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Title: Lecture on the Aborigines of Newfoundland - Delivered Before the Mechanics' Institute, at St. John's, - Newfoundland, on Monday, 17th January, 1859
Author: Noad, Joseph, 1823-1898
Language: English
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*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Lecture on the Aborigines of Newfoundland - Delivered Before the Mechanics' Institute, at St. John's, - Newfoundland, on Monday, 17th January, 1859" ***

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     _Delivered before the Mechanics Institute, at St.
     John's, on Monday, 17th January,_












Of the various theories advanced on the origin of the North American
Indians, none has been so entirely satisfactory as to command a
general assent; and on this point many and different opinions are yet
held. The late De Witt Clinton, Governor of the State of New York, a
man who had given no slight consideration to subjects of this nature,
maintained that they were of Tatar origin; others have thought them
the descendants of the Ten Tribes, or the offspring of the Canaanites
expelled by Joshua. The opinion, however, most commonly entertained
is, that the vast continent of North America was peopled from the
Northeast of Asia; in proof of which it is urged that every
peculiarity, whether in person or disposition, which characterises the
Americans, bears some resemblance to the rude tribes scattered over
the northeast of Asia, but almost none to the nations settled on the
northern extremity of Europe. Robertson, however, gives a new phase to
this question; from his authority we learn that, as early as the ninth
century, the Norwegians discovered Greenland and planted colonies
there. The communication with that country, after a long interruption,
was renewed in the last century, and through Moravian missionaries, it
is now ascertained that the Esquimaux speak the same language as the
Greenlanders, and that they are in every respect the same people. By
this decisive fact, not only is the consanguinity of the Greenlanders
with the Esquimaux established, but also the possibility of peopling
America from the north of Europe demonstrated, and if of America, then
of course of Newfoundland also, and thus it appears within the verge
of possibility, that the original inhabitants of this Island may be
descendants of Europeans, in fact merely a distinct tribe of the
Esquimaux. At a meeting of the Philosophical Society held in England
some few years ago, the subject of the Red Indians of Newfoundland was
brought under discussion by Mr. Jukes, the gentleman who conducted the
geological survey of this Island; and Dr. King, a name well-known
among scientific men, gave it as his opinion, founded on historical
evidence, going so far back as the period of Sebastian Cabot, that
they were really an Esquimaux tribe. Others are of opinion, founded on
some real or presumed affinity between the vocabulary of the one
people with that of the other, that the Indian tribes of North America
and the original inhabitants of Newfoundland, called by themselves
"Boeothicks," and by Europeans "Red Indians," are of the same

The enquiry, however, into the mere origin of a people is one more
curious in its nature than it is calculated to be useful, and failure
in attempting to discover it need excite but little regret; but it is
much to be lamented that the early history of the Boeothick is
shrouded in such obscurity, that any attempt to penetrate it must be
vain. All that we know of the tribe as it existed in past ages, is
derived from tradition handed down to us chiefly thro' the Micmacs;
and even from this source, doubtful and uncertain as such authority
confessedly is, the amount of information conveyed to us is both
scanty and imperfect. From such traditionary facts we gather, that the
Boeothicks were once a powerful and numerous tribe, like their
neighbouring tribe the Micmacs, and that for a long period these
tribes were on friendly terms and inhabited the western shores of
Newfoundland in common, together with other parts of the Island as
well as the Labrador, and this good understanding continued until some
time after the discovery of Newfoundland by Cabot; but it was at
length violently interrupted by the Micmacs, who, to ingratiate
themselves with the French, who at that time held the sway in these
parts, and who had taken offence at some proceedings of the
Boeothicks, slew two Red Indians with the intention of taking their
heads, which they had severed from the bodies, to the French. This
wanton and unprovoked outrage was discovered by the Boeothicks, who
gave no intimation of such discovery, but who, after consulting
together, determined on revenge. They invited the Micmacs to a feast,
and arranged their guests in such order that every Boeothick had a
Micmac by his side; at a preconcerted signal every Boeothick slew his
guest. War of course ensued. Firearms were but little known to the
Indians at that time, but they soon came into more general use among
such tribes as continued to hold intercourse with Europeans. This
circumstance gave the Micmacs an undisputed ascendancy over the
Boeothicks, who were forced to betake themselves to the recesses of
the interior and other parts of the Island, alarmed, as well they
might be, at every report of the firelock. What may be the present
feelings of the Red Indians, supposing any of the tribe to be yet
living, towards the Micmacs we know not; but we do know that the
latter cherish feelings of unmitigated hatred against the very name of
"Red Indian."

When Cabot discovered Newfoundland in 1497 he saw Savages, whom he
describes as "painted with red ochre, and covered with skins." Cartier
in 1534 saw the Red Indians, whom he describes "as of good
stature,--wearing their hair in a bunch on the top of the head, and
adorned with feathers." In 1574 Frobisher having been driven by the
ice on the coast of Newfoundland, induced some of the natives to come
on board, and with one of them he sent five sailors on shore, whom he
never saw again; on this account he seized one of the Indians, who
died shortly after arriving in England.

