New Book Features First Known Memoir of a Mi'kmaq

Nova Scotia Museum

October 11, 2002 4:07 PM

Tracking Dr. Lonecloud: Showman to Legend Keeper will be launched
at the Museum of Natural History on Wednesday, Oct. 16. The book
includes the first known memoir of a Mi'kmaq, Jerry Lonecloud,
hunter, healer and showman.

The book was written by Ruth Whitehead, an ethnologist at the
Nova Scotia Museum, and co-published by Goose Lane Editions and
the museum.

She reconstructed and annotated the memoir from interview notes
made by Clara Dennis, a Nova Scotia reporter and writer, in the
1920s. The book also many historical photographs and references
to records of artifacts and specimens brought by Dr. Lonecloud to
Harry Piers, curator of the then Provincial Museum of Nova Scotia
in Halifax.

Jerry Lonecloud was born Germain Laksi, in 1852 in Belfast, Me.,
to Mi'kmaq parents from Nova Scotia. As a youth, he lived in
Vermont. Orphaned at the age of 14, he set out on a two-year
adventure to bring his two brothers and one sister back to Nova
Scotia.

Trained in the use of herbal medicine by his parents, he fell
easily into the role of Dr. Lonecloud in the American medicine
shows of the 1880s, including Healey and Bigelow's Kickapoo
Indian Medicine Company, Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show and his
own company, the Kiowa Medicine Show, for which he made the
medicines. During the rest of his remarkable life, he sold tonics
in South America, prospected for gold, and guided sportsmen into
the woods of Maritime Canada as they searched for moose and
caribou.

Hunter, healer and showman, Dr. Lonecloud valued, studied,
preserved and passed on many of the traditional ways, stories and
natural medicines of his people.

"During Dr. Lonecloud's travels, he gained a great amount of
personal knowledge of different cultures, and in return he shared
his vast knowledge of the Mi'kmaw people," notes Donald Julien in
the book's preface. Mr. Julien is executive director of the
Confederacy of Mainland Mi'kmaq and is a Mi'kmaq from Millbrook
First Nation who has researched his people's history for 30
years.

Ms. Whitehead became aware of Jerry Lonecloud in 1972 when she
began working with the collections and records of the Nova Scotia
Museum, much of which had been acquired during the tenure of
Harry Piers, curator from 1899 to 1940.

She was also on hand when photos by Clara Dennis were donated to
the museum in 1973. The collection included black and white
images of Mi'kmaq people and portraits of Dr. Lonecloud. Research
on the book really began in 1992 when colleague Trudy Sable took
Ms. Whitehead to look at the Clara Dennis material in the Public
Archives of Nova Scotia. They spent months transcribing notebooks
containing Dr. Lonecloud's memoir, recorded by Clara Dennis in
pencil in children's scribblers.

"Backtrailing this person has been a real adventure," said Ms.
Whitehead.

Although some people have doubted Dr. Lonecloud's claim to
Mi'kmaq heritage, she believes it cannot be questioned.

"He was born Mi'kmaq, raised Mi'kmaq, spoke Mi'kmaq, and died
Mi'kmaq," said Ms. Whitehead. "His memoirs and my research prove
that beyond a doubt."

The 200-page book is available for $19.95 at bookstores or from
the Nova Scotia Museum by calling 1-800-632-1114 toll-free.

The public is invited to the book launch on Wednesday, Oct. 16, 5
p.m. - 6:30 p.m. It takes place in the auditorium of the Museum
of Natural History, 1747 Summer St., Halifax. A book-signing
opportunity with the author will follow, and books will be
available for purchase.

Some artifacts and historical documents relating to Dr.
Lonecloud, and his association with Clara Dennis and Harry Piers,
will be on display during the launch and will remain on exhibit
at the Museum of Natural History until Nov. 11.

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Contact: Judith Shiers Milne
         Nova Scotia Museum
         902-424-7398
         E-mail: shiersjl@gov.ns.ca

         Susanne Alexander
         Goose Lane Editions
         1-888-926-8377
         E-mail: s.alexander@gooselane.com

NOTE: Review copies of the book can be requested from
Susanne Alexander, Goose Lane Editions, by calling 1-888-926-8377
or via e-mail at s.alexander@gooselane.com .

Kjd         October 11, 2002         4:05 P.M.