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|Louisiana Creole Flag|
|2 million (2010 estimate)|
|Regions with significant populations|
|Louisiana, East Texas, Los Angeles County, California, coastal Mississippi, Chicago, Illinois, coastal Alabama, Detroit, Michigan|
|English, French, and Creole|
|Predominantly Roman Catholic; minorities practice Voodoo|
|Related ethnic groups|
|Louisiana Creole Flag|
|2 million (2010 estimate)|
|Regions with significant populations|
|Louisiana, East Texas, Los Angeles County, California, coastal Mississippi, Chicago, Illinois, coastal Alabama, Detroit, Michigan|
|English, French, and Creole|
|Predominantly Roman Catholic; minorities practice Voodoo|
|Related ethnic groups|
Louisiana Creole people are those who are descended from the colonial settlers of Louisiana, especially those of French, Spanish, Native American, and/or African descent. The term creole was first used by French settlers to distinguish between Louisiana-born slaves and those born in Africa and other countries or continents.
It was a term used for "native-born". A definition of a creole is a person, whether African or European, who was born in Louisiana. The term "creole" denotes a culture which embraces the influences of French, Spanish, African and Native American peoples in Louisiana.
Louisiana Creoles have common European heritage and share cultural ties, such as the traditional use of the French language and may include the continuing practice of Catholicism. Some Creole people have African and/or Native American ancestry.
Later immigrants to New Orleans, such as Irish, Germans and Italians, also married into the Creole groups, though most remain of French ancestry. Most modern Creoles have family ties to Louisiana. They are mostly Catholic in religion. Through the 19th century, most spoke French and were strongly connected to French colonial culture. They have had a major impact on the state's culture; hence, Louisiana is known as the Creole State.
While the sophisticated Creole society of New Orleans has historically received much attention, the Cane River area in northwest Louisiana developed its own strong Creole culture, as did several enclaves in south Louisiana: Frilot Cove, Bois Mallet, Grand Marais,Palmetto and others. These communities have had a long history of cultural independence.
The commonly accepted definition of Louisiana Creole today is one whose ancestry traces to Louisiana before the Louisiana Purchase, who usually are mainly descendants of one or more of French, Spanish, African, and Native-American heritage. Some individuals may have additional ancestries. It is estimated that 7,000 European immigrants settled in Louisiana during the 18th century - a number 100 times lower than the number of British colonists on the Atlantic coast. Louisiana attracted considerably fewer French colonists than did its West Indian colonies. After the crossing of the Atlantic Ocean, which lasted several months, the colonists had several challenges ahead of them. Their living conditions were difficult: uprooted, they had to face a new, often hostile, environment. Many of these immigrants died during the maritime crossing or soon after their arrival.
Hurricanes, unknown in France, periodically struck the coast, destroying whole villages. The Mississippi Delta was plagued with periodic yellow fever epidemics, to which malaria and cholera were added as part of the Eurasian diseases that arrived with the Europeans. These conditions slowed colonisation. Moreover, French villages and forts were not necessarily safe from enemy offensives. Attacks by Native Americans represented a real threat to the groups of isolated colonists; in 1729, the attacks on Natchez killed 250 in Lower Louisiana. Forces of the Native American Natchez tribe took Fort Rosalie (now Natchez, Mississippi) by surprise, killing, among others, pregnant women. The French response ensued in the following two years, causing the Natchez to flee or be deported as slaves to Saint Domingue.
Aside from French government representatives and soldiers, colonists include young men, who were recruited in French ports or in Paris. Some served as indentured servants; they were required to remain in Louisiana for a length of time fixed by the contract of service. During this time, they were "temporary semi-slaves". To increase the colonial population, filles à la cassette, young Frenchwomen, were sent to the colony to marry soldiers there, and given a dowry financed by the king. (This builds on the 17th-century example in what is now Canada: about 800 filles du roi immigrated to New France under the monetary sponsorship of Louis XIV.) Comfort women were females "of easy virtue," vagrants or outlaws, and those without family arriving with a lettre de cachet; they were sent by force to Louisiana, especially during the Régence period early in the reign of Louis XV. Their stories inspired the novel Story of the Knight Of Grieux and Manon Lescaut, written by Abbé Prévost in 1731. In 1721, the ship La Baleine brought close to 90 women of childbearing age from the prison of La Salpetrière in Paris to Louisiana where most of them quickly found husbands amongst the residents of the colony. These women, many of whom were most likely prostitutes or felons, were known as The Baleine Brides.
