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Friday, February 8, 2019

Before the Europeans Came to Newfoundland

When Wayne and I visited The Rooms Museum in St. John's last year we saw a few exhibits with information about the Beothuk tribe of native people.

Beothuk pendants, bone and red ochre

With the widespread use of DNA testing a lot of questions are being answered these days that the archaeological record alone was unable to address, making for a more complete picture of Newfoundland before the Europeans arrived.

It now appears that multiple tribes may have arrived in Newfoundland besides the Beothuk and the Mi'kmaq over the centuries.  I recently told Wayne that the next time Ancestry is having a sale I'm buying a kit for each of us so we can contribute to the data being collected.

Newfoundland historians are sure to be excited these days as news of the remains of a pair of the Beothuk tribe are about to be returned to Canada from a Scottish museum.  They will journey to the Canadian Museum of History in Ottawa first before finally coming home to Newfoundland and there will likely be DNA testing performed to see if it can be determined if any Beothuk DNA traces can be found in the current Newfoundland population.

One of these persons is Demasduit, who was kidnapped by a European fur trapper in March 1819 to retaliate for an alleged theft by her tribe. Nonosabasut was killed that same year as he tried to rescue his wife, who was given the name Mary March by her English captors.

Demasduit died of tuberculosis in January 1820, and was returned to Beothuk land to be buried at Red Indian Lake. A few years later a Scottish explorer retrieved the two skulls and some grave goods, which eventually made their way to Edinburgh.  What possessed people to do such a thing?

Here's a link to a nice little story from one of my distant cousins about the Mi'kmaq, which is a separate native tribe perhaps thought to originally have come over from Nova Scotia.  Unlike the fate of the Beothuk, there is still plenty of their DNA going around!  It's an interesting topic that I'm sure I'll learn more about when we move back home.


  1. The tested the DNA of people aroun dth euk to determin where the came from but I think it showed many are related to the Vikings who were also in Nufoundland. Not sure what I am but suspect mostly celtic

  2. Nice tour, brought back some nice memories of our visit:)