Beothuk


John Guy's Sketch of a Beothuk Canoe. (Lambeth Palace Library, MS. 250, Folio 412 verso. Used with permission.)
John Guy's Sketch of a Beothuk Canoe. (Lambeth Palace Library, MS. 250, Folio 412 verso. Used with permission.)

The Beothuk were an aboriginal people of the island of Newfoundland. The last known Beothuk, a young woman named Shanawdithit, died in St. John's in 1829. As a result, knowledge of these mysterious people comes through reading historic accounts written by those who met them, and through artifacts which have been uncovered, examined and interpreted by archaeologists.

Some of the earliest and most detailed descriptions of the Beothuk were written by the Cupers Cove colonists, who were hoping to set up a fur trade with them in Trinity Bay. John Guy and Henry Crout wrote in detail about the houses, canoes, and other features of Beothuk culture they observed. Their account of their meeting with the Beothuk shows that the Beothuk had traded with Europeans before and that they had a set procedure that was followed on such occasions.

A number of sites occupied by the Beothuk and their ancestors, whom archaeologists call Ô??Recent Indians', have been found on the Baccalieu Trail. Some of these are the same sites visited by John Guy and Henry Crout in 1612 and 1613. Henry Crout recorded seeing a Beothuk camp on Dildo Island in 1613. Archaeologists discovered a Recent Indian site on the island in 1995. Charcoal samples from a fireplace at the site show that Native American people had lived there as much as 1200 years ago.

Russell's Point is a Beothuk camp that was visited by John Guy and Henry Crout in October 1612. Charcoal samples from the fireplaces at this site show that the Beothuk and their ancestors were using it for at least 600 years before John and Henry arrived there.

According to William Gilbert, the Chief Archaeologist with the Baccalieu Trail Heritage Corporation, about half of the Beothuk arrowheads that have been recovered in Newfoundland have been found at Russell's Point. A sample of Beothuk arrowheads and other Beothuk tools that were found at Russell's Point are displayed in the artifacts section of this website.