Historian Joan Martin maintains that there is little documentation that so called 'casket girls, (considered among the ancestors of French Creoles) were ever brought to Louisiana. (The Ursuline order of nuns that supposedly chaperoned the arrivals until they married have denied the casket girl myth as well.) Martin suggests this was indeed a myth, and that relationships and cultural exchanges occurred early on during the initial settlement of Louisiana among Europeans, Native Americans and Africans. She also writes that some Creole families who today identify as white may have had ancestors during the colonial period who were African or mixed-race, and whose descendants married "white" over generations. French Louisiana also included communities of Swiss and German settlers; however, royal authorities never spoke of "Louisianans" but always of "French" to designate the population.
An early 1718 history of New Orleans defined "Creole" as "a child born in the colony as opposed to France or Spain." Through both the French and Spanish regimes, parochial and colonial governments used the term Creole for ethnic French and Spanish born in the New World as opposed to Europe. Parisian French was the language of early New Orleans.
Later the regional French evolved to contain local phrases and slang terms. The French Creoles spoke what became known as Colonial French; over time, the language in the colony developed differently from that in France and was practiced by the ethnic French and Spanish and their Creole descendants.
The mixed-race Creole descendants, who developed as a third class of free people of color, particularly in New Orleans, also were strongly influenced by the French Catholic culture. By the end of the 18th century, many mixed-race Creoles had gained education and tended to work in artisan or skilled trades; a relatively high number were property and slave owners.
The transfer of the French colony to the United States in 1803 under the Louisiana Purchase and the arrival of Anglo-Americans from New England and the South resulted in a cultural confrontation. Some Americans were reportedly shocked by aspects of the cultural and linguistic climate of the newly acquired territory: the predominance of French language and Catholicism, the free class of mixed-race people, and the strong African traditions of enslaved peoples. They pressured the United States' first Louisiana governor, W.C.C. Claiborne, to change it.
Particularly in the American South, which was a slave society, slavery had become a racial caste, as children born to slave mothers had been born into slave status since the late 17th century, through laws throughout the South. As a result, many whites liked to think of society as binary in racial terms, with all who had African ancestry classified as black, regardless of their proportion of white or European ancestry. Although there was a growing population of free people of color, particularly in the Upper South, they generally did not have the same rights and freedoms as did those in Louisiana.
When Claiborne made English the official language of the territory, the French Creoles in New Orleans were outraged, and reportedly paraded in protest in the streets. They rejected the Americans' effort to transform them overnight. In addition, upper-class French Creoles thought many of the arriving Americans were uncouth, especially the rough Kentucky boatmen (Kaintucks) who regularly visited the city, having maneuvered flatboats down the Mississippi River filled with goods for market.
Realizing that he needed local support, Claiborne restored French as an official language. In all forms of government, public forums and in the Catholic Church, French continued to be used. Most importantly, Louisiana French and Louisiana Creole remained the languages of the majority of the population of the state.
Colonists referred to themselves and enslaved blacks who were native-born as creole, to distinguish them from new arrivals from Africa. Over time, the Creoles and Africans created a French and West African hybrid language called Louisiana Creole or mistakenly as Louisiana Creole French (Louisiana Creole is not a creole of French, but a separate language linguistically). In some circumstances it was used by slaves, planters and free people of color alike. It is still spoken by Louisiana Creoles in Texas and Louisiana... it can be mostly heard in Zydeco music, at Creole Rodeos and among Creole and some Cajun neighborhoods. Louisiana Creole is typically not spoken in New Orleans any more, but certain words and phrases are still used. Creole people and culture are distinct from the Cajun who adopted and assimilated into Creole culture.
