Floyd Sonnier artist Floyd Sonnier
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"I consider myself a historian as well as an artist. I’m visually recording history"
– Floyd Sonnier
From Small Bits of Charcoal
From Small Bits of Charcoal
The Life and Works of a Cajun Artist

The bi-linqual autobiography of pen-and-ink artist Floyd Sonnier of Lafayette, Louisiana. Written and illustrated by Floyd.

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Scott, LA 70583

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We Must Never Forget

The uncertainty of the times must have been overwhelming. The thought of having to leave your home, your land, all you have worked for all your life must have been incomprehensible. This is the dilemma our ancestors found themselves in the fall of 1755.

St. Martin

They were given a choice. They could keep their land or be forced to leave their country forever. If they chose to stay they would have to swear allegiance to the King of England and change their religious affiliation from Catholicism to the Church of England. They would then become British subjects and would be forced to fight for England against the French in a territorial dispute concerning what is today, New Brunswick. If they refused to obey these orders they would be banished from their land forever. They refused. To them this was not a question of choice. They would continue to practice their faith in the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church and they would continue their allegiance to their French heritage.

Thus began the "Great Exile" and what could be considered the darkest days of British history. Some ten-thousand citizens of Acadie (what is now Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and parts of Maine) of French descents were forced to leave their homes with only what they could carry on their backs. These Acadiens, my Acadians, were a people without a country... a people unwanted... a people forsaken.

The father. "How hard it is to be huddled together in groups along the shores by soldiers with guns treating us like common criminals. They say we are waiting for ships to take us away. Where are we going? No one will tell us. What have we done to deserve this? I am a God-fearing, hard-working, peaceful man. I worked my fields in the warm springs and hot summers from sun-up to sun-down. I hunted, fished, and trapped; all to provide food for my family. We survived the harsh winters of Acadie in the warm comforts of our simple home. We had plenty to eat. We had each other to love. We were happy. Now look how sad we are. Why?"

"I feel numb. They have separated us in groups. All the men and older boys are being loaded on one ship. The women and younger children will be loaded on another ship later. I don't understand the cruelty in this madness. I look back and see my home burning. I see the fields burning. I see the soldiers burning my barn with this fall's harvest in it. I see all my farm animals running wildly in confusion. What will happen to them? What will happen to me? What will happen to my family? Will I ever hold my wife and children again? What does the future hold for us? I don't understand."

The mother. "I can't stop crying. Where's my husband and sons? Why did they take them away from me? The soldiers are laughing as they burn down my home… my beautiful home with my loom and spinning wheel in it…our beds and all of our furniture that my husband and I made…our clothes that I made with my bare hands…my children's toys all hand-made by my husband with loving care…all gone. Who is going to take care of my little girl's kittens and my son's pet dogs? Who, dear God, will take care of us?"

Evangeline

"They took my husband, my father, my brothers and my oldest sons away. I can't find my mother or my sisters. I feel so lonely. But I must be strong for the little ones. They ask questions I cannot answer soon. Maybe this is just a bad dream. I pray silently."

The children. It is impossible for the little children to understand what is going on. Maybe their innocence will protect them. Maybe in their journey of growing up they will see beauty in the flowers and forget the horrors of the fires burning their homes. Maybe they'll see their mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, together again as a family. Maybe God, in his infinite mercy, will bring peace and justice to them again.

They will never forget.

Our ancestors would be very proud of us. We have not forgotten. Two-hundred-and-forty-four years after the dark days of expulsion and cruelty suffered by our ancestors, we feel more strongly about remembering and honoring those who lost all and survived. We have learned much from them. We have learned that our French heritage is our identity and we will not lose it. We have learned that "no man is an island," that no one stands alone. In order for our culture to survive; in order for our French language to survive; in order for our "joie de vivre" to survive; in order for our strong family bond to survive; and more importantly, for the survival of our faith in God; we must work together…as a family. This is what our ancestors did.

We must never forget!