As soon after the discovery of Newfoundland as its valuable fisheries
became known, vessels from various countries found their way hither,
for the purpose of catching whales, and of following other pursuits
connected with the fishery. Among those early visiters was a Captain
Richard Whitburne, who commanded a ship of 300 tons, belonging to "one
Master Cotton of South-hampton" and who fished at Trinity. This
Captain Whitburne, in a work published by him in 1622, describing the
coast, fishery, soil, and produce of Newfoundland, says, "the natives
are ingenious and apt by discreet and moderate government, to be
brought to obedience. Many of them join the French and Biscayans on
the Northern coast, and work hard for them about fish, whales, and
other things; receiving for their labor some bread or trifling
trinkets." They believed, according to Whitburne, that they were
created from arrows stuck in the ground by the Good Spirit, and that
the dead went into a far country to make merry with their friends.
Other early voyagers also make favourable mention of the natives, but
notwithstanding this testimony, it is evident, even from information
given by their apologist Whitburne himself, that the Red Indians were
not exempt from those pilfering habits which, in many instances, have
marked the conduct of the inhabitants of newly discovered Islands on
their first meeting with Europeans. Whitburne, when expressing his
readiness to adopt measures for opening a trade with the Indians,
incidentally mentions an instance where their thievish propensities
were displayed.--He says, "I am ready with my life and means whereby
to find out some new trade with the Indians of the country, for they
have great store of red ochre, which they use to colour their bodies,
bows, arrows, and canoes. The canoes are built in shape like wherries
on the river Thames, but that they are much longer, made with the
rinds of birch trees, which they sew very artificially and close
together, and overlay every seam with turpentine. In like manner they
sew the rinds of birch trees round and deep in proportion like a brass
kettle, to boil their meat in; which hath been proved to me by three
mariners of a ship riding at anchor by me--who being robbed in the
night by the savages of their apparel and provisions, did next day
seek after and came suddenly to where they had set up three tents and
were feasting; they had three pots made of the rinds of trees standing
each of them on stones, boiling with fowls in each; they had also many
such pots so sewed, and which were full of yolk of eggs that they had
boiled hard and so dried, and which the savages do use in their broth.
They had great store of skins of deer, beaver, bears, otter, seal, and
divers other fine skins, which were well dressed; they had also great
store of several sorts of fish dried. By shooting off a musquet
towards them, they all ran away without any apparel but only their
hats on, which were made of seal skins, in fashion like our hats,
sewed handsomely with narrow bands and set round with fine white
shels. All the canoes, flesh, skins, yolks of eggs, bows, arrows, and
much fine ochre and divers other things did the ship's company take
and share among them." And from Whitburne's time up to 1818 have
complaints been made of thefts committed by the Indians. To the
Northward the settlers, as they allege, had many effects stolen from
them--one individual alone made a deposition to the effect that he had
lost through the depredations of the Indians, property to the amount
of £200.

Now whether in such thefts (although they were only of a petty
character) we are to trace the origin of that murderous warfare so
relentlessly carried on by the Whites against the Red Indians, or
whether the atrocities of the former, were the result of brutal
ignorance and a wanton disregard of human life, cannot how be
determined,--we have only the lamentable fact before us, that to a set
of men not only destitute of all religious principle, but also of the
common feelings of humanity, the pursuit and slaughter of the Red
Indian became a pastime--an amusement--eagerly sought after--wantonly
and barbarously pursued, and in the issue fatally, nd it may be added,
awfully successful.

For the greater part of the seventeenth century the history of the Red
Indians present a dreary waste--no sympathy appears to have been felt
for them, and no efforts were made to stay the hands of their
merciless destroyers. In their attempts to avoid the Micmac, their
dire enemy, they fell in the path of the no less dreaded White, and
thus year after year passed away, and the comparatively defenceless
Boeothick found, only in the grave, a refuge and rest from his
barbarous and powerful foes. During the long period just adverted to,
the Red Indian was regarded by furriers, whose path he sometimes
crossed; and with whose gains his necessities compelled him sometimes
to interfere, with as little compassion as they entertained for any
wild or dangerous beast of the forest, and were shot or butchered with
as little hesitation. And barbarities of this nature became at length
so common, that the attention of the Government was directed to it;
and in 1786 a proclamation was issued by Governor Elliot, in which it
is stated "that it having been represented to the King that his
subjects residing in this Island do often treat the Indians with the
greatest inhumanity, and frequently destroy them without the least
provocation or remorse; it was therefore his Majesty's pleasure that
all means should be used to discover and apprehend all who may be
guilty of murdering any of the said Indians, in order that such
offenders may be sent over to England to be tried for such capital
crimes." In 1797 Governor Waldegrave issued a proclamation of a
similar character, which document also adverts to the cruelties to
which the Indians were subject at the hands of hunters, fishermen and
others.--And again in 1802 a proclamation of a like description was
also issued.

In 1803 a native Indian was for the first time taken alive--this was a
female,--she was captured at the northern part of the Island, being
surprised by a fisherman while paddling her canoe towards a small
island in quest of birds' eggs. She was carried to St. John's and
taken to Government-house, where she was kindly treated. She admired
the epaulets of the officers more than any thing she saw, but appeared
to value her own dress more highly, for although presents were given
her, and indeed whatever she asked for, she would never let her own
fur garments go out of her hands. In the hope that if this woman were
returned to her tribe, her own description of the treatment she had
received, and the presents she would convey to her people, may lead to
a friendly communication being opened with the Red Indians, a
gentleman residing in Fogo, (Mr. Andrew Pearce) in the vicinity of
which place the woman was taken, was authorised to hire men for the
purpose of returning her in safety to her tribe. She was accordingly
put under the care of four men, and the manner in which they dealt
with her is recounted in the following copy of a letter, written by
one of them, and addressed to Mr. Trounsell, who was the Admiral's
Secretary:--He says, "This is to inform you that I could get no men
until the 20th August, when we proceeded with the Indian to the Bay of
Exploits, and there went with her up the river as far as we possibly
could for want of more strength, and there let her remain ten days,
and when I returned the rest of the Indians had carried her off into
the country. I would not wish to have any more hand with the Indians,
in case you will send round and insure payment for a number of men to
go in the country in the winter. The people do not hold with
civilizing the Indians, as they think that they will kill more than
they did before.

     (Signed,) WILLIAM CULL."

