Since their origins in the early 1700s, the Creole people of Louisiana have forged a unique identity for themselves in the American Southeast.
by Steven Knorr
The world Creole has held many different meanings throughout its history of use. People called Creoles in the Americas adapted to the Louisiana Purchase and came to create a culture and identity of their own in the Southern United States. The word Creole is unique among American nomenclature, referring to a specific group of people with French ancestry in the South and in the Caribbean. The term is not applied to French Canadians, though sometimes the term can be used to refer to Spanish speaking people of mixed racial origin. While today many whites with French ancestry are known as Cajun in the Deep South, people of mixed-racial ancestry with French heritage often exclusively refer to themselves as Creole. The word Creole itself comes from the Portuguese word crioulo which means someone one who was raised in a house, especially a servant. This word was adopted by other European languages and by the 1500s the word crioulo (or the Spanish criollo) would specifically refer to someone “native to the colonies.”
Origins of the Creole People
Louisiana was a difficult place for settlers in the 18th century. French exploration of the Mississippi delta was conducted by La Salle, who in 1682 proclaimed the region south of what is now Memphis Louisiane in honor of Louis XIV. French settlement first began with the creation of Fort Maurepas (modern Biloxi, Mississippi), and the region was soon given colonial governance. In 1722, four years after its founding, the city of New Orleans became the capital of French Louisiana. The governor general ruled both Upper Louisiana (Haute-Louisiane), the modern Midwest, and Lower Louisiana (Basse-Louisiane), the Mississippi drainage basin in what is now Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana. Settlers came from France, Canada, and the French West Indies.