Newfoundland and Labrador Britain’s oldest Colony – Canada’s Newest Province

Kingwell By Kingwell, 22nd Mar 2013 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL http://nut.bz/3xv-f4ux/
Posted in Wikinut>Guides>History

In this Chapter I go into more detail about the natives of the island of Newfoundland and of the attempts to befriend them and why it failed. I also touch on the lifestyle of the Inuit of Labrador at the time of the arrival of the first Europeans.

Newfoundland and Labrador Britain’s oldest Colony – Canada’s Newest Province

Newfoundland and Labrador Britain’s oldest Colony – Canada’s Newest Province
Please see Chapter I
Chapter II
Early Encounters
The first attempt to befriend the Beothucks of which there is any record was made by John Guy in 1612. Guy was the founder of the first colony in Newfoundland and had been given specific instructions about dealing with the Indians. With a crew of thirteen men he sailed along the coast of the island until he came to a small native settlement. Although there was no one to be seen there were signs of recent occupation. Guy gave orders that nothing was to be taken but instead that some gifts be left there, so that the Beothucks would know that the visitors were friendly. He then sailed a few miles to another harbour. About a week later two canoes containing eight Beothucks appeared and after landing some distance away, one of the natives approached waving a flag made of wolf skin. Guy sent a man waving a white flag to meet him and shortly the whole group were exchanging gifts of food and sampling it. It was indeed a great beginning. As darkness approached the Beothucks took their leave but Guy tried to tell them by means of signs that he would return the following year.

The next year the natives, expecting Guy to return kept a lookout. One day a ship appeared and they excitedly flocked to the shore in great numbers. The ship however, was not Guy’s, and its captain having heard nothing of the previous year’s encounter, assumed that they had gathered to attack him. He fired a shot among them from a cannon and they fled into the woods. Having no way of knowing that it was not Guy’s ship and thinking that their friends had betrayed them, the Beothucks must have been very angry at this treachery and afterwards considered the white man to be their enemy and took every opportunity to do him harm. Encounters between the settlers and the Beothucks soon became frequent and the stealing of the white man’s goods an excuse for wholesale slaughter, the natives with bows and arrows being no match for the fishermen with their guns. There was even worse news to come for the Beothucks. The French, who also had settlements in the colony, now armed the Micmacs, an Indian tribe who had recently moved to the island from Nova Scotia, with guns in exchange for killing their enemies. It is said that the French offered a reward for every Beothuck head brought to them!

Another attempt to find and befriend the Beothucks was made in 1768, after an uproar by some of the more decent of the settlers. By that time natives were being shot on sight as if they were animals and the English governor had to issue a proclamation threatening dire punishment to any fisherman who was known to shoot an Indian. In that year an expedition led by Lieutenant John Cartwright was sent to find and befriend some of the remaining Beothucks. The group however, did not find a single Indian though there were plenty of wigwams. The Beothucks had become very adept at hiding themselves. Another attempt in 1808 also ended in failure.

One more attempt at befriending the now dwindling tribe was made in 1810 and this one, led by Lieutenant David Buchan, almost succeeded. The party travelled by boat to Exploits Bay but after searching all summer found no trace of the natives. Lieutenant Buchan was not ready to give up however and decided to remain there for the winter. In January of the following year he organized a sledge party with plenty of provisions and presents, to travel up the Exploits River. As dawn was breaking one morning about ten days into the trip, they came upon a Beothuck settlement consisting of three wigwams. The natives were still sleeping and when a shout was raised, there was no response. When the skins covering the entrances were removed the occupants were found to be in a state of terror and it took some doing to persuade them that they had nothing to fear. Eventually however, they all came out and before long the men were all shaking hands and smiling. The Beothucks were pleased with the presents and soon had a fire going and the red and white men breakfasted together. Buchan tried to convey by signs that he had more presents for them but that he must go back and would return the following day. Four of the Beothucks decided to accompany them while two of the white men, wanting to repair their snowshoes remained behind with the natives. They had not gone far however when two of the Beothucks decided to return and before they had reached their destination, a third man suddenly turned and fled. The fourth Beothuck was surprised at finding so many white men at first seemed scared. After receiving more presents however, he soon forgot his fears. Although the weather was stormy, the group set out again in the morning but when they arrived at the wigwams, they found them deserted. The fourth native began running around with his eyes to the ground as if following a trail. He suddenly halted and then fled into the woods. Upon reaching the spot they found one of the men who had been left behind dead with an arrow in his back and beheaded. A little further along, they found the body of the second man in the same condition. It was learned later that they thought that Buchan intended to return with more men and take them all prisoners. So ended the last attempt at making friends with the Beothucks an attempt which like the first, had started with great promise.
Meanwhile in Labrador the settlers and the Inuit, although they did not always live in peace, fared better than the Beothucks had on the island part of the colony. This may have been due to the barrenness of the land, once described by Jacques Cartier as “the land God gave to Cain”. The name “Eskimo” was given to them by the Indians as a term of contempt and meant, ”eaters of raw flesh”. They called themselves Inuit meaning “men” and all others they called ``Kablunaet meaning ``sons of dogs``. The Inuit at that time not only ate seal meat but also clothed themselves in sealskins. It is said that they wore two suits during the winter, the first with the fur turned in and the other with the fur on the outside. It was said too that they lubricated themselves inside and out with the fat of the seal, and in the water with their kayaks were almost as expert as the seal itself.
TO BE CONTINUED.
Please see Chapter III

Tags

Britain, Canada, Fishermen, France, Indians, Inuit, Jacques Cartier, Kingwell, Labrador, Natives, Newfoundland

Meet the author

author avatar Kingwell
I am 75 years old and retired.I like writing short stories, poetry as well other articles of interest.

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Comments

author avatar Mark Gordon Brown
22nd Mar 2013 (#)

I would love to visit Eastern Canada, they advertise it on television a lot. I would like to see the old viking settlements.

Good history lesson on Newfoundland and Labrador.

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author avatar Kingwell
22nd Mar 2013 (#)

Hi Mark, Thank you and I hope you get the opportunity to visit Newfoundland and Labrador. The Viking settlement is awesome but there is so much more to enjoy as well.

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author avatar Delicia Powers
23rd Mar 2013 (#)

Rich history- I am enjoying and learning from this series- and will look forward too reading more, thank you Kingwell...

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author avatar Kingwell
23rd Mar 2013 (#)

Thank you Delicia

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author avatar Djbrat
23rd Mar 2013 (#)

Now this I can sink my teeth into. Great history lesson, very interesting. I love it ♥

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author avatar Kingwell
23rd Mar 2013 (#)

Thank you Djbrat.

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author avatar Songbird B
24th Mar 2013 (#)

This is another great chapter on the history of your country,and made such a good read Kingwell..You are a natural storyteller my friend..

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author avatar Kingwell
24th Mar 2013 (#)

Thank you Songbird. I've been called a natural storyteller before and I do like the term 'storyteller'. (Please someone up there - don't let all of this go to my head) lol

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author avatar Sivaramakrishnan A
25th Mar 2013 (#)

You are making this series a thriller, Kingwell, interspersed with tragedy and a little comedy; sadly, suspicion of our own continues still! siva

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author avatar Kingwell
25th Mar 2013 (#)

Hi Siva, Thank you for your comment and I agree about suspicion continuing. Maybe someday there will be change for the better.

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author avatar madugundurukmini
25th Mar 2013 (#)

a great lesson -history

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author avatar Kingwell
25th Mar 2013 (#)

Thank you madugundurukmini.

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