This letter, or at least the latter part of it, is not easily
understood; but there is nothing either in its diction or its tone to
remove the doubt which, at the time the letter was written, was
entertained as to the safety of the poor Indian, and which still rests
upon her fate--a strong suspicion was felt, and which has never been
removed, that Cull had not dealt fairly with her. Cull heard that such
an opinion was entertained, and expressed a strong desire to "get hold
of the fellow who said he had murdered the Indian woman." A gentleman
who knew Cull well, said, "if ever the person who charged him with the
crime, comes within the reach of Cull's gun, and a long gun it is,
that cost £7 at Fogo, he is as dead as any of the Red Indians which
Cull has often shot." Cull received £50 for capturing the woman, and a
further sum of £15 for her maintenance.

In 1807 a proclamation was issued by Governor Holloway, offering a
reward of £50 "to such person or persons as shall be able to induce or
persuade any of the male tribe of native Indians to attend them to the
town of St. John's; also all expenses attending their journey or
passage," and the same reward was offered to any person who would give
information of any murder committed upon the bodies of the Indians.

In 1809, the Government, not satisfied with merely issuing
proclamations, sent a vessel to Exploit's Bay, in order if possible to
meet with the Indians. Lieutenant Spratt, who commanded the vessel,
had with him a picture representing the officers of the Royal Navy,
shaking hands with an Indian chief--a party of sailors laying goods at
his feet--a European and Indian mother looking at their respective
children of the same age--Indian men and women presenting furs to the
officers, and a young sailor looking admiration at an Indian girl. The
expedition, however, did not meet with any of the tribe.

In the following year, 1810, several efforts were made to open a
communication with the natives, and to arrest the destruction to which
they were exposed--first, a proclamation was issued by Sir John
Duckworth, stating that the native Indians, by the ill treatment of
wicked persons, had been driven from all communication with His
Majesty's subjects, and forced to take refuge in the woods, and
offering a reward of £100 to any person who should, to use the words
of the proclamation, "generously and meritoriously exert himself to
bring about and establish on a firm and settled footing an intercourse
with the natives; and moreover, that such persons should be honorably
mentioned to His Majesty."

In the same year a proclamation was also issued, addressed exclusively
to the Micmacs, the Esquimaux, and American Indians frequenting the
Island, recommending them to live in harmony with the Red Indians, and
threatening punishment to any who should injure them; and early in the
same year, William Cull, the same person who has been spoken of, with
six others, and two Micmacs, set out upon the river Exploits, then
frozen over, in quest of their residence in the interior of the
country. On the fourth day, having travelled 60 miles, they discovered
a building on the bank of the river, about 40 or 50 feet long, and
nearly as wide. It was constructed of wood, and covered with the rinds
of trees, and skins of deer. It contained large quantities of venison,
estimated to have been the choicest parts of at least 100 deer--the
flesh was in junks, entirely divested of bone, and stored in boxes
made of birch and spruce rinds--each box containing about two cwt. The
tongues and hearts were placed in the middle of the packages. In this
structure, says the celebrated William Cull, we saw three lids of tin
tea kettles, which he believed to be the very same given by Governor
Gambier to the Indian woman he was entrusted to restore to her tribe.
Whether Cull, by this very opportune discovery, removed the suspicion
that attached itself to the manner in which he discharged the trust
committed to him, does not appear. On the opposite bank of the river
stood another store-house considerably larger than the former, but the
ice being bad across the river, it was not examined. Two Indians were
seen, but avoided all communication with the Whites. The two
store-houses stood opposite each other, and from the margin of the
river on each side there extended for some miles into the country,
high fences erected for the purpose of conducting the deer to the
river, and along the margin of the lake in the neighbourhood of those
store-houses, were also erected extensive fences, on each side, in
order to prevent the deer when they had taken the water from landing.
It would appear that as soon as a herd of deer, few or many, enter the
water, the Indians who are upon the watch, launch their canoes, and
the parallel fences preventing the re-landing of the deer, they become
an easy prey to their pursuers, and the buildings before described are
depots, for their reception.

Captain Buchan's expedition, too, which is generally, but erroneously
spoken of as having been made in the winter of 1815 and 1816, in the
course of which two of his men were killed, was also commenced in the
autumn of this same year, 1810. Subsequently, indeed, he made one or
two journeys into the interior, but only on the one occasion did he
meet with any of the natives. The official account of his chief
excursion is dated the 23rd October, 1811, and is as follows:--

