Self-published in 1893, Joseph Nicolarís The Life and Traditions of the Red Man told the story of his people from the first moments of creation to the earliest arrivals and eventual settlement of Europeans. This was one of the few sustained narratives in English composed by a member of an Eastern Algonquian-speaking people during the nineteenth century. At a time when Native Americansí ability to exist as Natives was imperiled, Nicolar wrote his book in an urgent effort to pass on Penobscot cultural heritage to subsequent generations of the tribe and to reclaim Native Americansí right to self-representation. The extraordinary work weaves together stories of Penobscot history, precontact material culture, feats of shamanism, and ancient prophecies about the coming of the white man. An elder of the Penobscot Nation in Maine and the grandson of the Penobscotsí most famous shaman-leader, Old John Neptune, Nicolar brought to his task a wealth of traditional knowledge.
Nicolarís grandson, Charles Norman Shay, has produced a video companion to Nicolarís book, the story of his grandfatherís life, called Life and Traditions of Joseph Nicolar. It is an affectionate examination of his grandfather and his way of life. 40 Minutes