coat of arms of Acadie adopted in 1995 at Rideau Hall.
It was in a room at Saint Joseph’s Convent in Miscouche, P.E.I., belonging to the Sisters of the Congrégation de Notre-Dame de Montréal, that took place, the evening of August 15th, 1884, the very first public unfurling of the new flag of Acadie adopted that very afternoon during the plenary session of the Second National Convention of Acadians. This first Acadian flag was a French tricolour with a star bearing the papal colours. It was Father Marcel-François Richard, the parish priest of Saint-Louis-de-Kent, N. B., who had asked parish-born Marie Agathe Babineau to make the flag before the Acadian convention in Miscouche. Its dimensions were 9 feet by 6 feet having therefore proportions of 3 : 2. After the unfurling, as Father Richard had broken into the Ave Maris Stella, Pascal Poirier, the future first Acadian senator, suggested that its melody become the national anthem of Acadians. This old religious hymn is attributed to sixth-century Saint Venantius Fortunatus, bishop of Poitiers (France).
It was on the morning of Saturday, August 16th, 1884 in Miscouche, P.E.I. that the new national flag of Acadie was officially raised for the first time on land. It was hoisted in front of Saint John The Baptist Church in Miscouche. The ceremony was presided by the Hon. Pierre-Amand Landry. The first Acadian flag once unfurled, Father N. C. A. Boudreault, the parish priest of Miscouche, had firearms discharged amidst enthusiastic cheers from both the people of Miscouche and the delegates of the Second Acadian National Convention.
IRONY OF HISTORY :
Saturday afternoon, August 16th, 1884, thanks to the kindness of Captain Evans of the ferry and steamer St. Lawrence which was taking back most of our travelers from Summerside, P.E.I. to Pointe-du-Chêne, N. B., the Acadian delegates of the Second Acadian National Convention werejubilant to see their new one-day-old national flag fly atop the steamer even if under the Union Jack. This kind permission triggered off the very first salute to the Acadian flag from a foreign nation when a British ship, at a distance from the rest of its fleet and anchored a few cables’ length away from the Summerside wharf, unfurled its colours to the wind, believing it was seeing the flag of the French Republic. Now, this wasn’t the flag of France to which England was dipping its colours in respect, but lo and behold, the flag of these Acadians whom she had deported 129 years earlier. This crossing from the Summerside harbour to Pointe-du-Chêne also marked the first time at sea that the national flag of Acadie was hoisted and that the Ave Maris Stella,was rendered as the Acadian national anthem.
In 1965, in Louisiana, a flag incorporating the “Star of Acadie” (Stella Maris) for the region of Acadiana was unveiled at the Maison française of the University of Louisiana in Lafayette, then raised in the downtown area of this same city in 1968 and lastly proclaimed at the Louisiana State Capitol in Baton Rouge in 1974.
In 1994, at Mont-Carmel, P.E.I., French lyrics for the Ave Maris Stella were composed by Jacinthe Laforest and adopted in Chéticamp, N.S., by the Société Nationale de l’Acadie. For the very first time and officially, these self-same lyrics were sung by Lina Boudreau in Dieppe, N.B., at the closing of the First World Congress of the Acadian people, then recorded at St. Simon and St. Jude Church in Tignish, P.E.I., by the Tignish Bicentennial Choir and lastly unveiled in 2001 at the Acadian Museum in Miscouche, P.E.I. on a plaque erected by the Association du Musée acadien de l’Î.-P.-É.
In 1995, at Rideau Hall in Ottawa, national arms incorporating the insignia adopted at the Second Acadian National Convention (1884) were granted to the Acadian people by the Canadian Heraldic Authority and officialized in 1996 at the Musée acadien de l’Î.-P.-É. in Miscouche in the presence of His Excellency the Right Honourable Roméo LeBlanc, Governor General of Canada, and representatives of the Mi’kmaq people and the Société Nationale de l’Acadie.