Although the Acadians were remarkably self-sufficient there were some things they could not make or grow themselves, and for these needs they established trading links with New England and with other French settlements. Molasses, cooking pots, board axes, clay pipes, gunpowder, fabrics, and rum came through New England. Through Louisbourg they obtained cottons, thread, lace, firearms and religious items from France. The Acadians were fond of smoking (both men and women smoked): their clay pipes came mostly from England, although at times they did make their own, using local red clay. In return for these items, the Acadians traded grain from the fertile marshlands, cattle well-fed on salt-marsh hay, and furs they had obtained from trapping and trade with the Mi'kmaq. The objects illustrated in this painting represent artifacts recovered from Acadian archaeological sites or listed in the inventories of ships that actually traded with the Acadians.
Like many people isolated by circumstances, the Acadians had a strong sense of community and performed many tasks together. One of the most important of these was the regular maintenance of the dykes. Another, which was much enjoyed, occurred when a young couple married. The whole village would gather to help clear land and to build a house for them. It became an occasion for work, fun, food and celebration. Music on these occasions was often provided by fiddles and jaw harps.
For more than a hundred years the Acadians were able to maintain their self-contained lifestyle, enjoying their large families and peaceful communities, strengthened by a firm sense of religion. They lived on friendly terms with their immediate neighbours, the Mi'kmaq Indians, and profited from their trading links with New England and other French settlements. By preference, they had no strong ties with either France or England, and tried to avoid confrontation with them.
In some sense, it was their very isolation from the influence of these major colonial powers, coupled with the impact of the marshland landscape which was their home, which helped the Acadians to establish and maintain their unique way of life.