As in the French or Spanish Caribbean and Latin American colonies, the Louisiana territory developed a mixed-race class, of whom there were numerous free people of color. In the early days they were descended mostly from European men and enslaved or free black or mixed-race women.
As a group, the mixed-race Creoles rapidly began to acquire education, skills (many in New Orleans worked as craftsmen and artisans), businesses and property. They were overwhelmingly Catholic, spoke Colonial French (although some also spoke Louisiana Creole), and kept up many French social customs, modified by other parts of their ancestry and Louisiana culture. The free people of color married among themselves to maintain their class and social culture. The French-speaking mixed-race population came to be called "Creoles of color". It was said that "New Orleans persons of color were far wealthier, more secure, and more established than freed Africans and Cajuns elsewhere in Louisiana."
Under the French and Spanish rulers, Louisiana developed a three-tiered society, similar to that of Brazil, Cuba, Haiti, St.Lucia, Mexico, and other Latin colonies. This three-tiered society included white Creoles; a prosperous, educated group of mixed-race Creoles, of European and African descent; and the far larger class of African slaves (though Cajuns are considered to be the fourth). The status of mixed-race Creoles as free people of color (gens de couleur libres) was one they guarded carefully. By law they enjoyed most of the same rights and privileges as whites. They could and often did challenge the law in court and won cases against whites. They were property owners and created schools for their children. There were some free blacks in Louisiana, but most free people of color were of mixed race. They acquired education, property and power within the colony, and later, state.
After the United States acquired the area in the Louisiana Purchase, mixed-race Creoles of Color resisted American attempts to impose their binary racial culture. In the American South slavery had become virtually a racial caste, in which most people of any African descent were considered to be lower in status. The planter society viewed it as a binary culture, with whites and blacks (the latter including everyone other than whites, although for some years they counted mulattos separately on censuses).
While the American Civil War promised rights and opportunities for the enslaved, the free persons of color, who had long been free before the war, worried about losing their identity and position. The Americans did not legally recognize a three-tiered society. Nevertheless, some Creoles like Thomy Lafon used their position to support the abolitionist cause. And Francis E. Dumas emancipated all of his slaves and organized them into a company in the Second Regiment of the Louisiana Native Guards.
Following the Union victory in the Civil War, the Louisiana three-tiered society was gradually overrun by more Anglo-Americans who classified everyone by the South's binary division of "black" and "white". During the Reconstruction era, white Democrats regained power in the Louisiana state legislature by using paramilitary groups like the White League to suppress black voting. They worked to establish white supremacy by passing Jim Crow laws and a constitution near the turn of the century that effectively disfranchised most blacks and Creoles of color through discriminatory application of voter registration and electoral laws. The US Supreme Court ruling in Plessy v. Ferguson in 1896 supported the binary society and the policy of "separate but equal" facilities (which were seldom achieved in fact) in the segregated South.
Whites, heavily influenced by White American society, increasingly claimed that the term Creole applied to whites only. According to Virginia R. Domínguez:
Charles Gayarré ... and Alcée Fortier ... led the unspoken though desperate defense of the Creole. As bright as these men clearly were, they still became engulfed in the reclassification process intent on salvaging white Creole status. Their speeches consequently read more like sympathetic eulogies than historical analysis.
Sybil Kein suggests that, because of their struggle for redefinition, white Creoles were particularly hostile to the exploration by the writer George Washington Cable of the multiracial Creole society in his stories and novels. She believes that in The Grandissimes, he exposed white Creoles' preoccupation with covering up blood connections with the free people of color and slaves. She writes:
There was a veritable explosion of defenses of Creole ancestry. The more novelist George Washington Cable engaged his characters in family feuds over inheritance, embroiled them in sexual unions with blacks and mulattoes, and made them seem particularly defensive about their presumably pure Caucasian ancestry, the more vociferously the white Creoles responded, insisting on purity of white ancestry as a requirement for identification as Creole.
