New Book Features First Known Memoir of a Mi'kmaq
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org .
Kjd October 11, 2002 4:05 P.M.