One of the most common questions I’m asked when guests discover that I’m a Canadian expatriate, is ‘how on earth have you learned so much about the city, given you’ve only been here a short time?’ The easy answer is that people aren’t always great explorers in their own city. As an outsider, I see things through the eyes of a tourist which helps when I’m trying to explain something that may seem obvious to someone who has grown up here. I’ve earned my local credibility by joining the ranks of the licensed professional tour guides, undertaking the required classes, passing the exam, and undergoing the various background checks. Fundamentally, as a university history major, I’m not afraid to ask questions. I’m curious. I dig deep in conversations and connections, in reading and in research. I have a wider world view, bringing with me a perspective outside this unique region. And I have an objective respect and reverence for the people, the culture and the history, from the earliest settlers, to the ambitious visionaries who are here today.

Interestingly, what I’ve come to learn since we moved here and married in 2012, is that my Canadian connection to New Orleans is actually based on a solid historical foundation that began with the city’s origins. Unbeknownst to many, Canadians have been fundamental in the founding and growth of the city, from its earliest colonial days to its most well known celebration.


Young, spirited adventurers from New France, the area from the Great Lakes to the Atlantic Ocean in Canada, were sent by the King of France to settle North America. A young man by the name of Rene Robert Cavalier, Sieur de LaSalle, a fur-trader and explorer living near Montreal, followed the advice of local native Indians, and sought out the Mississippi River from its source south to its mouth, having received royal sanction to create a territory from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. He claimed all of the land that touched the rivers that flowed into the Mississippi for King Louis XIV of France in 1682. This is the birth of Louisiana, covering almost 1/3 of the continental US.

Sieur de la Salle. Canadian Explorer, Founder of Louisiana Louisiana Claimed For French King by Canadian Sieur la Salle


Later, Pierre Le Moyne, or Sieur de Iberville and his brother, Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne, also known as Sieur de Bienville, were two of 14 children born in Montreal to a Frenchman who had moved across the ocean to Quebec. The brothers were part of a French expedition exploring the lower reaches of the continent, following the path set out earlier by LaSalle and his crew. Iberville founded the French Colony in 1699, but later died from yellow fever. His brother, Bienville, was left to continue the development of the area with provisions from Canada and France, naming New Orleans in 1718. Not only did Canadians name the Louisiana Territory and the city of New Orleans, Iberville named the larger lake Pontchartrain for his benefactor; the smaller one Maurepas, for Pontchartrain’s son; and the Bay St. Louis, for the patron saint of the king.

Sieur de Iberville and Sieur de Bienville. Canadian Explorers Founders of New Orleans


The city’s earliest settlers included hearty fur traders, farmers and trappers from Canada, as well as soldiers and fellow adventurers encouraged to travel with, or follow, the Le Moyne brothers. Upstanding Canadian women and children were selected to make the journey in order to stabilize the colony and encourage marriages and families. The city La Nouvelle-Orleans, was officially founded on May 7, 1718 by Bienville, naming it after Philippe d’Orleans, Duke of Orleans, who was Regent of France at the time. Bienville became the first governor of the Louisiana Territory, as well as the founder of European settlements and forts in nearby Biloxi, Mississippi and Mobile, Alabama. He held three terms as governor, and his vast plantation was eventually subdivided into smaller plantations in an area we now know as Uptown, Carrolton and the Riverbend.

Canadian Acadian. Cajun Louisiana Settlers


Interestingly, one could also attribute the famous Mardi Gras tradition to Canadians. Iberville, the older brother, arrived at the mouth of the Mississippi as early as 1699. When he and his crew discovered a bayou twelve miles upstream the next day on March 2, 1699, Shrove Tuesday, they named it Mardi Gras Bayou, introducing the religious term to the Louisiana territory for the first time. The French language, culture, laissez faire attitude, Catholicism and political influence are still felt throughout the city today. There’s a statue of Bienville in the lower French Quarter, and there are streets named after both brothers.

Mardi Gras. 1892 Comus Picayune


The Acadians, or Cajuns as they are known here, are also Canadian, originating from the east coast province of Nova Scotia. It’s been said that if you say Acadian three times you’ll end up with ‘Cajun’. Following the Seven Years War, of which the British won, French speaking Catholic Acadians were expected to convert their language to English and religion to Protestantism, as well as sign an unconditional pledge of allegiance to Britain, or leave. Those who were exiled over the next 40 years settled heavily upriver from New Orleans in Louisiana as well as along the eastern seaboard. The first group of 200 Acadians arrived in Louisiana on February 27, 1765. Through their industrious farming initiatives the city of New Orleans became self-sufficient, depending on locally grown produce, versus imported goods for their sustenance. Today, Cajuns are an official ethnic group, and make up a significant portion of south Louisiana's population, while exerting an enormous impact on the state's culture with their French language dialect, farming and religious traditions.

Canadian Acadian. Cajun Exiles

The most important answer as to why a Canadian should be your personal guide to this amazing city, however, is, I don’t take the answers I receive for granted. I’m by no means an expert and still have so much to learn; however, I’ve probably asked the same questions you’re likely going to ask. Let me share what I’ve discovered, and together, let’s see what else we can learn. I’m thrilled to share my newfound knowledge with friends who are equally eager to understand this unique gumbo of cultures. If I don’t have an answer, I will introduce you to someone who may. I’ll do the research and let you know what I find. Or I’ll hire a local who can share their heritage and expertise.

Having picked up my kids, my career, my pets and my life’s treasures to join my new husband in this grand adventure, I revel in my risk-taking, explorer’s philosophy. I’m pleased to continue this legacy by contributing to New Orleans’ growth, even in a small way. Let’s continue the Canadian tradition of exploration and discovery of this region on a journey, together.

**Photos were researched online and belong exclusively to their originators.