A Scattering of Seeds: The Creation of Canada
Episodes Search Site Map The Series Partners White Pine White Pine Home

Má vlast (My Homeland): The Jiraneks In Canada
Director: Tom Radford

About the Film
Tom Radford's The Great Lone Land is the remarkable adventure story of an American draft dodger escaping the Civil War. Edmonton filmmker Tom Radford takes us on a haunting journey through the brutal slaughter of Nevitt's American South, to the rugged beauty of Alberta's landscape. Weaving archival photographs and lyrical re-enactments with Nevitt's own words and sketches, this is a moving portrait of an American refugee who brought compassion and humanity to his new homeland.

Richard Barrington Nevitt escaped the brutality of the American Civil War, yet the horror of violent conflict was to pursue him all his life. Studying medicine in Toronto, Nevitt signed up as an assistant surgeon with the North West Mounted Police in 1847 on their great march to bring law to the western frontier. In the years that followed, he became one of the earliest and most prolific artists of the Canadian West and a keen documantarian of Native life.

Decent and caring, Nevitt gained the trust of the Blackfoot Indians who turned to the Mounties for help when the buffalo started disappearing. He became their doctor. His paintings and letters home to his sweetheart, Elizabeth Beaty, constitute a unique record of the struggle to bring justice to a lawless land and medicine to a destitute people. When he returned to marry and raise a family of his own, Nevitt helped founded the Toronto Women's Hospital and became a leading proponent of women's medicine in Canada. He delivered thousands of babies in the years that followed, yet had the tragedy of seeing many of them killed in the First World War, including his own son. The often pointless tragedy of war and his haunting memories of The Great Lone Land stayed with him all his life.

Top of page.