In the 1930s, the governor of Louisiana, Huey Long, claimed that you could feed all the "pure" white people in New Orleans with a cup of beans and a half a cup of rice, and still have food left over! New Orleans was a city divided geographically between Latin (French Creole) and Anglo-American populations until well into the late 19th century. Those of Latin European descent lived east of Canal Street, in what became known as the French Quarter; the new American migrants settled west ("Uptown") of it. In the mid-19th century, the Esplanade became the center of the Irish Channel, a neighborhood of Irish Catholic immigrants.
Louisiana Creole cuisine is recognized as a unique style of cooking originating in the bayous of Creole settlements. It makes use of what is called the Holy trinity. It has developed primarily from French, Spanish, African, Native American, and Caribbean historic influences.
Gumbo is a traditional Creole dish from the bayou and amongst the old plantations in the countryside but was influenced by several Haitian slaves were brought to the United States, the Choctaw culinary customs, and the French "roux". This dish is known in Haiti but is not a delicacy. It is a stew based on either seafood (usually shrimp, crabs, with oysters optional) and sausage, or chicken (hen or rooster), alligator, turtle, crawfish and even rabbit. It is made in Creole Country but is different from the Parisian version as it is made with red beans and rice or red beans and cornbread. It also may include rabbit, alligator, deer or wild boar instead of just duck. Gumbo is often seasoned with filé, which is dried, ground sassafras leaves, both contain the "Holy Trinity" and are served over rice. It was created by French colonists trying to make bouillabaisse with New World ingredients. Starting with aromatic seasonings, the French used onions and celery as in a traditional mirepoix, but lacked carrots. Africans contributed okra; the Native Americans contributed filé(file is ground, dried sassafras leaves); the Spanish contributed peppers and tomatoes; and new spices were adopted from Caribbean dishes. The French would later favor a roux for thickening. In the 19th century, the Italians added garlic.
After arriving in numbers, German immigrants dominated city bakeries, including those making traditional French bread. They introduced having buttered French bread as a side to eating gumbo, as well as a side of German-style potato salad.
Red beans and rice is a dish of African origins which contains red beans, the "holy trinity" of onion, celery and bell pepper, and often andouille smoked sausage, pickled pork or smoked ham hocks. The beans were then served over white rice. It is one of the famous dishes in Louisiana, and is associated with "washday Monday," as it was a dish which could be cooked all day over a low flame while the women of the house attended to washing the family's clothes.
"Gumbo" (Gombô, in Louisiana Creole, Gombo, in Louisiana French); in French, or gombo, is the West African for okra, a staple food there. Okra is traditionally grown in regions of Africa and parts of the Middle East and Spain. Gombo is a shortened version of the West African words kilogombó or kigambó, also guingambó or quinbombó."Gumbo" became the anglicized version of the word Gombo after the English language became dominant in Louisiana.
Jambalaya is the second of the famous Louisiana Creole dishes. It developed in the European communities of New Orleans. It combined ham with sausage, rice and tomato as a variation of the Spanish dish paella, and was based on locally available ingredients. The name for jambalaya comes from the occitan language spoken in southern France, where it means mash-up and where it also design a type of rice cooked with chicken.
Today, jambalaya is commonly made with seafood (usually shrimp) or chicken, or a combination of shrimp and chicken. Most versions contain smoked sausage, more commonly used instead of ham in modern versions. However, a version of jambalaya that uses ham with shrimp may be closer to the original Creole dish.
Jambalaya is prepared in two ways: "red" and "brown." Red is the tomato-based version native to the bayou and also known as Urban Creole style. It is also found in parts of Iberia and St. Martin parishes, and generally uses shrimp or chicken stock.
After the Civil War, some French Creoles whose fortunes had collapsed moved out of New Orleans back to Creole Country, taking their recipes with them. Most of the food now made in New Orleans is more for tourists and is no longer traditional.
