Acadians and French people arrived on Prince Edward Island in the early 1700s at a time when the Island was known as “Île-Saint-Jean” by people of European descent. But the Island was already inhabited when they arrived as it had been populated for a very long time by a community of Mi’kmaw people. The Mi’kmaw called the Island Kjiktu’lnu, which means “our great boat,” and Epekwitk, which means “cradled on the waves.”
After losing Acadia to England in 1713, France moved to establish a colony on Île-Saint-Jean. The first settlers from France and Acadia arrived in 1720. The French mostly engaged in cod fishery, while Acadians mostly settled as farmers.
Population growth in the colony proved to be slow. Twenty-eight years after the arrival of the first settlers, the population of settlers of Acadian and French origin on the Island had only reached 735 people. However, a rapid population growth occurred after 1748, when many families from Nova Scotia came to settle on the Island after British authorities threatened deportation. Over six years, the population grew to reach about 3000 people. Many other Acadian families sought shelter on the Island when Deportation began in 1755 in Nova Scotia.
Sadly, the colony’s demise occurred shortly after in 1758. After conquering the Fortress of Louisbourg on Île Royale (Cape Breton) during the Seven Years’ War, the British took possession of Île-Saint-Jean. A large proportion of the population was deported to France, and a good number of families fled to mainland. A few families managed to remain on the Island, maintaining an uninterrupted Acadian presence on the Island. In 1763, the Island is ceded to Great Britain with the Treaty of Paris, and it becomes an official British colony.