Tracking Doctor Lonecloud: Showman to Legend Keeper
Tracking Doctor Lonecloud: Showman to Legend Keeper is the autobiography of a Mi'kmaw healer born in 1854 to Mi'kmaw parents. Germain Bartlett Laksi, known later as Doctor Jerry Lonecloud, lived the fascinating life of guide, showman, seller of herbal remedies, and historian. Lonecloud's life was influenced by historic events in Canada and the United States. Born in Maine, Lonecloud's father enlisted in the Union army during the US Civil War. While he survived this devastating conflict, he lost his life a few years later while hunting for Abraham Lincoln's assassin, John Wilkes Booth. With the death of his father, Lonecloud and his younger siblings returned to Nova Scotia after the death of their mother. During the 1880s Lonecloud joined travelling medicine shows including Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show as well as his own, Kiowa Medicine Show, where he made and distributed his herbal remedies. These remedies he had learned as a youth from Mi'kmaw elders and healers. His life was one of travel and adventure but eventually he returned to Nova Scotia where with his wife and family he worked as a guide and continued to sell his herbal medicines. During the time of the First World War, tragedy struck the family once again. While Lonecloud was travelling, his two daughters were living on the outskirts of Halifax. During the Halifax Explosion, the small village where the girls lived was destroyed. Lonecloud had worked to have this small Mi'kmaw community recognized as an Indian Reserve by the federal government but the requests fell on deaf ears. Despite the loss Lonecloud carried on and befriended the curator of the Nova Scotia Museum. Over the next twenty-five years, the showman brought numerous artifacts to the museum and told the curator oral histories and legends of the Mi'kmaq. Later in his life Jerry Lonecloud recounted his memoirs to a local journalist and these interviews and stories recorded in notebooks were the basis for this book. In the 1990s these notebooks were transcribed and many of the personal reflections and legends are recorded in this memoir. The legends include the creation story, stories about animals and little people (fairies), Kluskap, and place names of sites important to the Mi'kmaq. The book also includes a Mi'kmaw word list, a description of Mi'kmaw plants and their uses, and archival photographs. The ethnologist Ruth Holmes Whitehead has painstakingly reconstructed the life of an important Mi'kmaw man whose life story recounts an interesting and often forgotten part of Mi'kmaw history. Whitehead describes her methodology and her sources in an introductory chapter. She explains how Mi'kmaw names were recorded and often changed during this time period. The author has provided readers with access to the earliest known autobiography of a Mi'kmaw person. This book is recommended for readers interested in knowing more about Mi'kmaw history and lifestyle during the 1860s to the early 1930s.