One day - for the sake of argument let's say July 1, 2055 - the last Newfoundlander will die.
Think about it: one day in the not-too-distant future the last person to be born a Newfoundlander will expire, and the loss will be every bit as poignant as that of the last Beothuk.
Letters Default 2013
But Newfoundlanders are a gregarious lot, so how will we know when it happens?
Having been born and lived in close proximity to one of the four corners of the Earth (on Fogo Island), a disproportionate number of Newfoundlanders are scattered far and wide to the other three - a diaspora every bit as global as the Irish, and an impact as significant, or more so.
They are everywhere
Wherever you might roam you are hard pressed not to find a Newfoundlander - strolling through the airport in Toronto large as life, Sobeys bag in hand; as a toolpush on an oil rig in the South China Sea; a deputy minister in the Government of Nunavut; or chief surgeon in a hospital in Abu Dhabi (these examples are actual, not hypothetical).
Not a distinct race, exactly
Granted, "Newfoundlander" is not a race (like Beothuk), or even a nationality (anymore). As an appellation, state of mind and sense of identity, it is alive and well.
But, much as we mark the passing of the last Beothuk, one day the last person to carry a Newfoundland birth certificate will die, and this passing deserves our attention, if only as a reminder of what Newfoundland gave up as a result of Confederation with Canada.
There is no question that Newfoundland is a special place, and Newfoundlanders are special people. No one could reasonably argue that Newfoundland is not a distinct society. But that is (too quickly) changing.
One has only to cruise through any of the multitude of new subdivisions in and around the capital city to see how affluent we are becoming, or brave the Outer Ring Road westbound on a Monday morning to witness the intolerance and madness that is drifting in on the heels of that affluence.
No doubt the place and the people will continue to evolve. This is all the more reason to recognize and honour the loss of the last citizen of a little nation that, in its day, punched well above its weight class (and continues to do so within Confederation).
One big thing that was lost during Confederation with Canada was self-confidence. Owning and honouring the past is an important part of moving beyond that.
In the end, there is no escaping the fact that, one day, in a small apartment in Toronto, on a beach in Papua New Guinea, or on a daybed in Renews, the last Newfoundlander will most certainly die, and the world will be diminished by the loss.
Randy Gillespie writes from Conception Bay South.