Disappointed with story on Beothuk

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I am very disappointed with your article “Beothuk not extinct,” April 6, particularly with the coverage you have given it with a large front-page illustration.

Everybody is entitled to their opinion but to present it in your paper without reservations is contrary to sound reporting.

The Beothuk were a distinct cultural group with their own language, belief system and ways of life. Though they may have shared some of these with other native groups or tribes, they were nevertheless a unique ethnic and cultural entity.

Even if a few Beothuk were absorbed by the Mi’kmaq, after six generations or more, with no new Beothuk “blood” infusion, the percentage of Beothuk gene material in today’s Mi’kmaq offspring would be 1.5 per cent or less. Do you honestly think that this justifies the claim that the “Beothuk (are) not extinct”?

The fact is, the Beothuk culture has disappeared and so have the people.

The investigation of the DNA of Icelanders by Danish scientists, reported in The Telegram several years ago, concluded that a genetic marker in a number of people was of unknown, probably native American origin though it is also found in Asia. It has been speculated that the marker could be Beothuk, and it might be, but until a full, scientific Beothuk DNA study has been completed, we will not know.

The study, initiated by the Beothuk Institute, is in the hands of a team of geneticists at MUN and McMaster Universities, and a specialist on isotopic work, also at MUN. Several samples have been taken and initial tests and other preparatory work have been done, in part financed by donations made at the Boyd’s Cove Interpretation Centre and a small Newfoundland government grant.

But funding for the major DNA study and a comparison with genetic material from other native groups, including Mi’kmaq, has not yet been obtained. Several applications with appropriate agencies, submitted over a number of years, were turned down, though we are hoping that our latest attempt will finally be successful. Until we have received the necessary financial support the study remains in abeyance.

Ingeborg Marshall

Portugal Cove-St. Philip’s

Organizations: Beothuk Institute, MUN and McMaster Universities, Cove Interpretation Centre

Geographic location: Asia, Newfoundland

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Recent comments

  • Ardy Born With 3 Thumbs
    October 19, 2013 - 22:38

    I would like to comment on Ms Marshall's knowledge of the Beothuk of Mi'kma'ki. In her book "THE BEOTHUK" Chapter 12, page 53, last paragraph, she states; "In the summer of 1818, Shanawdithit's mother and sister and a young child were killed on their way to an island to collect eggs and birds." And, Chapter 16, page 64, she states; "In April 1823, Shanawdithit, together with her mother, Doodebewshet, her father, her older sister, and possibly others, had come to the coast to look for mussels. When they encountered furriers Shanawdithit's father tried to escape and drowned while crossing a brook. The women surrendered and were brought to the magistrate, John Peyton Jr. on Exploits Island. He took them to St. John's, but after a short visit was asked to return them to the Exploits River. The mother and older daughter were suffering from a consumptive illness and soon died. Shanawdithit, sasid to be in better health, was taken into John Peyton Jrs. household, where she acted as a kind of servant." So, my question would be, just when and how did Shanawdithit's mother and sister die? Were they killed or die of a consumptive illness? In my opinion, they were murdered and those that were kept as "captives" were used as slaves. The historians who write about my people don't seem to get it right. There are just too many "historical facts" written by the abusers that try to clear them of all crimes against humanity, when the facts are before them say otherwise. Who could love the abusers that killed their mothers, sisters, babes and husbands? Can you believe that Demasduit and Shanawdithit loved their captors? Nope.

  • Cindy Murray
    April 29, 2013 - 17:15

    I hope the Beothuk Institute soon raises the funding necessary to continue with their DNA testing to find genetic material from the Beothuk in the Mi'kmaq people. DNA testing should also be done with present day Europeon and French settlers as well because if the genetic link survived with just one known female brought to Iceland by the Vikings, it stands to reason that there could very well be much more to be discovered right here in Newfoundland!! Contact with Europeon or French settlers meant almost certain death for the Beothuk, so they would have likely wanted to keep their origin secret. Because their skin was lighter than most native groups, removing the red ocher from their bodies might have made it easier for them to blend in with Europeon and French settlers. We won't know how much Beothuk DNA exists in current day settlers until the research is completed.

  • Winston Adams
    April 12, 2013 - 08:02

    I have not read the Telegram article, 'Beothic not Extinct' thinking, as Marshall says it is 'not sound reporting'. I have read much of Ingeborg Marshall's work who writes with authority on the Beothic. Sensational items like this on the front page of the Telegram may serve to deflect our guilt of our white and Mi'kmaq ancestors on their involvement in the ( in my opinion) genocide of the Beothic. To suggest the Beothic is not extinct,The Telegram article does nothing to remove the stain on our history. Anyone interested in the truth about the Beothic, I refer them to Marshall's book. I applaud her gentle reminders of historical facts.

    • Ardy Born With 3 Thumbs
      November 16, 2013 - 09:31

      Winston, you live in denial. Ingeborg writes with "authority" about the death of Shanawdithit's mother and sister, so just what year did they die? In the summer of 1818, or, April 1823. Murdered while trying to collect eggs or of a consumptive illness. Come on! Perhaps you and Marshall believe both, but only one can be true. Remember, they shot Shanawdithit too, in the hand and foot. My vote goes to the earlier date and murder would fit the bill. Just sayin ...

  • LMW
    April 11, 2013 - 19:38

    Just asking for clarity It should provide more clues about the origin of the Beothuk and establish an approximate time span to their most recent common ancestors with the Innu and Mikmaq, We expect that the study will show what archaeological, linguistic, and historic evidence is already suggesting, namely that these three native groups are relatively closely related. Direct quote from Ms. Marshall at the 2007 Convocation at MUN. My question is what does relatively closely related actually mean