With the release of two new books, Daniel Paul is adding new material to his decades-long crusade to educate people about Mi’kmaq history.
The Mi’kmaw elder, who is best-known for his seminal history book We Were Not the Savages, recently published his first, and likely his last, novel Chief Lightning Bolt. Paul wrote the novel 20 years ago and then put it aside. He returned to it with a fresh set of eyes, had others read and edit it, and decided it was time to release the book publicly. “I wanted to see it published before I die,” he said in a recent interview.
Paul, who was born on the Indian Brook Reserve (now Sipekne’katik First Nation), turns 79 next month. He had a brush with mortality when he underwent treatment for prostate cancer. Doctors gave him the okay after he completed treatment in November 2016, but the ordeal took its toll on his health.
In his novel, published by Fernwood Publishing, Paul brings to life a contemporary Mi’kmaq legend of a man, who becomes chief and a renowned warrior and peacemaker. In the process he comes to embody Mi’kmaq values of humility, courage, honour, and service to others.
While Paul’s previous non-fiction book told the story of the Mi’kmaq and their fate after the arrival of the Europeans, in his novel he tells the story of the Mi’kmaq prior to the arrival of European colonizers.
“The best way to do it (tell the story) was a fictional novel,” he said.
“Some people accused me of writing fiction when I wrote We Were Not the Savages,” he added with a laugh.