Mier gave a most unique presentation on the heritage and history of the Cajuns last Thursday, Nov. 19, during the service organization's weekly meeting.
Mier dedicated the presentation, usually a children's presentation, to her bother Floyd Sonnier, an artist whose work and life-story she shared with Rotarians. Sonnier spent his time drawing and talking about preserving the Acadian culture, and Mier continues her brother's work today by visiting organizations, schools and other community groups spreading the Cajun culture.
Mier says her Sonnier and Thibodeaux ancestors, like all Cajun ancestors, came from France and Canada. "In Canada, my ancestors called themselves Acadians. When they came to Louisiana, they changed the name from 'Acadien' to 'Cadien' and then to 'Cajun'," Mier explained.
Mamee Mier says she was Cajun when Cajun wasn't cool. Every year for 28 years when she taught teenagers, at least one would ask her why she talked so funny. Mier says she would laughingly explain to them that she was Cajun, and then launch into a brief history of the culture.
On a more serious note, Mamee Mier said when she was in college at USL, her English professor would tell the class to get rid of their Cajun accents. "There is still a battle today to keep the French education going," Mier explained. "It's not that we don't want the Spanish or the German [education], we're just asking not to push the French out...it's a huge part of what makes up the Louisiana heritage."
Part of Mier's presentation also included explaining the journey the Acadians took from France to Canada, and the eventual appreciation for the Cajun way of talking, cooking, their music and most of all their "joie de vivre" (joy of living).
Papillion, a Cajun man who plays guitar and sings for children, has performed in Zachary at least twice, Mier said. Papillion means butterfly, and is a symbol for the Acadians.
Much deeper though, Mier explained that the French settled around the Bay of Fundy in the early 1600s. In Acadie (Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island), the Acadians turned salt marshes into fertile meadows. They became known for their strong work ethic, and brought with them a unique way of farming the dykes that was unique in North America.
The Acadians eventually made new friends, and grew their communities by marrying other Acadians, some French and English soldiers, and even some MicMac indians. "The Acadians built a community where relatives and friends would help each other," Mier explained. "We love our families, our land, our sense of community and most of all, we love our God."
The Acadians lived peacefully for over 100 years, attempting to remain neutral in Nova Scotia, as the war between the French and English grew.
Eventually, the Acadians were deported after the machinations of a British lieutenant governor named Charles Lawrence caused the Acadians to join their families in Louisiana.
Today, Cajun culture is alive and well with its own style of food (etoufee, jambalaya, gumbo, boudin, cracklins); music; musical instruments (ti fere, harmonica, accordion, fiddle, spoons and a rub-board); toys (yo-yo, pick-up sticks, string art); and of course, its very own Mardi Gras.
Cajun Mardi Gras, compared with New Orleans Mardi Gras, is held in Southwest Louisiana in Mamou, Eunice and Hathaway.
Mamee Mier says, "Laissez les bon temps rouler!"