The Beothuks

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