What did the Europeans do to the Beothuks?

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rrteacher | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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Unlike many other peoples, Europeans did not quickly dispossess the Beothuks from their lands. Rather it was a process that took over 150 years. Europeans first came into sustained contact with the Beothuks--who lived in Newfoundland and Labrador in the sixteenth century as fishermen who plied the coastal waters for cod--when they forced their way into Beothuk fishing grounds. This process continued throughout the seventeenth century, intensifying as Europeans, particularly the British, eagerly sought control of these grounds, as well as access to the rich furs of the region, which the Beothuks profited from by selling them to European traders, especially French traders.

To this end, the British armed the Beothuks' traditional rivals, the Micmacs who lived to the south and with whom they had better relations. Over time, the Micmacs and their British allies almost completely destroyed or drove out the indigenous population of Beothuk peoples. The extent of the tragedy was heartbreaking in its totality. By the mid-nineteenth century, there were only a handful of Beothuk people remaining, and the last of their number (not counting those who were adopted by surrounding tribes) died in 1829.