Zydeco (a transliteration in English of 'zaricô' (snapbeans) from the song, "Les haricots sont pas salés"), was born in Creole communities on the prairies of southwest Louisiana in the 1920s. It is often considered the Creole music of Louisiana. Zydeco purportedly hails from Là-là, a genre of music now defunct, and old south Louisiana jurés. As Louisiana French and Louisiana Creole was the lingua franca of the prairies of southwest Louisiana, zydeco was initially sung only in Louisiana French or Creole. Later, Louisiana Creoles, such as the 20th-century Chénier brothers, Andrus Espree (Beau Jocque), Rosie Lédet and others, added a new linguistic element to zydeco music. Today, most of zydeco's latest generation sings in English, Louisiana Creole, or Colonial Louisiana French.
Zydeco is related to Swamp Pop, Blues, and Jazz. It is the parent genre of the Acadian adaptation, "Cajun Music" (originally called Old Louisiana French Music). An instrument unique to zydeco is a form of washboard called the frottoir or scrub board. This is a vest made of corrugated aluminum, and played by the musician's working bottle openers or caps up and down the length of the vest.
The Creole music can be traced to the music of enslaved African people from the 19th century is represented in Slave Songs of the United States, first published in 1867. The final seven songs in that work are printed with melody along with text in Louisiana Creole. These and many other songs were sung by slaves on plantations, especially in St. Charles Parish, and when they gathered on Sundays at Congo Square in New Orleans.
Louisiana French (LF) is the regional variety of the French language spoken throughout contemporary Louisiana by individuals who today identify ethno-racially as Creole, Cajun or French, as well as some who identify as African-American, white, Irish, or other origins. Individuals and groups of individuals through innovation, adaptation and contact, continually enrich the French language spoken in Louisiana, seasoning it with linguistic features that can sometimes only be found in Louisiana.
Tulane University's Department of French and Italian's website prominently declares "In Louisiana, French is not a foreign language". Figures from U.S. decennial censuses report that roughly 250,000 Louisianans claimed to use or speak French in their homes.
Louisiana Creole (Kréyol La Lwizyàn) is a French Creole  language spoken by the Louisiana Creole people and sometimes Cajuns and whites of the state of Louisiana. The language consists of elements of French, Spanish, African, and Native American roots.
Among the eighteen governors of Louisiana between 1803–1865, six were French Creoles and spoke French: Jacques Villeré, Pierre Derbigny, Armand Beauvais, Jacques Dupré, Andre B. Roman, and Alexandre Mouton.
According to the historian Paul Lachance, "the addition of white immigrants to the white creole population enabled French-speakers to remain a majority of the white population [in New Orleans] until almost 1830. If a substantial proportion of free persons of color and slaves had not also spoken French, however, the Gallic community would have become a minority of the total population as early as 1820." In the 1850s, white Francophones remained an intact and vibrant community; they maintained instruction in French in two of the city's four school districts. In 1862, the Union general Ben Butler abolished French instruction in New Orleans schools, and statewide measures in 1864 and 1868 further cemented the policy. By the end of the 19th century, French usage in the city had faded significantly. However, as late as 1902 "one-fourth of the population of the city spoke French in ordinary daily intercourse, while another two-fourths was able to understand the language perfectly," and as late as 1945, one still encountered elderly Creole women who spoke no English. The last major French-language newspaper in New Orleans, L’Abeille de la Nouvelle-Orléans, ceased publication on December 27, 1923, after ninety-six years; according to some sources Le Courrier de la Nouvelle Orleans continued until 1955.
Today, it is generally in more rural areas that people continue to speak Louisiana French or Louisiana Creole. Also during the '40s and '50s many Creoles left Louisiana to find work in Texas, mostly in Houston and East Texas. The language and music is widely spoken there; the 5th ward of Houston was originally called Frenchtown due to the reason mentioned above. There were also Zydeco clubs started in Houston, like the famed Silver Slipper owned by a Creole named Alfred Cormier that has hosted the likes of Clifton Chenier and Boozoo Chavais.
The New Orleans Carnival season, with roots in preparing for the start of the Christian season of Lent, starts after Twelfth Night, on Epiphany (January 6). It is a season of parades, balls (some of them masquerade balls), and king cake parties. It has traditionally been part of the winter social season; at one time "coming out" parties for young women at débutante balls were timed for this season.
