In 1972, the Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage was adopted, which resulted in the creation of the World Heritage list. Each year, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) designates sites or areas that are of cultural, natural, or historic significance to the world, and to date there are more than 900 designated areas.
Grand-Pré National Historic site, in Kings County, Nova Scotia, was designated as a World Heritage site on June 30, 2012.
Grand-Pré, which is French for "Great Meadow," was founded mainly by French settlers in the late 1600s in Acadie, which is now modern-day Nova Scotia, Canada. Those settlers became known as Acadians. Grand-Pré was one of several farming settlements in the Minas Basin, which is famous for its tidal marshlands. The Acadians built dikes to stem the tides along the basin and created a rich farmland for crops and pastures for animals.
In 1713, Acadie became part of Nova Scotia, ruled by the British. Rather than leave, the Acadians chose to live under British rule, and while most would not take an oath of allegiance to Britain, they agreed not to aid the French in the event of a war. In 1744, England and France were at war with each other, and more Acadians than English lived in Nova Scotia. The Acadians refused to take up arms against the French.
It all came to a head in 1755. The governor, Charles Lawrence, decided to address the Acadian issue by expelling them from Nova Scotia and relocating them to the British colonies south of Massachusetts down to Georgia. Before the year was out, 6,000 Acadians were deported. To ensure that they would not return, their towns and villages were burned to the ground. The final deportation took place in 1763, for a total of 10,000 people displaced from their homes.
By the mid-1800s, the fate of the Acadians was largely forgotten. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, an American poet, after hearing a story of the Acadians at a dinner party, penned the poem "Evangeline," about two young lovers separated during the expulsion.
The poem became so popular that tourists began coming to Evangeline's birthplace, although nothing remained there except a row of trees and the dykelands. To protect the land, John Frederic Herbin, whose mother was Acadian, purchased land that was believed to be the site of the church in the village of Grand-Pré.
A visit to this park, while off the beaten path, is well worth it. Going to the new visitor center and seeing the interpretive film are great ways to begin your experience. Following that, the walk to the church (with its spectacular stained-glass window) and the statue of Evangeline take you back in time to the simpler ways of the Acadians. For more information, visit the Parks Canada site.
Do you want to learn more about the UNESCO World Heritage site process? Visit this Encyclopedia Britannica blog.