Not every piece of history obtained by the CPN Cultural Heritage Center can make it on to the museum floor. A medicinal journal which belonged to Joseph Napoleon Boursassa is one such item.
The journal, obtained from Boursassa descendent Elizabeth Hancock, was brought in during the Family Reunion Festival along with other ledgers from the prominent Potawatomi.
Boursassa was an original member of the Business Committee and was instrumental to negotiating the Treaty of 1861.
“Joseph Boursassa was from an incredibly influential family,” said Cultural Heritage Center director, Kelli Mosteller, Ph.D. “Joseph was hand chosen by Isaac McCoy to attend school and Boursassa was appointed a position at the Choctaw Academy, an Indian school in Kentucky. People in the community sought him out for advice and information.”
Bourassa was born in Michigan and moved to the Chicago area at an early age. Due to his level of education, ability to speak multiple languages and oratory skill he was chosen as an interpreter on numerous treaties.
A lot of care and detail went into the hand-written journal. Each page was alphabetized and the book includes an index. The contents include everything from cures for the common cold to cures for cancer and even a beer recipe.
“Boursassa compiled the contents of this book over several years as people sought him out for care and guidance,” added Mosteller. “A lot was done by trial and error and he needed a way to record and remember what advice he gave that worked.”
Some of these cures may not be as crazy as you’d think. For example, a cure for the common cold included running a warm iron over your back for 15-20 minutes. These days many of us will sip a warm beverage and place a heating pad on our chest when we’re sick.
“This information is from a time that is very important,” said Mosteller. “It helps bridge two time frames of our history; a time when people became literate and paper was available and a time before that when people had more oral traditions.”