Celebrations are concentrated for about two weeks before and through Fat Tuesday (Mardi Gras in French), the day before Ash Wednesday. Usually there is one major parade each day (weather permitting); many days have several large parades. The largest and most elaborate parades take place the last five days of the season. In the final week of Carnival, many events large and small occur throughout New Orleans and surrounding communities.
The parades in New Orleans are organized by Carnival krewes. Krewe float riders toss throws to the crowds; the most common throws are strings of plastic colorful beads, doubloons (aluminum or wooden dollar-sized coins usually impressed with a krewe logo), decorated plastic throw cups, and small inexpensive toys. Major krewes follow the same parade schedule and route each year.
While many tourists center their Mardi Gras season activities on Bourbon Street and the French Quarter, none of the major Mardi Gras parades has entered the Quarter since 1972 because of its narrow streets and overhead obstructions. Instead, major parades originate in the Uptown and Mid-City districts and follow a route along St. Charles Avenue and Canal Street, on the upriver side of the French Quarter.
To New Orleanians, "Mardi Gras" specifically refers to the Tuesday before Lent, the highlight of the season. The term can also be used less specifically for the whole Carnival season, sometimes as "the Mardi Gras season". The terms "Fat Tuesday" or "Mardi Gras Day" always refer only to that specific day.
In addition, country Creoles in the Old Creole Parishes/Acadiana started the Mardi Gras Run.
While the sophisticated Creole society of New Orleans has historically received much attention, the Cane River area developed its own strong Creole culture. The Cane River Creole community in the northern part of the state, along the Red River and Cane River, is made up of multi-racial descendants of French, Spanish, Africans, Native Americans, similar mixed Creole migrants from New Orleans, and various other ethnic groups who inhabited this region in the 18th and early 19th centuries. The community is centered around Isle Brevelle in lower Natchitoches Parish, Louisiana. There are many Creole communities within Natchitoches Parish, including Natchitoches, Cloutierville, Derry, Gorum, and Natchez. Many of their historic plantations still exist. Some have been designated as National Historic Landmarks, and are noted within the Cane River National Heritage Area, as well as the Cane River Creole Historic Park. Some plantations are sites on the Louisiana African American Heritage Trail.
Isle Brevelle, the area of land between Cane River and Bayou Brevelle, encompasses approximately 18,000 acres (73 km2) of land, 16,000 acres of which are still owned by descendants of the original Creole families. The Cane River as well as Avoyelles and St.Landry Creole family surnames include but are not limited to: Métoyer, LeRoux, Hughes, McClain, Evans, Boyér, LaCour, Lemelle, Carriere, Damas, Fuselier, Biagas, Simien Reynaud, Bernard, Lambre', Arnaud, PrudHomme, Balthazar, Chevalier, Dunn, Hebert, Fredieu, Llorens, Barre', Buard, Bayonne, Bossier, Brossette, Cyriak, Cyriaque, Coutée, Cassine, Colston, Monette, Esprit, Sylvie, Sylvan, Moran, Rachal, Conant,Guillory, Antee, LéBon, Lefìls, Papillion, Arceneaux, DeBòis, Landry, Gravés, Deculus, St. Romain, Beaudion,LaCaze, DeCuir, Pantallion, Mathés, Mullone, Severin, Byone, St. Ville, Delphin, Sarpy, Laurent, De Soto, Christophe, Mathis, Honoré, De Sadier, Anty, Dubreil, Roque, Cloutier, Le Vasseur, Vachon, Versher, Vercher, Mezière, Bellow, Gallien, Conde, Porche and Dupré. (Most of the surnames are of French and sometimes Spanish origin).
Another historic area to Louisiana is Pointe Coupee, an area northwest of Baton Rouge. This area is known for the False River; the parish seat is New Roads, and villages including Morganza are located off the river. This parish is known to be uniquely Creole; today a large portion of the nearly 22,000 residents can trace Creole ancestry. The area was noted for its many plantations and cultural life during the French, Spanish, and American colonial periods.
