FORT KENT (NEWSCENTER MAINE) -- The story has come down to us in one word, "Evangeline." The narrative poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow tells the story of the Acadian people and it is one astonishing story.

The Acadians lived in the Eastern Maritimes. They were of French heritage, but had lived in North America so long, they felt no allegiance to France. They are thought to have been a happy, industrious people who worked cooperatively to improve their lives.

As a community they built dikes and started farm coops.

Around them, a series of wars erupted. During the French and Indian War, the British took control of the area. Seeing French people on great land, the British sent armed forces to relocate the Acadians without notice.

Evangeline is a sad and lovely story. It tells of Evangeline being separated from her beloved Gabriel on the even of their wedding. She searches for the rest of her life before finding Gabriel on his death bed and he dies in her arms.

The story did much for the Acadian people. It gave their plight voice and Evangeline became one of their symbols. In fact, thousands of women of Acadian heritage were named Evangeline, a name which Longfellow made up.

"Evangeline brought life from outside to a people and a history that had been completely neglected and eclipsed," said Lise Pelletier, Director of the Acadian Archives at the University of Maine at Fort Kent.

The poem leaves out the amount of Acadian resistance to the English. Many fought and died trying to protect their homeland.

In the end, the Acadians were removed from their homeland. They were dispersed throughout North American colonies, to England, France and Haiti.

Eventually, a group was welcomed in Louisiana by a Spanish and Catholic governor. They established a strong community there and others joined them. Hence, in that part of the country, Acadians are known as Cajuns.

They also thrive as a community in the St. John Valley where more than 80% of the people are thought to have some Acadian heritage.

The story of Evangeline is well worth reading. It often leads to a study of Acadian people which can be done at the Acadian Archives at the University of Maine in Fort Kent.