FREE SHIPPING in CANADA for orders over $50
Tracking Doctor Lonecloud

Tracking Doctor Lonecloud

Tracking Dr. Lonecloud: Showman to Legend Keeper, by Ruth Whitehead, Nova Scotia Museum ethnologist, is a book that includes the memoir of Jerry Lonecloud, a Mi'kmaw hunter, healer, and showman. Co-published by Goose Lane Editions and the Nova Scotia Museum, the book offers to readers, for the first time, the earliest known Mi'kmaw memoir.

Jerry Lonecloud was born Germain Laksi, on 4 July 1852 in Belfast, Maine, to Mi'kmaw parents from Nova Scotia. As a youth, he lived in Vermont. Orphaned at the age of fourteen, 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, Laski fell easily into the role of Doctor 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, Lonecloud valued, studied, preserved, and passed on many of the traditional ways, stories, and natural medicines of his people.

"During Doctor 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, executive Director of the Confederacy of Mainland Mi'kmaq, in the book's preface. A researcher himself, Julien has found Lonecloud's name on hundreds of government documents in the provincial and national archives. "The story of his many trips from childhood, to when he left this world to join our ancestors, is very intriguing," said Julien. After Lonecloud met Harry Piers, curator of the Provincial Museum of Nova Scotia, in 1910, the two developed a friendship that continued until Lonecloud's death in 1930. Lonecloud's great knowledge of natural and social history is reflected in the specimens and artifacts he brought to the museum, and in Piers's meticulous notes on the information Lonecloud provided about the items.

Near the end of his life, Lonecloud told journalist Clara Dennis his own story and a wealth of Mi'kmaw tales, oral histories, jokes and social customs, many previously undocumented. Unpublished until now, this treasure of information, recorded between 1923 and 1929, forms the basis of this book.


Ruth Holmes Whitehead, ethnologist and assistant curator at the Nova Scotia Museum, Halifax, has worked with the Mi'kmaw people for 30 years, and her work is an important source of information about historic Mi'kmaw culture. Her meticulous analysis, attention to detail, creative genius, and sensitivity have earned her the respect of Mi'kmaw specialists such as linguist Bernie Francis, who lent his expertise to Tracking Doctor Lonecloud. Ruth Holmes 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, a collection of black and white images of Mi'kmaw people, including portraits of Lonecloud. Research on the book really began in 1992 when her colleague Trudy Sable took her to look at the Clara Dennis material in the Nova Scotia Archives. They spent months transcribing notebooks containing Lonecloud's memoir, recorded by Clara Dennis in pencil in children's scribblers. A consultant to the Peabody Museum, Harvard University, Whitehead has curated numerous exhibitions and written many articles and monographs. Among her popular books are Micmac Quillwork, Stories from the Six Worlds: Micmac Legends, and The Old Man Told Us: Excerpts from Micmac History, 1500-1950.

"Tracking Doctor Lonecloud is a short book, but it contains more information than most books twice its size, and much of the content isn't documented anywhere else ... captivating . . . Whitehead lets [these stories] stand alone, and her economy is the reason for this volume's success. Lonecloud's voice is a true original, and this book is a singular accomplishment." — Quill & Quire starred review

184 pages
Pub date: September 19, 2002