"Mr. Buchan went in the autumn, to the entrance of the River Exploits,
and there anchored his vessel, which soon became fixed in the ice. He
then began his march into the interior, accompanied by 24 of his crew
and three guides, and having penetrated about 130 miles, discovered
some wigwams of the Indians. He surrounded them, and their
inhabitants, in number about seventy-five persons, became in his
power. He succeeded in overcoming their extreme terror, and soon
established a good understanding with them. Four men, among whom was
their chief, accepted his invitation to accompany him back to the
place, where, as he explained to them by signs, he had left some
presents, which he designed for them. The confidence by this time
existing was mutual, and so great, that two of Mr. Buchan's people,
marines, requested to remain with the Indians; they were allowed to do
so, and Mr. Buchan set out on his return to his depot with the
remainder of his party and the four Indians. They continued together
for about six miles, to the fire-place of the night before, when the
chief declined going any further, and with one of his men took leave,
directing the other two to go on with Mr. Buchan. They did so, until
they came near the place to which they were to be conducted, when one
of them became apparently panic-struck and fled, beckoning to his
companion to follow him. But the tempers of the two men were
different, the latter remained unshaken in his determination, and with
a cheerful countenance, and air of perfect confidence in the good
faith of his new allies, he motioned to them with his hands to
proceed, disregarding his companion and seeming to treat with scorn
Mr. Buchan's invitation to depart freely if he chose to do so. Soon
afterwards the party reached their rendezvouz--slept there one night,
loaded themselves with the presents and returned again towards their
Wigwams. The behaviour of the Indian remained the same--he continued
to show a generous confidence, and the whole tenor of his conduct was
such as Mr. Buchan could not witness without a feeling of esteem for
him. On arriving at the wigwams they were found deserted, which threw
the Indian into great alarm. Many circumstances determined Mr. Buchan
to let him be at perfect liberty, and this treatment revived his
spirits. The party spent the night at the Wigwams, and continued their
route in the morning. They had proceeded about a mile, when, being a
little in advance of the rest, the Indian was seen to start suddenly
backwards; he screamed loudly and then fled swiftly, which rendered
pursuit in vain. The cause of flight was understood when Mr. Buchan
the next moment, beheld upon the ice, headless and pierced by the
arrows of the Indians, the naked bodies of his two marines. An alarm
had, it is evident, been given by the savage who deserted the party at
the rendezvouz, and it is supposed that to justify his conduct in so
deserting, he had abused his countrymen with a tale which had excited
them to what they perhaps considered a just retaliation. Thus ended an
enterprise which was conducted with an ability, zeal, perseverance and
manly endurance of extreme hardship, which merited a better
success.--When the spring became sufficiently advanced Mr. Buchan
returned with his vessel to St. John's, and at once sought and
obtained permission from the Governor to return in the summer, in the
hope that as the natives came in that season down the rivers to fish
and hunt, he might the more easily fall in with them. In this
expectation, however, he was disappointed, as he only succeeded in
merely discovering some recent traces of them. Captain Buchan, still
sanguine of success, requested permission to winter in St. John's,
that he may be in readiness to take the earliest of the ensuing spring
to go in quest of them again. This was acceded to; but of the
movements of Captain Buchan, in consequence of this arrangement, there
is no record, it is only known that no additional discoveries were
made--but from the facts ascertained by Captain Buchan in his first
excursion, the authorities felt satisfied the number of the Indians
had been greatly underrated. Captain Buchan was of opinion they could
not be less (in the whole) than three hundred persons. Now this is an
important fact, as it goes far to disprove the generally received
opinion that the tribe is extinct, inasmuch as that opinion was formed
from the representations of the decreased numbers of her tribe, made
by the Indian woman taken in 1823, but the accuracy of the whole
statement there is much reason to doubt. In the course of this
narrative we shall be brought to the details of her statement, when a
closer comparison of the conflicting accounts can be made.

The several proclamations issued, in favor of the Red Indian, seem to
have been entirely disregarded--the work of extermination proceeded,
and the Government again thought it necessary to express its
abhorrence of the murders that were continually being perpetrated, and
to threaten punishment to the guilty. Accordingly a proclamation, in
the name of the Prince Regent, was issued by Sir R. Keats in 1813, to
the same effect, and offering the same reward as the previous ones.
For the next four years, or from 1814 to 1818, no additional efforts
were made for the benefit of the Indians; but complaints were made by
various persons during that period,--residents to the northward,--of
thefts, which it was alleged were committed by the Indians. In
consequence of these repeated losses, the person who had sustained the
greatest injury, amounting to about £150, made application to the
Government for permission to follow the property and regain it, if
possible. This permission being given, a party of ten men left the
Exploits on the 1st of March, 1819, with a most anxious desire, as
they state, of being able to take some of the Indians, and thus,
through them, to open a friendly communication with the rest. The
leader of the party giving strict orders not on any account to
commence hostilities without positive directions. On the 2nd March a
few wigwams were seen and examined, they appeared to be frequented by
the Indians during spring and autumn for the purpose of killing deer.
On the 3rd a fire placed on the side of a brook was seen, where some
Indians had recently slept. On the 4th the party reached a store-house
belonging to the Indians, and on entering it they found five traps
belonging to and recognized as the property of persons in Twillingate,
as also part of a boat's jib--footsteps also were seen about the
store-house, and these tracks were followed with speed and caution. On
the 5th the party reached a very large pond, and foot-marks of two or
more Indians were distinctly discovered, and soon after an Indian was
seen walking in the direction of the spot where the party were
concealed, while three other Indians were perceived further off and
going in a contrary direction. The curiosity of the whole party being
strongly excited, the leader of them showed himself openly on the
point. When the Indian discovered him she was for a moment motionless,
then screamed violently and ran off--at this time the persons in
pursuit were in ignorance as to whether the Indian was male or female.
One of the party immediately started in pursuit, but did not gain on
her until he had taken off his jacket and rackets, when he came up
with her fast; as she kept looking back at her pursuer over her
shoulder; he dropped his gun on the snow and held up his hands to shew
her he was unarmed, and on pointing to his gun, which was some
distance behind, she stopped--he did the same, then he advanced and
gave her his hand, she gave her's to him, and to all the party as they
came up. Seven or eight Indians were then seen repeatedly running off
and on the pond, and shortly three of them came towards the party--the
woman spoke to them, and two of the Indians joined the English, while
the third remained some one hundred yards off. Something being
observed under the cassock of one of the Indians, he was searched and
a hatchet taken from him. The two Indians then took hold of the man
who had seized the Indian woman, and endeavoured to force her away
from him, but not succeeding in this, he tried to get possession of
three different guns, and at last succeeded in geting hold of one,
which he tried to wrest from the man who held it; not being able to
accomplish this, the Indian seized the Englishman by the throat, and
the danger being imminent, three shots were fired, all so
simultaneously that it appeared as if only one gun had been
discharged. The Indian dropped, and his companions immediately fled.
In extenuation of this, to say the least of it, most deplorable event,
it is said, "could we have intimidated him, or persuaded him to leave
us, or even have seen the others go off, we should have been most
happy to have been spared using violence--but when it is remembered
that our small party were in the heart of the Indian country, a
hundred miles from any European settlement, and that there were in our
sight at times, as many Indians as our party amounted to, and we could
not ascertain how many were in the woods that we did not see, it could
not be avoided with safety to ourselves. Had destruction been our
object, we might have carried it much farther."

