Beothuk (American Indians Ready Reference)
The Beothuk lived in small villages in Newfoundland prior to the arrival of Europeans in the late 1500's. Each village consisted of three or four wigwams, cone-shaped houses made of sticks and birch bark, with a hole in the top to let out smoke. The Beothuk slept in trenches dug in the floor around a fireplace for cooking. They fished for salmon and hunted seal, birds, and caribou; they also gathered eggs, roots, and berries. The meat and fish were frozen or smoked for winter consumption. Little is known of where the Beothuk originated or of their history before contact with Europeans.
Their customs are known only through reports made by early missionaries. They had twenty-four-hour wedding ceremonies with much dancing and feasting. The men conducted purification ceremonies in dome-shaped sweat lodges. Inside the skin-covered huts were hot rocks and water to make steam. Individuals would enter for a while, then run out to jump in the snow, believing that this would cleanse their bodies of evil. Tribal members dressed in caribou-skin robes, with leggings, mittens, and fur hats for winter. They sewed together birch and spruce bark for dishes, buckets, and cooking pots.
The Beothuk buried their dead with their weapons and tools and small, carved wooden figures probably representing a god or goddess, but little is known about Beothuk religion. They placed the deceased in a wooden box and carried the body to a cave, setting it aboveground on a...
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Beothuk (Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity)
The Beothuk, speakers of a proto-Algonkian language, had lived in the area now known as Newfoundland and southern Labrador, Canada, for more than two thousand years before John Cabot's landing in 1647. Nomadic, they followed the coastlines, taking advantage of the rich migratory fisheries, shorebirds, and land and sea mammals. In winter they supplemented their diets with inland caribou, herded through specially constructed fences.
Estimates of the Beothuk population in 1500 vary widely, ranging from seven hundred to five thousand individuals, organized into bands of seven to ten families, comprising thirty-five to fifty people. Egalitarian in social organization with decision making by consensus, each band bestowed leadership positions on those men and women respected for their wisdom and experience. They called themselves Beothuk (red people) in reference to the red ochre paint mixed with fish oil or animal grease that coated their bodies, clothing, canoes, and personal goods. The coating, which served as a symbol of tribal identity and initiation, may be the basis for the later European term "redskins."
The Beothuk learned early on to mistrust European explorers, who captured dozens of their people between 1501 and 1510, transporting them to Europe as slaves. For the next 150 years Europeans fished off the Newfoundland coast, making few permanent settlements, but cutting off the Beothuk from their traditional fishing grounds during the important summer months. The Micmac, once allies but now armed by the British, further reduced the food supply by invading the Beothuk's territory and killing their game for the fur trade.Unlike other tribes, the Beothuk refused to enter into relations with the Europeans, enforcing a penalty
SEE ALSO Canada; Indigenous Peoples
Assiniwi, Bernard (2002). The Beothuk Saga, tran. Wayne Grady. New York: Thomas Dunne Books.
Carignan, Paul (1955). "The Beothuks." Available from http://www.wordplay.com/tourism/beothuk.html.
Frederick, William (1977). Extinction: The Beothuks of Newfoundland. New York: McGraw-Hill Ryerson.
Marshall, Ingeborg (1989). Reports and Letters by George Christopher Pulling Relating to the Beothuk Indians of Newfoundland. St. John's, Newfoundland: Breakwater.
Marshall, Ingeborg (1996). A History and Ethnography of the Beothuk. Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press.
Pastore, Ralph T. (1997). "The Beothuks." Available from http://www.heritage.nf.ca/aboriginal/beothuk.html.