About the Landscape > History and Development
The Evolution of an Agricultural and Symbolic Landscape
Since the 1680s, when a small group of Acadian settlers first arrived in the area and called the vast wetlands la grand pré, the human history of Grand Pré has been linked to its natural setting and the exceptional fertility of this land by the sea.
The earliest settlers were isolated. They were a long way from home and were mostly ignored by the various French and British authorities who administered the area. The settlers developed close relations with the local Mi’kmaq, the indigenous people of Nova Scotia – not just at Grand Pré but elsewhere in Acadie – as they came to grips with the natural setting and began to claim fertile land from the sea by building dykes. All of these factors contributed to their developing a new and distinct identity. Though French by birth, over the course of the second half of the 17th century they came to see themselves as belonging to l’Acadie, as being Acadiens and Acadiennes.
During the roughly 70 years before their forcible removal in 1755, the Acadian community of Grand Pré introduced an environ-mental management approach that had been applied elsewhere in Acadie. Acadians took European practices, developed for wetlands and saltpans, and adapted them to the much different environment in Acadie.
Faced with the highest recorded tides in the world (see Figure 2–24), the Acadians at Grand Pré worked for three generations to transform over 1300 hectares of tidal marsh into farmland. The farm-land was then – and remains today – some of the finest farmland in North America.
In 1760, five years after the Acadians were first deported from Grand Pré and dispersed throughout the world, a contingent of New England Planters was settled at Grand Pré to take over the lands. Then, as now, the transformed marsh was the primary focus for the area’s inhabitants. Like the Acadians before them, the New England Planters in the Grand Pré area developed their own strong connec-tions to the land and their rural way of life. The Grand Pré dykeland remains highly fertile today, and the most important features of the original dyked area remain in place.
Then, beginning in the late 19th century and continuing until today, Grand Pré developed as the most important lieu de mémoire of the Acadian people. Memorials and commemorative gardens were created adjacent to the transformed marsh to mark the ancient Acadian settlement, commemorate the removal of the people in 1755, and celebrate the vitality of the Acadian community. This last trans-formation completed the symbolic reclamation by the Acadians of an agricultural land from which they had been forcibly removed.
Note: All of the following content on the history & development of the Landscape of Grand Pré can be found on pages 28-66 of chapter 2 in the Unesco Dossier (see link below.) The entire dossier can be found on the Nomination Grand Pré website.