The death of this Indian was subsequently brought before the Grand
Jury, and that body having enquired into the circumstances connected
with it, in its report to the Court makes the following
statement:--"It appears that the deceased came to his death in
consequence of an attack on the party in search of them, and his
subsequent obstinacy, and not desisting when repeatedly menaced by
some of the party for that purpose, and the peculiar situation of the
searching party and their men, was such as to warrant their acting on
the defensive."

Now, taking the foregoing report as given by the leader of the
expedition, and in which there can be no question but that the conduct
of the English party is as favourably represented as it possibly could
be, yet does the statement detailed afford no excuse for the Indian,
and is the word "obstinacy" as applied by the Grand Jury, applicable
to him?

It may not be forgotten that the Indian was surprised in the "heart of
his own country"--treading his own soil--within sight of his
home--that home was invaded by armed men of the same race with those
who had inflicted on his tribe irreparable injuries--his wife was
seized by them--his attempts to release her, which ought to have been
respected, were violently resisted,--and then, maddened by the bonds
and captivity of his wife, he continues, with a courage and devotion
to her which merited a far different fate, singly his conflict with
ten armed men--he is shot, and his death is coldly ascribed to his
"obstinacy." Had the Indian tamely permitted his wife to have been
carried away from him--had he without feeling or emotion witnessed the
separation of the mother from her infant child, then indeed little
sympathy would have been felt for him--and yet it is precisely because
he did show that he possessed feelings common to us all, and without
the possession of which man becomes more degraded than the brute, that
he was shot. Thus perished the ill-fated husband of poor Mary March,
and she herself, from the moment when her hand was touched by the
white man, became the child of sorrow, a character which never left
her, until she became shrouded in an early tomb. Among her tribe she
was known as "De mas do weet,"--her husband's name was "No nos baw

In an official report Mary March is described as a young woman of
about twenty-three years of age--of a gentle and interesting
disposition, acquiring and retaining without any difficulty any words
she was taught. She had one child, who, as was subsequently
ascertained, died a couple of days after its mother's capture. Mary
March was first taken to Twillingate, where, she was placed under the
care of the Revd. Mr. Leigh, Episcopal Missionary, who, upon the
opening of the season, came with her to St. John's. She never
recovered from the effects of her grief at the death of her
husband--her health rapidly declined, and the Government, with the
view of restoring her to her tribe, sent a small sloop-of-war with her
to the northward, with orders to her Commander to proceed to the
summer haunts of the Indians; from this attempt, however, he returned
unsuccessful. Captain Buchan, in the _Grashopper_, was subsequently
sent to accomplish the same object. He left St. John's in September,
1819, for the Exploits, but poor Mary March died on board the vessel
at the mouth of the river. Captain Buchan had her body carried up the
lake, where he left it in a coffin, in a place where it was probable
her tribe would find her,--traces of Indians were seen while the party
was on its way up,--and in fact, although unaware of it, Captain
Buchan and his men were watched by a party of Indians, who that winter
were encamped on the river Exploits, and when they observed Captain
Buchan and his men pass up the river on the ice, they went down to the
sea coast, near the mouth of the river, and remained there a month;
after that they returned, and saw the footsteps of Captain Buchan's
party made on their way down the river. The Indians, then, by a
circuitous route, went to the lake, and to the spot where the body of
Mary March was left--they opened the coffin and took out the clothes
that were left with her. The coffin was allowed to remain suspended as
they found it for a month, it was then placed on the ground, where, it
remained two months; in the spring they removed the body to the burial
place which they had built for her husband, placing her by his side.

A narrative of the circumstances which attended the capture of Mary
March was published in Liverpool in 1829, and written, as is alleged,
by a person who formed one of the party when the capture was effected.
Although this narrative contains some inaccuracies, yet it bears
internal evidence of being the production of a person who really
witnessed the scenes he describes, and though differing in several
particulars from the account as before detailed, yet it describes many
events which the leader of the party may have omitted, and states
nothing absolutely irreconcileable with his account--with some
omissions, not necessarily connected with the main object of the
expedition, this second record of the circumstances associated with it
is now inserted, in so far at least as the same were published:--


     _To the Editor of the Liverpool Mercury_.

     SIR.--Observing among the details in the _Mercury_ of September
     18, that of "Shawnadithit, supposed to be the last of the Red
     Indians," or Aborigines of Newfoundland, I am tempted to offer
     a few remarks on the subject, convinced as I am that she cannot
     be the last of the tribe by many hundreds. Having resided a
     considable time in that part of the north of Newfoundland which
     they most frequented, and being one of the party who captured
     Mary March in 1819, I have embodied into a narrative the events
     connected with her capture, which I am confident will gratify
     many of your readers.

     Proceeding northward, the country gradually assumes a more
     fertile appearance; the trees, which in the south are, except
     in a few places, stunted in their growth, now begin to assume a
     greater height and strength till you reach the neighbourhood of
     Exploits River and Bay; here the timber is of a good size and
     quality, and in sufficient quantity to serve the purposes of
     the inhabitants:--both here and at Trinity Bay some very fine
     vessels have been built. To Exploits Bay it was that the Red
     Indians came every summer for the purpose of fishing, the place
     abounding with salmon. No part of the Bay was inhabited; the
     islands at the mouth, consisting of Twillingate, Exploits
     Island, and Burnt Islands, had a few inhabitants. There were
     also several small harbours in a large island, the name of
     which I now forget, including Herring Neck and Morton. In 1820
     the population of Twillingate amounted to 720, and that of all
     the other places might perhaps amount to as many more;--they
     were chiefly descendants from West of England settlers; and
     having many of them been for several generations without
     religious or moral instruction of any kind, were immersed in
     the lowest state of ignorance and vice. Latterly, however,
     churches have been built and schools established, and, I have
     been credibly informed that the moral and intellectual state of
     the people is much improved. While I was there the church was
     opened, and I must say that the people came in crowds to attend
     a place of worship, many of them coming fifteen and twenty
     miles purposely to attend.

