Sunday we launched the return of one of KLFY News 10's most popular feature segments highlighting the "Faces and Places" of Acadiana.
We begin with a man whose unusual hobby has become perhaps one of Acadiana's best and most accessible chronicle of Acadianans and Creoles, two ethnicities he says have more in common than most people realize.
Lafayette attorney and leading cultural activist Warren Perrin is halfway through a massive project to document the history of Acadiana. The project, to create a pictorial book of history began more than two decades ago starting with the first book about the history of Erath and then the 1st Acadian Beau Soliel next, he headed north.
"Why not go the oldest settlement in the entire region, Opelousas - St. Landry Parish and I asked Pat Moreau and Phil Andrepont old friends of mine to help and we launched this project about two years ago and the book was published in December." said Perrin.
Perrin says the cultural make up of the parish fascinated him...from learning about how Opelousas was named after the Appalousa Indian Tribe that settled there in the 15th century to the Spanish and French influences who for battled for control of the region.
"I'd never seen such a diverse culture." said Perrin.
Made even more diverse with the arrival of Africans or slaves...so many, the area is still recorded as one of the most densely populated.
"The population of St. Landry Parish is nearly 50% African-American. " said Perrin.
The names of a lot of African-Americans in Acadiana, they share the same French names and Acadian names.
"We take that so much for granted the Canadians-French don't they find that totally fascinating." said Perrin.
So impressed Perrin says the Canadian government financed a documentary to show the closeness of what makes the unique Cajun Creole cultures.
Much of that uniqueness includes what many outsiders see once in Acadiana the family ties, the fact that many don't move away and remain close to home and our joi de vivre. Perrin learned Cajuns and Creoles have more than names, cuisine and culture in common it's something that runs deeper.
"Historian from Brigham Young University, Chris Hodson, he commented when your ancestors have been uprooted like that, it's in your DNA and it makes your strive to have close knit communities." said Perrin.
"Uprooted" meaning both the Cajuns and Africans found themselves a long way from their homelands either thrown out or removed.
"Other ethnicities came to America to be Americans, that wasn't the goal of the Africans or the Acadians. The Acadians came to establish new Acadia - they told the government give us lands we're going to establish our new Acadia - which of course became Acadiana symbolically and the same thing with the Africans. Obviously they did the best they could with their circumstances and they tried to create their own communities, but you can not find other ethnic groups in America that had the same experience." said Perrin.
The book also highlights achievers from St. Landry Parish including former KLFY personality the late Jim Olivier and KLFY News 10 anchor Darla Montgomery. The book is available at bookstores and pharmacies throughout Acadiana and at the law offices of Pat Moreau and Warren Perrin, and Phillip Andrepont of Andrepont Printing in Opelousas.
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