Leprosy on Sheldrake Island

Beginning in the late 18th century, leprosy was a public health challenge along sections of the eastern coast of New Brunswick. Mostly afflicting Acadians, the problem was so severe that in 1844 the New Brunswick Board of Health sent thirty people suffering from the disease to Sheldrake Island, at the mouth of the Miramichi River, far from their home communities. They endured difficult conditions, and fifteen individuals died. Others resisted their confinement by escaping to the mainland; and there was significant outrage over their situation, fueled by Acadian resentment of a forced resettlement that conjured up memories of their eighteenth century deportation. This resentment led to the relocation of the patients in 1849 to a new facility, closer to their families, in Tracadie, the site for the project's commemorative artwork.


This story was brought to the project by the Sheldrake Commemorative Committee, a group from northeastern New Brunswick determined to make the story of Sheldrake Island in the 1840s better known. Interviews with members of the committee provided inspiration for Marika Drolet Ferguson's art installation that was installed in September 2017 in Tracadie, New Brunswick, where individuals with leprosy were taken after their evacuation from Sheldrake Island. The installation consists of fifteen photographs, one for each person who died on the island. The photographs focus particularly upon the environment experienced by those confined to Sheldrake Island. The story of that experience and the process leading to Marika's installation are the subject of Julien Cadieux's documentary film, Sheldrake.



Marika Drolet-Ferguson

Originally from New Brunswick's Acadian Peninsula, Marika Drolet-Ferguson is a visual artist, who looks at landscape as a cultural construct: beyond what we see on the surface, she is particularly interested in how we look at things. Through film-based photography, she explores how the surrounding environment also becomes the one that inhabits us. Marika’s work has been exhibited at the Galerie d’art Louise-et-Reuben-Cohen de Moncton in the group exhibition, « Punctum» (2013). She has been artist-in-residence in both Sweden (2014), and Iceland (2015). In 2016, she had a solo exhibition at the Salle Sans Sous of Moncton’s Centre Culturel Aberdeen; she participated with the Collective m+m+m in Moncton’s Symposium Art-Nature; she took part in a group exhibition at the Galerie Bernard-Jean in Caraquet; and she has taught in the Département des Arts Visuels at the Université de Moncton. Marika has studied visual arts at the Université de Moncton and architecture at both Université Laval in Quebec City and the University of Genova in Italy. [Website].


Julien Cadieux

After studying film production at Concordia University’s Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema, Acadian filmmaker Julien Cadieux dedicated himself to directing and editing documentary films in New Brunswick. His films bring together his interest for the arts and his admiration for the beauty of the people of his country. His first film, Habiter la danse (NFB), a portrait of a young Acadian dancer, takes stock of the dance scene in Acadie. His next film, Guilda : Elle est bien dans ma peau (SRC) is a journey into the complex universe of the famous transvestite. Fascinated by the beauty of the Acadian coastline, he also directed Le Chant du phare (SRC), a tribute to the coastal heritage and a call for its preservation. This theme is also at the heart of the two seasons of the documentary series Les Iles de l’Atlantique (SRC) that explores the many facets of island life. In addition, he directed the musical web series Laisser le bon temps rouler (TV5).

Project leader

Ronald Rudin

Professor of History at Concordia University, Ronald Rudin's role as director of the Lost Stories Project grows directly out of his interest in studying how the past is communicated to the larger public. This interest is evident in his past three books (Founding Fathers; Remembering and Forgetting in Acadie; and Kouchibouguac) which explore how the past has been used for a variety of purposes in French Canada. In addition to communicating his research through text, he has also been involved with a number of film projects which explore the representation of the past in public space. He was the producer of both Life after Île Ste-Croix (2006) and Remembering a Memory (2010); and was the co-creator of the film-based website, Returning the Voices to Kouchibouguac National Park (2013). Over the past fifteen years, his research has been focused upon Acadian history, with a particular focus on New Brunswick, which led him to be the project coordinator for this story.

Teaching Lost Stories
Leprosy in Sheldrake Island

Teaching Lost Stories consists of a set of lesson plans and historical documents that encourage critical thinking about the history that is literally all around us. Teachers and students consider why some stories from the Canadian past have been commemorated through historical markers such as monuments, while other stories have been ignored.

  • Lesson 1: Unit and Lessons Plans [pdf]
  • Lesson 2: Other Narratives [pdf]
  • Lesson 3: Researching Lost Stories [pdf]
  • Backgrounder [pdf]
  • Historical Document Collection [pdf]
  • Primary Document Analysis Organizer [pdf]
  • Lost Stories: Historical Marker Criteria [pdf]
  • Historical Marker Research Presentation Rubric [pdf]

Material prepared by Gabrielle Rogers.