     On the first settlement of the country, the Indians naturally
     viewed the intruders with a jealous eye, and some of the
     settlers having repeatedly robbed their nets, &c., they
     retaliated and stole several boats' sails, implements of iron,
     &c. The settlers, in return, mercilessly shot all the Indians
     they could meet with:--in fact so fearful were the latter of
     fire-arms, that, in an open space, one person with a gun would
     frighten a hundred; when concealed among the bushes, however,
     they often made a most desperate resistance. I have heard an
     old man, named Rogers, living on Twillingate Great Island,
     boast that he had shot, at different periods, above sixty of
     them. So late as 1817, this wretch, accompanied by three
     others, one day discovered nine unfortunate Indians lying
     asleep on a small island far up the bay. Loading the large
     guns[A] very heavily, they rowed up to them, and each taking
     aim, fired. One only rose, and rushing into the water,
     endeavoured to swim to another island, close by, covered with
     wood; but the merciless wretch followed in the boat, and
     butchered the poor creature in the water with an axe, then took
     the body to the shore and piled it on those of the other eight,
     whom his companions had in the meantime put out of their
     misery. He minutely described, to me the spot, and I afterwards
     visited the place, and found their bones in a heap, bleached
     and whitened with the winter's blast.

     I have now, I think, said enough to account for the _shyness_
     of the Indians towards the settlers, but could relate many
     other equally revolting scenes, some of which I shall hereafter
     touch upon. In 1815 or 1816, Lieutenant, now Captain Buchan,
     set out on an expedition to endeavour to meet with the Indians,
     for the purpose of opening a friendly communication with them.
     He succeeded in meeting with them, and the intercourse seemed
     firmly established, so much so, that two of them consented to
     go and pass the night with Captain Buchan's party, he leaving
     two of his men who volunteered to stop. On returning to the
     Indians' encampment in the morning, accompanied by the two who
     had remained all night, on approaching the spot, the two
     Indians manifested considerable disquietude, and after
     exchanging a few glances with each other, broke from their
     conductors and rushed into the woods. On arriving at the
     encampment. Captain Buchan's poor fellows lay on the ground a
     frightful spectacle, their heads being severed from their
     bodies, and almost cut to pieces.

     In the summer of 1818, a person who had established a salmon
     fishery at the mouth of Exploits River, had a number of
     articles stolen by the Indians; they consisted of a gold watch,
     left accidentally in the boat, the boat's sails, some hatchets,
     cordage, and iron implements. He therefore resolved on sending
     an expedition into the country, in order to recover his

     The day before the party set off, I arrived accidentally at the
     house, taking a survey of numerous bodies of woodcutters
     belonging to the establishment with which I was connected. The
     only time anyone can penetrate into the interior in the winter
     season, the lakes and rivers being frozen over; even the Bay of
     Exploits, though salt water, was then (the end of January)
     frozen for sixty miles. Having proposed to accompany the party,
     they immediately consented. Our equipments consisted of a
     musket, bayonet, and hatchet; to each of the servants a pistol;
     Mr. ---- and myself had, in addition, another pistol and a
     dagger, and a double-barrelled gun, instead of a musket: each
     carried a pair of snowshoes, a supply of eight pounds of
     biscuit and a piece of pork, ammunition, and one quart of rum;
     besides, we had a light sled and four dogs, who took it in
     turns in dragging the sled, which contained a blanket for each
     man, rum and other necessaries. We depended on our guns for a
     supply of provisions, and at all times could meet with plenty
     of partridges and hares, though there were few days we did not
     kill a deer. The description of one day's journey will suffice
     for all, there being but little variation. The snow was at this
     time about eight feet deep.

     On the morning of our departure we set off in good spirits up
     the river, and after following its course for about twelve
     miles, arrived at the Rapids, a deer at full speed passed us; I
     fired, and it fell; the next instant a wolf, in full pursuit,
     made his appearance; on seeing the party, he halted for an
     instant, and then rushed forward as if to attack us. Mr. ----
     however, anticipated him; for taking a steady aim, at the same
     time sitting coolly on an old tree, he passed a bullet through
     the fellow's head, who was soon stretched a corpse on the snow;
     a few minutes after another appeared, when several firing
     together he also fell, roaring and howling for a long time,
     when one of the men went and knocked him on the head with a

     And now, ye effeminate feather bed loungers, where do you
     suppose we were to sleep? There was no comfortable hotel to
     receive us; not even a house where a board informs the
     benighted traveller that there is "entertainment for man and
     horse;" not even the skeleton of a wigwam; the snow eight feet
     deep,--the thermometer nineteen degrees below the freezing
     point. Every one having disencumbered himself of his load,
     proceeded with his hatchet to cut down the small fir and birch
     trees. The thick part of the trees was cut in lengths, and
     heaped up in two piles; between which a sort of wigwam was
     formed of the branches: a number of small twigs of trees, to
     the depth of about three feet, were laid on the snow for a bed;
     and having lighted the pile of wood on each side, some
     prepared venison steaks for supper, while others skinned the
     two wolves, in order, with the dear skin, to form a covering to
     the wigwam; this some opposed, as being a luxury we should not
     every day obtain. Supper being ready, we ate heartily, and
     having melted some snow for water, we made some hot toddy, that
     is, rum, butter, hot water and sugar; a song was proposed, and
     acceeded to: and thus, in the midst of a dreary desert, far
     from the voice of our fellow men, we sat cheerful and
     contented, looking forward for the morrow, without dread,
     anxious to renew our toils and resume our labours. Alter about
     an hour thus spent the watch was appointed, and each wrapped in
     his blanket. We vied unconvincing each other, with the nasal
     organ, which was in the soundest sleep; mine was the last
     watch, about an hour before daybreak. The Aurora Borealis
     rolled in awful splendour across the deep blue sky, but I will
     not tire my readers with a description. When the first glimpse
     of morn showed itself in the light clouds floating in the
     eastern horison, I awoke my companions; and by the time it was
     sufficiently light we had breakfasted, and were ready to
     proceed. Cutting off enough of the deer shot the night before,
     we proceeded on our journey, leaving the rest to the wolves.
     Each day and each night was a repetition of the same; the
     country being in some places tolerably level, in general
     covered with wood, but occasionally barren tracts, where
     sometimes for miles not a tree was to be seen.

