Shanawdithit,last Beothuk Indian
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Shanawdithit, last survivor of the Beothuk tribe

The Beothuk Indians are an extinct race
In 1500 the Beothuk Indians were the exclusive inhabitants of Newfoundland. The Beothuks migrated throughout the interior and along the coastline of the island of Newfoundland following the herds of caribou, hunting water mammels and fishing.

Then the Euopeans came. Barely three hundred years later, the last survinging Beothuk, Shanawdithit, died.

The Beothuk have often been referred to as the Red Indians because of their habit of smearing their clothes and skin with red ochre. The beothuks also polished their domestic items and the bones of their ancesters with a mixture of red ochre and oils.

European contact quickly led to feuds and bloodshed. In 1501, Iberian explorers returned to Portugal with several Beothuks to be sold as slaves.

In the early 1500's Beothuks were captured and brought to both France and England to be displayed.

In 1608, the Beothuk warriors are recorded to have been feuding with French fishermen on the coast of Newfoundland. Fom 1609 until at least 1625, the French Crown authorized St. Malo sailors and merchants to arm and dispatched war ships to the north coast of Newfoundland in order to to protect French fishermen from Beothuk raids.

Bloody feuds developed between fishermen and the Beothuk and there were vicious raids and reprisals, on both sides. Like the Indians of the US western frontier, the Beothuks were pushed from their traditional hunting and fishing grounds.

Uultimately, the Beothuks succumbed to warfare, starvation and disease.

Nonosbawat is reputed to be the last chief of the Beothuk. He died in 1819 while trying to protect his wife (Demasduit) and family from an English raid.

After the death of her husband, Demasduit was kidnapped and brought to St. John's Newfoundland. In St. John's Demasduit was a great celebrity.

She was given freedom of the city and had a cameo portrait painted of her by the wife of the Governor of Newfoundland.

Soon after, Demasduit was returned to the Exploits region, where she had originally been abducted. Demasduit died of tuberculosis at Ship Cove Bay of Exploits, January 8, 1820.

In 1823 a young woman named Shanawdithit, her mother and sister were captured by English fishermen. They were brought to Twillingate and then to St. John's.

The three women were given gifts and supplies for the remaining Beothuks, who Shanawdithit reported numbered about thirteen in 1823, and were returned to the forest where they were captured.

The three women could not find their lost companions and returned to an English settlement. Shanawdithit's mother and sister died soon after.

In 1829, Shanawdithit died of tuberculosis at Victoria Hospital in St. John's Newfoundland. She was buried at St. Mary's church. She was the last of the Beothuks.

Most of what we know about Beothuk culture, religion and language is derived from the drawings and stories of Shananditit.

Shanawdithit drew pictures of six totems. Each totem rested on top of a pole that was approximatly two meters long. They represented aspects of the mythology of her people.

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