Piau: Journey to the Promised Land

Piau: Journey to the Promised Land


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A glimpse into the life of Acadian folk hero Pierre Belliveau, known as Piau, who led his people into exile during the 1755 expulsion of the Acadians.

Acadian leader Pierre Belliveau, known as Piau, led hundreds of Acadians into the wilderness to escape the Acadian Expulsion. He vowed to lead them to the Promised Land, where they could live without fear of deportation. Over the years he became a prisoner of war, was deported to Boston, and built a castle before finally leading his people to Memramcook, New Brunswick, the Promised Land.

This historical novel, based on a true story, explores the armed and quiet resistance of the Acadian people and the Acadian figure who dedicated his life to securing the safety and well-being of his people. Told by a direct descendant of Pierre Belliveau, Bruce Murray, it is a story of suffering, courage, and hope.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781459738454
Publisher: Dundurn Press
Publication date: 09/19/2017
Pages: 272
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Bruce Murray is a former singer-songwriter who recorded with CBS and Capitol Records. He has degrees from St. Francis Xavier University, the University of Toronto, and an M.A. in history from the University of Victoria. Bruce lives in Toronto.

Read an Excerpt

I am Pierre Belliveau but my people call me Piau. I am in my hundredth year. My spirit has embraced this land and its ancestry for nearly a century. Every possible joy and calamity has come upon me because I am Acadian. Like Moses and the Israelites, who escaped the mighty pharoah and his army, my people and I escaped the British and their army and have wandered through the wilderness, searching for the Promised Land. The North Star guided me into exile and on my return
I crossed the River Jordan into the land of Canaan. I am my own master here, and those I love are with me; therefore I am one with God, who has protected me, and one with my ancestors, who bore great hardships in order that I should survive, procreate, and live in this land. I was a witness to the resurrection of my people and I surrender my spirit happily in the knowledge that my descendants will forever remain in the land of their forefathers.

I speak of the British as if they are other than me, but I have forever been a man with a divided spirit. I have witnessed the atrocities inflicted on my people and my family by British soldiers, but I must confess that I myself am part English.

My mother was half French and half English. Her father, Charles
Melanson, was an English Protestant, born of a French Huguenot father and an English mother. He sailed into Port Royal on the ship Satisfaction at age fourteen with his British parents and his brother, Peter (my great-uncle
Pierre), when Acadia became an English colony in 1657. Her father was to become the patriarch of Melanson Village.

In 1664 my grandfather Charles married my grandmother Marie, daughter of Abraham Dugas, the gun-maker to the king of France and armourer at the fort. Following their marriage, my grandfather decided to adopt his mother’s family name Melanson, doing so (I was told) to distinguish himself from his older brother, Pierre Laverdure. The influence of this English blood flowing through my family’s veins has been profound. Because Acadia has been a British possession for most of my life, I was inclined and encouraged to embrace both my heritages.

If the influence of the English blood in my veins has been strong, even stronger has been the influence of the French blood. Perhaps this is a result of my father’s death. I do not remember that event — I was only a year old.
However, I have heard so many tales of his courage fighting General March and the British that I have absorbed others’ memories of him as my own. In my own conflict with the conquerors, I heard my father’s whispers in my ear inspiring me to lead my people to a land of exile so that our survival would be assured. He has walked with me my entire life, whispering to me that I
am the reason he lived. He has always been part of my journey.

My mother, Madeleine, who spoke both French and English perfectly,
realized that teaching the English language to her children would grant them special privileges in this life. No one embraced the English language more than I. My great-uncle Peter, called Pierre Laverdure, who lived in Grand
Pré, announced when I was a boy, “Piau speaks the King’s English with the eloquence of a proper English gentleman.” I basked in his praise. Under his tutelage I learned to read and write English with considerable fluency.
French and English had no nationhood for me. I do not remember not communicating in both tongues. But French was the language of my father.
And was not my father killed by an English musket? There lies the conflict.

Looking back on my life and the deportation of my people, I am aware that the actions of both the French and the English, with little concern for the well-being of the Acadians, shaped our tragic history, and each was responsible for our betrayal.

As I have said, it was Pierre Laverdure who taught me to read and write
English. My first recollection of Uncle Pierre (he was really my great-uncle) was from when I was eight years old. He visited us with his wife, Aunt
Marie-Marguerite, an elegant woman, the daughter of Sieur de Pobomcoup.
They arrived by vessel from Grand Pré, the settlement they founded. My uncle’s arrival was met with much fanfare in Port Royal.

Because he was an English gentleman, he was received with the utmost respect by Lieutenant-Governor Caulfield at Annapolis. My uncle had a noble carriage but he had an easy way with people. His children he called his seeds, and he never failed to remark that the wind had blown them to all parts of Acadia, boasting that he had in excess of sixty grandchildren. He had arrived to celebrate the end of the harvest with the family of his deceased brother, Charles, at Melanson Village and to deliver his crops and produce to the English soldiers of the garrison at Annapolis.

After doing business with the new British lieutenant-governor and spending several evenings in the company of the officers at the fort, he joined his family for a week of harvest celebrations. It was at this time, not too many years after the Treaty of Utrecht had established British rule in
Acadia, that Uncle Pierre spoke to my mother about my spending the winter with him and Aunt Marie-Marguerite. He remarked to my mother that his home lacked the presence of children and he would like the opportunity to spend time with me, something he believed would benefit me.

“I have noticed in Piau a rare intelligence in one so young. I can imagine he has a great capacity for learning,” he told my mother.

I was the youngest child and she believed that she could spare me for the winter season. My grandmother was less easy with my leaving, however.
She did not easily give me up for the winter. I was Grandmama Marie’s first grandson born after the death of my grandfather and she had pampered me from birth; I gave her love and affection in return. She was responsible for my French education. On parting with me she declared that every day she would blow kisses into the wind hoping they would find me in Grand Pré. I
asked her how that could be possible and she replied that they would be soaring on a warm breeze and that they would find my cheeks and caress them.

Uncle and I sailed with the tide and the wind to Grand Pré, journeying so that I could begin my education, an event that would change my life irrevocably. This was my first long trip by boat. We followed the shoreline of the mighty Bay of Fundy, witnessing the riot of colours from the sugar maples along the shore. We floated swiftly past Blomidon, the majestic mountain of the Great Spirit Glooscap at Cap Baptiste. As evening approached, I could see the autumn sun setting over the valley at Minas. The richness of the golds impressed me as a young boy — I
believed I was entering paradise.

As we sailed into Minas Basin, Uncle pointed to a stone building being constructed in the distance. With considerable pride, he declared, “There is the new church of Saint Charles rising up from the ruins of the old. It was destroyed by the English during the great battle of 1704. I am a master stonemason and I will resurrect the old chapel stone by stone in defiance of the British conquerors.”

I was puzzled by the emphatic nature of Uncle’s comment.
“But Uncle, you are English. You are friends with the lieutenant-governor and all the officers at the garrison.”

“Piau, you must learn to see beyond appearances. It is true I was born in
England — yes, I was educated there, I became a journeyman stonemason in
Yorkshire, and my parents were English. However, I have lived in Acadia for over fifty years. I married your aunt, who is French, embraced the Roman
Catholic faith as my own, and have more often than not been in the service of the French king. The blood that flows through my veins was at one time
English but now it is Acadian. My English ways have stood us in good stead during these times of British rule, but there remains no more to it than that.”
Over time, I, too, was to cultivate these skills, which had taken Uncle
Pierre fifty years to perfect.

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