     Mr. ---- instructing the men in which way he wished them to
     act, informing them that his object was to open a friendly
     communication with the Indians, rather than act on the
     principle of intimidating them by revenge; that if they avoided
     him, he should endeavour to take one or more prisoners and
     bring them with him, in order that by the civilization of one
     or two, an intercourse might be established that would end in
     their permanent civilization. He strictly exhorted them not to
     use undue violence: every one was strictly enjoined not to
     _fire_ on any account. About three o'clock in the afternoon the
     two men who then led the party were about two hundred yards
     before the rest;--three deer closely followed by a pack of
     wolves, issued from the wood on the left, and bounded across
     the lake, passing very near the men, whom they totally
     disregarded. The men incautiously fired at them. We were then
     about half a mile from the point of land that almost
     intersected the lake, and in a few minutes we saw it covered
     with Indians, who instantly retired.[B] The alarm was given; we
     soon reached the point; about five Hundred yards on the other
     side we saw the Indian houses, and the Indians, men, women, and
     children, rushing from them, across the lake, hereabout a mile
     broad. Hurrying on we quickly came to the houses; when within a
     shirt distance from the last house, three men and a woman
     carrying a child, issued forth. One of the men took the infant
     from her, and their speed soon convinced us of the futility of
     pursuit; the woman, however, did not run so fast. Mr. ----
     loosened his provision bag from his back and let it fall, threw
     away his gun and hatchet, and set off at a speed that soon
     overtook the woman. One man and myself did the same, except our
     guns. The rest, picking up our things, followed. On overtaking
     the woman, she instantly fell on her kness, and tearing open
     the cassock, (a dress composed of deerskin lined with fur,)
     showing her breasts to prove that she was a woman, and begged
     for mercy. In a few moments we were by Mr. ----'s side. Several
     of the Indians, with the three who had quitted the house with
     the woman, now advanced, while we retreated towards the shore.
     At length we stopped and they did the same. After a pause,
     three of them laid down their bows, with which they were armed,
     and came within two hundred yards. We then presented our guns,
     intimating that not more than one would be allowed to approach.
     They retired and fetched their arms, when one, the ill-fated
     husband of Mary March, our captive, advanced with a branch of
     fir tree (spruce) in his hand. When about ten yards off he
     stopped and made a long oration. He spoke at least ten minutes;
     towards the last his gesture became very animated, and his eye
     "shot fire." He concluded very mildly, and advancing, shook
     hands with many of the party--then he attempted to take his
     wife from us; being opposed in this he drew from beneath his
     cassock an axe, the whole of which was finely polished, and
     brandished it over our heads. On two or three pieces being
     presented, he gave it up to Mr. ----, who then intimated that
     the woman must go with us, but that he might go also if he
     pleased, and that in the morning both should have their
     liberty. At the same time two of the men began to conduct her
     towards the houses. On this being done, he became infuriated,
     and rushing towards her strove to drag her from them; one of
     the men rushed forward and stabbed him in the back with a
     bayonte: turning round, at a blow he laid the fellow at his
     feet; the next instant he knocked down another, and rushing on
     ----, like a child laid him on his back, and seizing his dirk
     from his belt brandished it over his head; the next instant it
     would have been buried in him, had I not with both hands
     seized his arm; he shook me off in an instant, while I
     measured my length on the ice; Mr. ---- then drew a pistol from
     his girdle and fired. The poor wretch first staggered, then
     fell on his face; while writhing in agonies, he seemed for a
     moment to stop; his muscles stiffened: slowly and gradually he
     raised himself from the ice, turned round, and with a wild gaze
     surveyed us all in a circle around him. Never shall I forget
     the figure he exhibited; his hair hanging on each side of his
     sallow face; his bushy beard clotted with blood that flowed
     from his mouth and nose; his eyes flashing fire, yet with the
     glass of death upon them,--they fixed on the individual that
     first stabbed him. Slowly he raised the hand that still grasped
     young ----'s dagger, till he raised it considerably above his
     head, when uttering a yell that made the woods echo, he rushed
     at him. The man fired as he advanced, and the noble Indian
     again fell on his face: a few moments' struggle, and he lay a
     stiffened corpse on the icy surface of the limpid waters.--The
     woman for a moment seemed scarcely to notice the corpse; in a
     few minutes, however, she showed a little emotion; but it was
     not until obliged to leave the remains of her husband that she
     gave way to grief, and vented her sorrow in the most
     heart-breaking lamentations. While the scene which I have
     described was acting, and which occurred in almost less space
     than the description can be read, a number of Indians had
     advanced within a shore distance, but seeing the untimely fate
     of their chief, halted. Mr. ---- fired over their heads, and
     they immediately fled. The banks of the lake, on the other
     side, were at this time covered with men, women, and children,
     at least several hundreds; but immediately being joined by
     their companions all disappeared in the woods. We then had time
     to think. For my own part I could scarcely credit my senses as
     I beheld the remains of the noble fellow stretched on the ice,
     crimsoned with his already frozen blood. One of the men then
     went to the shore for some fir tree boughs to cover the body,
     which measured as it lay, 6 feet 7½ inches. The fellow who
     first stabbed him wanted to strip off his cassock, (a garment
     made of deer skin, lined with beaver and other skins, reaching
     to the knees,) but met with so stern a rebuke from ----, that
     he instantly desisted, and slunk abashed away.

