The last Newfoundlander

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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.

Organizations: Sobeys

Geographic location: Newfoundland, Toronto, Fogo Island South China Sea Nunavut Abu Dhabi Outer Ring Road Canada Papua New Guinea Renews

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Recent comments

  • Donna
    September 12, 2013 - 16:46

    Its more likely its a Newfoundlander that will be the last man standing!!

  • Donna Walbourne
    September 12, 2013 - 11:32

    Who ever wrote that doesn't realize you can take a Newfoundlander out of Newfoundland but you will never, ever take Newfoundland out of a Newfoundlander..Trust me I know!!

  • Ranter
    September 11, 2013 - 21:30

    Excellent...what's truly sticking out is the comments. One thing that will never die - newfoundlanders willing to shoot down their fellow Newfoundlander but give their last loft of bread to a stranger. Well done on both accounts.

    • JSpence
      September 12, 2013 - 14:22

      Agreed. Why are we so willing to help strangers and "outsiders", and yet so un-neighbourly to our fellow NL'ers? It's like we are frightened to death to see someone else get ahead, even by an inch. It's getting to be so bad we can't even seem to hold the door at Wal-Mart.

  • Bernice
    September 11, 2013 - 21:07

    I enjoyed your letter...and it is very true that one day the last of us that was born before we voted to join Canada...as for the vote,us born after never got a say...and there is some talk as if the vote itself was indeed just according to some of the old folks who have since passed...so thanks for writing that letter, it gives us all something to think about, especially us who really consider themselves a Newfoundlander...also Canadian....

  • Nanabush
    September 11, 2013 - 20:25

    This island is in all your care. Treaties are not being respected. The leaders of the settlers are not coming in friendship and peace. History is gone. You must all now get along. Do not lament the Beothuk while their closest ancestors are still defending their right to live. Please do not posion the Gulf.

  • Mark
    September 11, 2013 - 19:25

    I agree with you Randy. One can only hope that we can remember what it means to be a Newfoundlander, and live that way, long after they are gone. And wtf, check your history books. I'm not so sure the Newfoundlanders voted to become extinct either.

  • Paul
    September 11, 2013 - 15:59

    This reads just plain stund. What are ya smoking by'

  • Jeff
    September 11, 2013 - 11:40

    If the last Newfoundlander dies on July 1 2055, you will have some explaining to do.

  • huh?
    September 11, 2013 - 08:14

    What made this bit of drivel worth publishing? Please tell me nobody was paid to come with this.

  • wtf
    September 11, 2013 - 07:45

    Comparing the "last Newfoundlander" to the Beothuk is an insult to the memory of the Beothuks. The Beothuks didn't vote to become extinct. There are no more Beothuks. Their language, culture, beliefs and all that is unique to them is gone forever. In contrast, Newfoundland, it's culture and whatever else makes it distinct still exists. It didn't cease to exist just because of a political decision to join Canada.

    • Kirby
      September 12, 2013 - 11:25

      I tend to agree with you but "insult' is quite harsh! True the Beothucks did not "vote" but they did choose to stay separate from us unlike other 1st Nations people who gladly/begrudgingly accepted at least some of the benefits derived from the 'whiteman'. And I would acknowledge something was surely lost when the last Beothuck passed away. The same will be said and should be said when the last of our "race" also passes away. But "where once they stood now we stand" can also be said of the Beothucks as a race because they were most assuredly part of other 1st nation peoples of Eastern North America. The author does give reason for reflection of ourselves and of the Beothucks and that is a good thing!

    • Ken O'Brien
      September 15, 2013 - 08:36

      It goes too far to say that the death of the last person born with a Newfoundland birth certificate compares with the death of the last Beothuck. They were the original Newfoundlanders, wipes out by European settlement and expansion - truly a tragic story. But the writer is correct to urge that we think about how we are changing before that last Newfoundland-born citizen dies. We should take stock, remember who we are and where we came from, and continue to choose a path where we live for the simple things, enjoy life, and look out for one another.