The population here had become bilingual or even trilingual with French, Louisiana Creole, and English because of its plantation business before most of Louisiana. The Louisiana Creole language is widely associated with this parish; the local mainland French and Creole (i.e., locally born) plantation owners and their African slaves formed it as communication language, which became the primary language for many Pointe Coupee residents well into the 20th century. The local white and black populations as well as persons of blended ethnicity spoke the language, because of its importance to the region; Italian immigrants in the 19th century often adopted the language.
Common Creole family names of the region include the following: Battley, Parker, Guerin, Jarreau, Bridgewater, Decuir, Gremillion, Roberson, Christophe, Joseph, Part, Major, Valéry, Robert, Francois, Aguillard, Duperon, St. Amant, Domingue, Patin, Porche, Chenevert, Carmouche, Gaines, Fabre, Jarreau, St. Romain, Bonaventure, Bergeron, Pourciau, Morel, Tounoir, and dozens more.
Brian J. Costello, an 11th generation Pointe Coupee Parish Creole, is the premiere historian, author and archivist on Pointe Coupee's Creole population, language, social and material culture. Most of his 18 solely-authored books and five co-authored books as of 2014 specifically address these topics. He was immersed in the area's Louisiana Creole dialect in his childhood, through inter-familial and community immersion and is, therefore, one of the dialect's most fluent, and last, speakers.
Avoyelles Parish has a history rich in Creole ancestry. Marksville has a significant populace of French Creoles who have Native American ancestry. The languages that are spoken are Louisiana French and English. This parish was established in 1750. The Creole community in Avoyelles parish is alive and well and has a unique blend of family, food and Creole culture. Creole family names of this region are: Sylvan, LeRoux, Auzenne, Mouton, Moten, Normand, Gaspard, Fontenot, Chargois, Fuselier, Ravarre, Perrie, Carriere, Barbin, DeBellevue, Goudeau, Bordelon, Gauthier, Lamartiniere, Lemoine, Gremillion, Broussard, Boutte, Esprit, Rabalais, Beaudoin, DeCuir, Dufour, DuCote, Deshotels, Muellon, Lemelle, Saucier and Biagas. A French Creole Heritage day has been held annually in Avoyelles Parish on Bastille Day since 2012.
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Evangeline Parish was formed out of the northwestern part of St. Landry Parish in 1910, and is therefore, a former part of the old Poste des Opelousas territory. Most of this region's population was a direct result of the North American Creole & Metis influx of 1763, the result of the end of the French & Indian War which saw former French colonial settlements from as far away as "Upper Louisiana" (Great Lakes region, Indiana, Illinois) to "Lower Louisiana's" (Illinois, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama),ceded to British America. The majority of these French Creoles and metis peoples chose to leave their former homes electing to head for the only 'French' exempted settlement area in Lower Louisiana, the "Territory of Orleans" or the modern State of Louisiana. These Creoles and metis families generally did not remain in New Orleans and opted for settlement in the northwestern "Creole parishes" of higher ground. This area reaches upwards to Pointe Coupee, St. Landry, Avoyelles and what became Evangeline Parish in 1910. Along with these diverse metis & Creole families, came West African Creole slaves and free people of color. Still later, Saint-Domingue Creoles, Napoleonic soldiers and 19th century French families would also settle this region. One of Napoleon Bonaparte's adjutant majors is actually considered the founder of Ville Platte, the parish seat of Evangeline Parish. General Antoine Paul Joseph Louis Garrigues de Flaugeac and his fellow Napoleonic soldiers, Benoit DeBaillon, Louis Van Hille and Wartelle descendants also settled in St. Landry Parish and became important public, civic and political figures. They were discovered on the levee in tattered uniforms by a wealthy Creole planter, "Grand Louis' Fontenot