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Essay/Term paper: The beothuks

Essay, term paper, research paper:  History

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The Aboriginal People of Newfoundland Bibliography

Grabowski, Jan. Lecture His 2401, October 4, 1996. Email

address: Howley, James Patrick. The Beothuks or Red

Indians: The Aboriginal Inhabitants of Newfoundland.

University of Cambridge Press., Cambridge, England.

Marshall, Ingeborg. History and the Ethnography of the

BeothukMcGill)Queens University Press.: 1996, Canada.

Marshall, Ingeborg C.L.. Reports and Letters by George

Christopher Pulling: Relating to the Beothuk Indians of

Newfoundland Breakwater Books.: 1989, St.John's,

Newfoundland. Marshall, Ingeborg. The red Ochre People:

How Newfoundland'sBeothuk Indians Lived. J.J. Douglas

Ltd.: 1977, Vancouver. Rowe, Frederick W..

EXTINCTION: The Beothuks of Newfoundland

McGraw)Hill Ryerson Limited.: 1977, Toronto. The

Beothuk people of Newfoundland were not the very first

inhabitants of the island. Thousands of years before their

arrival there existed an ancient race, named the Maritime

Archaic Indians who lived on the shores of Newfoundland.

(Red Ochre Indians, Marshall, 4.) Burial plots and polished

stone tools are occasionally discovered near Beothuk

remains. Some people speculate that, because of the

proximity of the artifacts to the former lands of the Beothuk,

the Maritime Archaic Indians and the Beothuk may have

been related. It is not certain when the Beothuk arrived on

the island. In fact little is actually known about the people,

compared to what is known about other amerindian

civilisations, only artifacts and stories told by elders tell the

historians who these people really were. Some speculate that

they travelled from "Labrador to Newfoundland across the

strait of Belle Isle, which at one time was only 12 miles wide.

By about 200 AD the Beothuk Indians were probably well

settled into Newfoundland."(Red Ochre, 8) The Beothuk

were not alone on Newfoundland wither. The Dorset

Eskimos, who came from Cape Dorset regions of the north

around 500 BC also shared the island. They presumably had

contact with the Beothuk, exchanging tools or engaging in

battle. In any case the Dorset Indians died out leaving

Newfoundland empty to the control of the Beothuk people

who now had no enemies and a wide vast territory. The

Beothuk, although part of the Algonkian family developed

their own language and culture. The 400 words that are still

known from their language prove their Algonkian heritage.

The development of their culture was a great success. The

success of the Beothuk people as a whole was in part

because of their skills in fishing, hunting and travel. They

were the "only amerindian group to navigate on the high

seas."(Grabowski lecture Oct 4,`96.) This was because of

the construction of their canoes. Normally paddling on the

high seas is dangerous, but Beothuk canoes were so

designed to with stand high waves and stay accurately on

course. The canoes "were made of a frame work of spruce

and then covered with birch bark."(Red Ochre, 9) They

curved high at the sides and a sharp bottom acted as a keel.

The high sides protected as a barrier from wave swamping

the boat. Because of hunting expeditions on the Funk

islands, 60 kilometres from shore, ocean travel was evident

and sea worthiness was essential. The knowledge of these

canoes is only from documents produced by explorers and

early settlers, all that is left of the original canoes are models

of canoes found in burial sites. "The Beothuk were a

migratory people..."(Red Ochre, 14) they moved with the

seasons and with the hunt. In fall they hunted caribou inland,

in spring seals on the coast, the summer months seafood and

birds eggs were harvested. The fall hunt was the most

important, as it would determine their success in surviving the

winter months. The Beothuk followed the patterns of

migration of the caribou and laid out large traps of fallen

trees along the river banks. Trees would be left leaning

against their stumps creating a triangle to the ground. The

trees would be piled one over the next and so on and

produced a "thicket that the caribou could not penetrate or

jump over."(Red Ochre, 15.) Trapping the caribou in the

water was the objective as " the animals could not move

quickly in the water."(Red Ochre,15.) Indian people of

North America have been called "red skins" for many years.

This expression comes from the european settlers who

arrived in Newfoundland and were met by the Beothuk. The

Beothuk covered their entire bodies, clothing, and weapons

with a "mixture of red ochre and oil."(Red Ochre, 4.)which

protected them from the cold in winter and the mosquitoes

and other bugs in summer. Other Algonkian tribes used it,

although "not so lavishly as the Newfoundland

indians."(Extinction, Rowe, 117) Some evidence shows that

some juices were used "especially alder" to paint their

bodies. "Sanku, a Micmac woman allegedly of part)Beothuk

descent...(said that)... this painting of the body was done

annually at special ceremonies which included the initiation of

children born since the last ceremony. These body markings

related to tribal identity and had religious

significance."(Rowe, 118) Early European contact with the

Beothuk began possibly with the arrival of the Vikings

around 1000 AD. This can possibly be proven by the colour

of the Beothuk's skin. Their complexion was light compared

to that of the Micmac. Supposing that conflict arose between

the Vikings and the Beothuk, it would be assumed that

prisoners would be taken by the Beothuk. If these "prisoners

included women or children, it would be unlikely that the

Beothuk would put them to death."(Rowe, 118.) It is

possible that assimilation of these prisoners into the

community may have taken place. This might "explain why

(John) Guy's observations showed that some of the

Beothuks he encountered had yellow hair."(Rowe, 120.) In

1497, John Cabot arrived in Newfoundland and brought

back the news about a new undescovered area in the north.

Even before this, however, there was contact between the

Europeans and the Beothuk. Fishermen from England,

Spain, Portugal and Francehad been usign the land to set up

dry)fisheries. Because the fishermen were primarily there

only to fish, little documentation is available.After teh

announcement to Britain had been proclaimed more and

more fishermen arrived and began "using" the dry)fisheries

already in place of teh Beothuk. Innitially relations had been

friendly but as "using" turned into "stealing" the Beothuk

bacame increasinglyenraged adn occationally mounted raids

on European fishing camps. The fishermen accused the

raiding parties of theft and because there was little

missionary interest in the Beothuk, there was also little "law

and order" in teh areas where Beothuk and European

fishermen shared land. Desperatly, teh Beothuk fought back,

and more fights ensued over fisheries equipment, but any

"atttempt at disobedience (on the part of the Beothuk)

resulted in strict punishment."(Grabowski, Oct.4)  

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