The Bayou Vermilion District opened the Vermilionville Living History Museum and Folklife Park as a way to preserve and represent the Acadian, Creole and Native American cultures in the Attakapas region from the time period 1765-1890. Since its opening in 1990, the historic village has become one of Lafayette’s premiere tourist attractions welcoming more than 50,000 visitors each year from around the world. Vermilionville sits on a beautiful tree-covered 23-acre site on the banks of the Bayou Vermilion in the heart of Lafayette, providing a place for history, music, food, cultural exchange, historic architecture and much more.https://bayouvermiliondistrict.org/
In the Healer’s Garden, visitors can see, smell, and touch a collection of plants used for medicinal purposes for 250 years or more by Cajun, Creole, African-American, and Native American people in this area of South Louisiana known as Acadiana. Acadiana is an area rich in French heritage.
La Maison Acadienne (The Acadian House), an original 1850 Acadian cottage served as a school house on the Mouton Plantation and is still being used for educational purposes. This lovely cottage was rededicated last year as La Maison du Traiteur (the Home of the Healer) because it is now surrounded by Le Jardin du Traiteur (The Healer’s Garden), sponsored by the Lafayette Parish Master Gardeners Association (LPMGA).
The French first settled New Orleans and spread through the area. Then came the arrival of the French-speaking Acadians of Nova Scotia (1760s), and the area continued to receive infusions of French-speakers at multiple points in its history. French is still spoken in Louisiana’s Cajun, Creole and Native American communities today, in addition to others. The Healer’s Garden project reflects this influence by including plant signs in French, in addition to English (Common Name), and Latin (Scientific Name).
All of the nearly 80 plants can be found seasonally around the 168-year-old Acadian home for visitors to smell, touch, and learn more about their purpose over the last two centuries.
The plants in this medicinal garden are native or were brought to the region sometime before 1900. Again, there’s more than what meets the eye in this living exhibit. Showy blossoms, some of which may grow in your yard, were used as daily and even dire medicine.
Fragrant honeysuckle remedied sores, and the flowering saltmarsh morning glory was an ingredient to treat snake bites. Nowadays, many of the essential medical plants would be perceived by the average gardener as weeds.
The Healer’s Garden is also dedicated to remedies used by South Louisiana faith healers known as traiteurs. Though their traditions are fading with each generation, traiteurs aid those who seek them with Catholic prayer and medicinal home remedies. This form of “alternative medicine” is a blend of French Creole and Cajun rituals, handed down from generation to generation .Le Jardin du Traiteur carries its share of tradition and lore. Its resident red bay tree, for example, was believed to “warm the blood” but was also hung above front doors to ward off evil spirits.