To Dottie Hutchins, the St. John Valley is more than a place, it’s a feeling.
“There’s something really special about the valley..it’s a feeling of community, it’s a feeling of the family connection that people have,” she said.
Hutchins’ love for the area started in Fort Kent – the first time she watched the Can-Am sled dog races.
“I literally stood there in tears at the start on Main St,” she said.
The OxBow native loved the little town that could so much, she wanted to write a book about it. But before she could put pen to paper – she needed someone from the area to believe in her idea. She found that person in Lise Pelletier.
“It was like wow, she really gets it about the St. John Valley, she really really does..and I want to do this,” said Pelletier.
Pelletier wanted to make the book bigger than just Fort Kent. And so Acadian Roots: Images of the St. John Valley was born. Written by Hutchins and translated into French by Pelletier — the book tells the story of the Acadians survival after being expelled from Nova Scotia and settling in Madawaska three decades later. And it wouldn’t be complete without the 100 pages of pictures from the county’s legendary photographer Paul Cyr.
“He likes to just say that he has a knack of being at the right place at the right time…but he thinks it all out..he knows where the sun is going to be, he knows where the moon is going to be, he knows exactly what he wants to shoot and he’s there at daylight, he’s there at midnight or whenever it takes to take the picture,”said Hutchins.
Cyr captured more than 27 towns on both sides of the river. He himself also happens to be a descendant of one of the original Acadian settlers. His family is traced genealogically through the book. The rest of the book is filled with stories, sayings, and recipes that help make Acadians who they are.
“The name Acadia does not exist on any piece of land so it becomes even more important for them to hang on to other elements of culture and identification,” said Pelletier.
Hutchins’ goal is for those still in the Valley and those who have left, to find themselves inside the pages.
“People are doing that – they’re opening the book up, and they’re going ‘there’s my house’, ‘there’s my neighbors’,” said Hutchins.
Taking those of Acadian heritage back to their roots – one story, one picture, one memory at a time.
Hutchins and Cyr are holding a book launch tomorrow at 3:30 at the Acadian Archives in Fort Kent…they’ll also be having a signing at TAMC on July 17th. It’s also available at www.dottiehutchins.com.