of St. Landry (and what is now, Evangeline Parish), a descendant of one of Governor Jean-Batiste LeMoyne, Sieur de Bienville's French officers from Fort Toulouse, in what is now the State of Alabama. See Napoleon's Soldiers In America, by Simone de la Souchere-Delery, 1998. Many Colonial French, Swiss German, Austrian and Spanish Creole surnames still remain among prominent and common families alike in Evangeline Parish. Some later Irish and Italian names also appear. Surnames such as, Ardoin, Aguillard, Mouton, Moten, LeRoux, Fontenot, LaFleur, Bordelon, Brignac, Brunet, Buller (Buhler), Catoire, Chapman, Coreil, Darbonne, DeBaillion, DeVille, DeVilliers, Duos, Dupre' Estillette, Guillory, Milano-Hebert, Gradney, Landreneau, LaTour, LeBas, LeBleu, Miller, Morein, Moreau, Mounier, Ortego, Perrodin, Pierotti, Pitre (rare Acadian-Creole), Rozas, Saucier, Schexnayder, Sebastien, Sittig, Soileau, Veillon, Vidrine, Vizinat and many more are reminiscent of the late French Colonial, early Spanish and later American period of this region's history. See Louisiana's French Creole Culinary & Linguistic Traditions: Facts vs. Fiction Before And Since Cajunization 2013, by J. LaFleur, Brian Costello w/ Dr. Ina Fandrich. As of 2013, this parish was once again recognized by the March 2013 Regular Session of the Louisiana Legislature as part of the Creole Parishes, with the passage of SR No. 30. Other parishes so recognized include Avoyelles, St. Landry and Pointe Coupee Parishes. Natchitoches Parish also remains recognized as "Creole." Evangeline Parish's French-speaking Senator, Eric LaFleur sponsored SR No. 30 which was written by Louisiana French Creole scholar, educator and author, John laFleur II. The parish's namesake of "Evangeline" is a reflection of the affection the parish's founder, Paulin Fontenot had for Henry Wadsworth's famous poem of the same name, and not an indication of the parish's ethnic origin. The adoption of "Cajun" by the residents of this parish reflects both the popular commerce as well as media conditioning, since this northwestern region of the French-speaking triangle was never part of the Acadian settlement region of the Spanish period. See Dr. Carl A. Brasseaux's "The Founding of New Acadia: The Beginnings of Acadian Life in Louisiana," 1765-1803. The community now hosts an annual "Creole Families Bastille Day (weekend) Heritage & Honorarium Festival in which a celebration of Louisiana's multi-ethnic French Creoles is held, with Catholic mass, Bastille Day Champagne toasting of honorees who've worked in some way to preserve and promote the French Creole heritage and language traditions. Louisiana authors, Creole food and cultural events featuring scholarly lectures and historical information along with fun for families with free admission and vendor booths are also a feature of this very interesting festival which unites all French Creoles who share this common culture and heritage.
St. Landry Parish has a significant population of Creoles, especially in Opelousas and its surrounding areas. The traditions and Creole heritage are prevalent in Opelousas, Port Barre, Melville, Palmetto, Lawtell, Swords, Mallet, Frilot Cove, Plaisance, Pitreville, and many other villages, towns and communities. The Roman Catholic Church and French/Creole language are dominant features of this rich culture. Zydeco musicians host festivals all through the year. Some Creole family names are: Ardoin, Vidrine, Davis, Fontenot, Mouton, Moten, LeRoux, Guillory, Esprit, Jolivette, Jolivet, Rosignon (Rousillion), Sonnier, Hollier, Frilot, Roberts, Papillion, Simien, Lemon(d), Gradney, Gradnigo, Declouette, Judge, Rideau, Barnabe, Bossier, Bushnell, Pain, Cezar, Lafleur, Thierry, Rene, Darbonne, Gobert, Coutee, Fontenot, Chargois, McCrea, Villere, LaChappelle, Delafosse, Dupre, Birotte, LeBon, Guilbeaux, Arceneaux, Breaux, Chevalier, Durousseau, Fruge', Lavergne, Chachere, Aubespin, Auzenne, Chenier, Chretien, Ledet, Fuselier, Carrier(e), LaStrapes, Lavigne, Piert, LaFleur, Lemelle, Leblanc, Deculus, Chavis, Victorian, St Mary, Caesar (Ceaser), Frank and Soileau .
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