St John's History - Native Indians



Archaeologists have found evidence of human habitation of the Province stretching back more than 9,000 years. Since about 4,000 years ago Palaeo-Eskimo people from the Canadian Arctic settled on the Labrador coast, but they disappeared about 2,000 years ago. The area was then settled by Palaeo-Eskimos (usually called Dorset Eskimos), who disappeared as well. Around 2,000 years ago, Indian peoples appeared during the Dorset Eskimo period. Following the disappearance of the Dorset Eskimos, Indian cultures become much more evident and by A.D. 1,000 the ancestors of the Beothuk Indians had emerged.

View of Terra Nova National Park At the time of early European settlement in Newfoundland, the Beothuks were the native inhabitants of the Island, who formed linguistic and cultural ties with the Algonkian cultures presently spread across the Canadian Maritimes. The Beothuks were hunters of the abundant food resources along the Island's sea coast or the interior forests and barrens. Spring and summer were spent on the coast hunting the seals, whales and other sea mammals. In the fall the family groups moved inland following the herds of caribou which provided skins for clothing and shelter, and meat for subsistence.

Although initial contacts between Beothuks and settlers were recorded as "friendly", misunderstanding and suspicion increased to the point where actual killings occurred on both sides for real or imaginary injustices. Starvation reduced Beaothuk populations when the increasing numbers of Europeans unknowingly blocked the Beothuks access to the coast and to their traditional livelihood. By the early 1800's they had become extinct as a people.

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