By Marcelle Paulin for the Cocagne Rural Community website

August 21 2015


M.P. “Mrs Larocque, even though you have lived in Cocagne for many years, the people here don’t seem to really know you. That is why I would like this interview to be a bit like a biography. Talk to me about your childhood. Where were you born?”

J.L. “I was born in Brighton, England. My father, a Mi’kmaq, was part of the Canadian Army during World War II and he was sent to England. That’s where he met my mother, a young English woman with red hair and blue eyes. I was born there in 1942 and I was four years old when we came to the Canada.

Her family settled in Campbellton, New Brunswick. Jeorgina’s mother lost a baby who died at the age of 6 months.  She then had a miscarriage and became pregnant soon after. At this point, Jeorgina was six and a half years old and she still could not walk. She was born with scoliosis. She was confined to her bedroom where she never went out. Her grandmother on her father’s side, a Mi’kmaq medicine woman, decided to bring the small child to live with her. For Jeorgina, this was a life-changing moment in her life. She shares her story with us…

J.L. “My grandmother came over to my parents. I heard her talking to them, and because my mother wasn’t feeling well, I think she was a bit relieved at the thought of her taking care of me. My grandmother rolled me up in a cover and carried me out of the house. It was the first time in years I had been outside. I never lived lying down after that. My grandmother sat me in a chair and tied me up so I wouldn’t fall. My hips were crooked and she used wooden blocks and performed certain manipulations to align my spine, much like a chiropractor does today. With the help of my grandparents, I learned to walk when I was 8 years old.”

Jeorgina did her first grade at home. Then, since she could walk, went to school for Grade 2. She remembers it being very difficult. Having inherited her blue eyes and red hair from her mother, Jeorgina was not accepted by the Aboriginal community who found her too white and by the Whites because she was Native. Fortunately, she had her grandmother.

J.L. “Grandmother made the best molasses cookies in the world. As soon as I went to live with her, she began to teach me about plants and their uses and tell me about the traditions and legends of my ancestors. Before going to bed, I was allowed to have one of those cookies with a glass of milk. I have very good memories of my grandmother. She was a good, loving and wise person. She made me her apprentice. She taught me how to harvest and use herbs and plants. Not knowing how to read or write, she had developed a method of identifying the pouches of herbs and plants. She sealed the pouches with different color twines making one or several knots so as to identify the contents and their uses.  For example, a red twine meant the products were used to treat heart ailments. The number of knots on the red twine would specify if the treatment was for the blood, blood pressure, etc. She passed on her knowledge of traditions and rituals of my people and her belief in the sacred being. She taught me with love, a way of living that nobody could ever take away. I lived with my grandmother until I was 14 years old and even after, she continued to teach me about plants, traditions and the importance of spirituality. ”

Jeorgina returned to live with her parents until she got married. They are difficult years. His father internalizes the trauma of his years in residential schools and denies his Mi’kmaq origins. Jeorgina, who was not aware of the facet of her father’s life, was an abused child. She will come to later understand what the residential schools were. In memory and respect for those who have gone through these institutions, she always wears moccasins in public.

She gets married at the age of 21.

J.L. “We got married in the church in 1963. Forty years later, in 2003, we got remarried but according to Mi’kmaq tradition this time and we renewed our vows in 2013. My husband is Mi’kmaq. We have 5 children: four girls and a boy. We have six grandchildren, all girls. I believe that one of my granddaughters could become my apprentice, I am waiting until she is ready.”

M.P. Have you held a job outside the home?

J.L. “At the age of 32 I returned to school to complete my grade twelve.  I then studied a year at college in business administration. I opened a library, the Hodge Podge Corner, in Parrosboro, Nova Scotia. For 10 years, I sold books on traditions, medicinal plants and the art of healing. I really enjoyed it, I love books and I met so many people. I also participated in the movement to amend the Law on First Nations. From 1966 to 1984, I worked for Native women’s’ rights who lost their status as a result of being married to a non-Native. Bill C-31, which became law in April 1985, now allows Native women the right to recover or keep their Native status separate from their husbands. I am very proud to have contributed to this change. ”

All her life, Natives and non-Natives have come and still come to see Jeorgina, traditional healer, for her in-depth knowledge of plants and medicinal herbs and also for her profound wisdom, her prayers and her spirituality. Jeorgina believes that her methods are complementary to those of modern medicine and that people should make sure to seek care that is most beneficial. Besides being a healer and spiritual counsellor, she plays an important role in teaching the traditions and the rituals of her people to the new generations.

M.P. “Traditionally, knowledge is passed on orally from one native generation to another. You’ve told me the number of medicine women is declining. Have you ever considered writing a book to ensure the transfer of knowledge?”

J.L. “It’s strange that you ask me this question because I am planning on writing one over the next winter. My daughter and other people around me have insisted and I believe they’re right. My ancestors had no paper to write things on; I do. The book could consist of my knowledge of plants, herbs and their medicinal values. I could share Native legends and describe a few of our traditions. However, I will not discuss ceremonies as it is not permitted by my people.”

Jeorgina has made several trips in Canada and elsewhere as medicine woman and Grandmother. In the Mi’kmaq tradition, the title of Grandmother is earned with wisdom and the accruel of knowledge. She was also invited to present workshops on the healing arts and practice traditional ceremonies in France, Hawaii and in several American cities including New York or Boston where she met street gangs. She has to go back to France in May 2016 and possibly in Australia in the near future.

M.P. “Do you ever think of retiring?”

J.L. No retirement for me. I should slow down because I am getting older but I do not want to retire. I never ask for money in exchange for care or advice. I made my peace with the difficulties that I have met in my life. We should not worry too much about the future and enjoy life. Listening is very important. I want to continue listening to and helping people.

M.P. “In closing, Mrs. Larocque, explain to me how you ended up in Cocagne.”

J.L. Before living in Cocagne, I lived in Ottawa. I used to come to the region to teach on the reserve. One of my daughter’s lives close by and she wanted us to move closer to her. I don’t like living in the city. I prefer smaller communities like this one and I love the water. When I am at home and I look out the window in front or in the back, all I see is the water. I love that.

M.P. “Mrs. Larocque, I want to thank you for welcoming me, in such a kind and simple way, into your home and for sharing the many moving and significant times of your life. Thank you! ”

You can reach Ms. Larocque via her email at: .