Père Anselme Chiasson, 1911 — 2004

Identity through History

Until well into the 20th century, the leading figures in Acadian communities were often priests. As in all professions, some stood out more than others. One of the great champions of Acadian history across the Maritimes — and the nourishing role that history, folklore and traditions play in shaping a people and their culture — was Père Anselme Chiasson.

Père Chiasson grew up in Chéticamp and went on to study classics and theology in Ottawa and Montreal. In 1938, he was ordained as a Capuchin priest at Chéticamp. The rest of his life, much of which was spent in Moncton, he devoted to living his faith, carrying out research on the Acadian experience and serving the different communities where he lived and worked. Beginning in the 1960s and continuing for the rest of his life, he made countless contributions to strengthen the Acadian identity. In 1960, he co-founded the Société historique acadienne, which still exists today. In 1961, he founded the first Acadian publishing house, Les Éditions des Aboiteaux.

Père Chiasson loved to visit Acadian villages around the Maritimes. In each one he would collect, document and eventually communicate to a wider public stories, legends, and customs. Based on his research, Chiasson published five editions of Acadian songs, as well as four traditional history books, one of which was a much-admired history of his place of birth, Chéticamp, histoire et traditions acadiennes (1961).

For the profound influence he had on Acadian history, culture, and genealogy, Père Chiasson received many awards and honours, including the status of Chevalier with the French National Order of Merit (1999), Chevalier of the Order of La Pléiade (2002), and Officer with the Order of Canada (2003).