Newfoundland and Labrador Britain's Oldest Colony - Canada's Newest Province

Kingwell By Kingwell, 21st Mar 2013 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Guides>History

Now known as the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador, the colony, nation and now province was for most of its history known simply as Newfoundland. The triangular shaped, island part of the province stretches far out into the Atlantic and is the most easterly part of North America and thus the closest to Europe. It was for hundreds of years, the stepping stone between the two continents.

Newfoundland and Labrador Britain's Oldest Colony - Canada's Newest Province

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Chapter I
The Norsemen and the Beothucks
Some five hundred years before Columbus’s famous 1492 voyage and that of John Cabot, who discovered Newfoundland just five years later in 1497, there was a Viking settlement at L’Anse aux Meadows, on the island’s Northern peninsula. For centuries the stories of these Norsemen were relegated to the status of legend or even myth but in 1960 a Norwegian historian named Helge Ingstad, and his daughter Benedicte, visited L’Anse aux Meadows, on the northernmost tip of Newfoundland, where rectangular shaped mounds had been observed in a grassy field. This was near where Helge believed the Vikings had landed, and he was convinced that the mounds outlined a building in the Icelandic Viking style. The following year he returned to the site with his archaeologist wife, Anne Stine, and during an exploratory dig discovered even more evidence including an ember pit, similar to those found in Greenland. Now certain that the Ingstad’s had unearthed the remains of a Viking village Scandinavian, Canadian, and American archaeologists ascended on L’Anse aux Meadows in 1962, for a full excavation. In 1977 the Canadian government designated it a National Historic Site and the following year, it was recognized by the United Nations as well and declared a UNESCO world heritage site.
Like in other parts of the Americas the first settlers soon discovered that they were not alone, that others had been living here long before they had arrived. When Columbus discovered America, he first thought that they had arrived in India and the natives were referred to as Indians and even when, this was shown to be wrong, the name stuck. It was no different in Newfoundland and Labrador and like elsewhere, no one has any idea as to how long these natives were here, perhaps for tens of thousands of years or even longer. There is some evidence that the Norsemen of L’Anse aux Meadows had come in contact with them but their story for us really begins with the arrival of the first Europeans in the sixteenth century. The Beothucks were Algonquian -speaking hunter-gatherers and may have numbered about a thousand people, when the first Europeans appeared on the scene. The story of this lost tribe is a sad one and has been described as “a dark page in the history of British colonization in America”. From the very beginning, settlers treated the natives badly, and later attempts to get on good terms proved unsuccessful. Some writers have called the Beothucks savage and bloodthirsty but the few incidents where they were treated fairly show that they were indeed a peaceable and friendly people. The persecution of the Beothucks by the settlers continued into the middle of the eighteenth century, and became so cruel and heartless that it aroused the indignation of the more decent members of the community. Some early governors issued proclamations ordering the fishermen to try to make friends with the natives and threatening punishment to anyone who was known to kill them. The damage had already been done however. The distrust of the white man among the tribe was so great and their numbers now so few that almost no progress was made. A young woman named Shanawdithit, thought to have been the last of her tribe, died of Tuberculosis in a St. John’s hospital in 1829. The natives of Labrador, once referred to as Eskimos, fared much better and today the Inuit people still live there.

To be continued. Please see Chapter II.

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Comments

author avatar Kingwell
21st Mar 2013 (#)

Thank you.

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author avatar Retired
21st Mar 2013 (#)

Thanks for sharing this well researched history - it saddens, but does not surprise me, that white men over there were just as inconsiderate, destructive and invasive as the ones who 'conquered' the native people here

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author avatar Kingwell
21st Mar 2013 (#)

Hi rama, Yes, it is sad but there were some attempts made at friendship showing that all white men were not alike. The majority however were rough and uneduicated and when they caught the natives stealing their food they shot them as if they were animals.

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author avatar Sivaramakrishnan A
21st Mar 2013 (#)

Another interesting historical snippet, Kingwell, that makes me think of what life should have been in those times.
Distrust, in a way, could have been for self protection but natives needed more respect than the new settlers gave them. But coexistence is still an issue everywhere. Time we took the next positive step - siva

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author avatar Kingwell
21st Mar 2013 (#)

Hi siva, Thank you for coming here and I agree.that Coexistence has always been and remains a problem. I remain hopeful that the future will be better.

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author avatar Retired
21st Mar 2013 (#)

Interesting research! :-)

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author avatar Kingwell
21st Mar 2013 (#)

Thank you Starrleena.

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author avatar Susan Jane
21st Mar 2013 (#)

Such fascinating historical information with a measure of sadness for the lost tribe.

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author avatar Kingwell
22nd Mar 2013 (#)

Thank you for you comments Susan Jane. I am hoping to publish more about this soon.

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author avatar Md Rezaul Karim
22nd Mar 2013 (#)

Informative and great share....

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author avatar Kingwell
22nd Mar 2013 (#)

Thank you Md

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author avatar Delicia Powers
22nd Mar 2013 (#)

Hello Kingwell, and thank, I love reading history, and learning about the past...I hope you are not too "snow under" as I heard on the news your area was due for a big storm today, keep warm and well...:0)

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author avatar Kingwell
22nd Mar 2013 (#)

Hi Delicia, Thank you I love history too. The storm has passed now but it wasn't too bad where I live. On the west coast of the province it was bad with winds of more than 170 km per hour. I haven't heard of anyone being injured.

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author avatar C.D. Moore
23rd Mar 2013 (#)

Vwery well written and interesting history, Kingwell.

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author avatar Kingwell
23rd Mar 2013 (#)

Thank you C.D.

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author avatar Songbird B
24th Mar 2013 (#)

A fascinating insight into history my friend, I too have a great love for the past..This made such an interesting read..

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author avatar Kingwell
24th Mar 2013 (#)

Hi Songbird, Thank you and I hope you will continue to read this series.

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author avatar Souvik
6th Apr 2013 (#)

Good article Kingwell,
it has educative value.
Dr. Souvik Chatterji

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author avatar Kingwell
6th Apr 2013 (#)

Thank you for reading and for your comment.

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