     After covering the body with boughs, we proceeded towards the
     Indian houses--the woman often requiring force to take her
     along. On examining them, we found no living creature, save a
     bitch and her whelps about two months old. The houses of these
     Indians are very different from those of the other tribes in
     North America; they are built of straight pieces of fir about
     twelve feet high, flattened at the sides, and driven in the
     earth close to each other; the corners being much stronger than
     the other parts.--The crevices are filled up with moss, and the
     inside entirely lined with the same material; the roof is
     raised so as to slant from all parts and meet in a point at the
     centre, where a hole is left for the smoke to escape; the
     remainder of the roof is covered with a treble coat of birch
     bark, and between the first and second layer of bark is about
     six inches of moss; about the chimney clay is substituted for
     it. On entering one of the houses I was astonished at the
     neatness which reigned within. The sides of the tenement were
     covered with arms,--bows, arrows, clubs, axes of iron, (stolen
     from the settlers) stone hatchets, arrow heads, in fact,
     implements of war and for the chase, but all arranged in the
     neatest order, and apparently every man's property carefully
     put together. At one end was a small image, or rather a head,
     carved rudely out of a block of wood; round the neck was hung
     the case of a watch, and on a board close by, the works of the
     watch, which had been carefully taken to pieces, and hung on
     small pegs on the board; the whole were surrounded with the
     main spring. In the other houses the remainder of the articles
     stolen were found. Beams were placed across where the roof
     began; over which smaller ones were laid: on these were piled a
     considerable quantity of dried venison and salmon, together
     with a little codfish. On ---- taking down the watch and works,
     and bringing the image over the fire, the woman surveyed him
     with anger, and in a few minutes made free with her tongue, her
     manner showing us that she was not unused to scolding. When Mr.
     ---- saw it displeased her, he, rather irreverently, threw the
     log on one side: on this she rose in a rage, and would, had not
     her hands been fastened, have inflicted summary vengeance for
     the insult offered to the hideous idol. Wishing to pacify her,
     he rose, and taking his _reverence_ carefully up, placed him
     where he had taken him from. This pacified her. I must here do
     the poor creature the justice to say, that I never afterwards
     saw her out of temper. A watch was set outside; and having
     partaken of the Indian's fare, we began to talk over the events
     of the day. Both ---- and myself bitterly reproached the man
     who first stabbed the unfortunate native; for though he acted
     violently, still there was no necessity for the brutal
     act--besides, the untaught Indian was only doing that which
     every _man_ ought to do,--he came to rescue his wife from the
     hands of her captors, and nobly lost his life in his attempt to
     save her. ---- here declared that he would rather have
     defeated the object of his Journey a hundred times than have
     sacrificed the life of one Indian. The fellow merely replied,
     "it was only an Indian, and he wished he had shot a hundred
     instead of one." The poor woman was now tied securely, we
     having, on consideration, deemed it for the best to take her
     with us, so that by kind treatment and civilization she might,
     in the course of time, be returned to her tribe, and be the
     means of effecting a lasting reconciliation between them and
     the settlers.

     After the men had laid themselves down around the fire, and the
     watch was set outside, the door, Mr. ---- and myself remained
     up; and, in a low voice, talked over the events of the day. We
     then decided on remaining to rest three or four days; and, in
     the meantime, to endeavour to find the Indians. I would I could
     now describe how insensibly we glided from one subject to
     another;--religion--politics--country--'home, _sweet, sweet_,
     home'--alternately occupied our attention; and thus, in the
     midst of a dreary waste, far away from the haunts of civilized
     man, we sat contentedly smoking our pipes; and, Englishmen
     like, settled the affairs of _nations_ over a glass of rum and
     water--ever and anon drinking a health to each _friend_ and
     _fair_, who rose uppermost in our thoughts. From this the
     subject turned to "specific gravity." Here an argument
     commenced. When illustrating a position I had advanced, by the
     ascension of the smoke from my pipe, we both turned up our eyes
     to witness its progress upwards: on looking towards the
     aperture in the roof what was our astonishment at beholding the
     faces of _two Indians_, calmly surveying us in the quiet
     occupation of _their_ abode. In an instant we shouted--"The
     Indians!" and in a moment every one was on the alert, and each
     taking his arms rushed to the door--not a creature was to be
     seen; in vain we looked around;--no trace, save the marks of
     footsteps on the snow, was to be discovered, but these seemed
     almost innumerable. We fired about a dozen shots into the
     woods, and then retired to our dwelling. ---- and I then
     resolved to take alternate watch, and every half hour, at least
     to walk round the house. During the night, however, we were not
     again disturbed, save by the howling of wolves and barking of

After the capture of Mary March, the next attempt, in order of time,
to discover the Red Indians was made by JAMES CORMACK, Esq., in 1822,
and for that purpose he crossed the whole interior of the
Island--starting from Random Bar on the Eastward on the 6th September,
and finding his way out at St. George's Bay, on the 2nd November
following. During this excursion he suffered great privation,--which
few men could have endured, and which few men indeed, would have
undertaken with only one companion. Mr. Cormack did not succeed in the
main object he had in view, yet was his trouble anything but
profitless. We now possess through his means a general knowledge of
the interior of our Island--together with a specific account of its
soil--its geological and mineralogical aspect--its varied natural
productions--of trees, shrubs, plants, flowers, &c., all named and
methodically described--the kind of animals met with, and a variety of
other useful information.

In the following year, 1823, and early in the spring of that year,
three females, a mother and two daughters, in Badger Bay, near
Exploits Bay, being in a starving condition, allowed themselves in
despair, to be quietly captured by some English furriers who
accidentally came upon them. Fortunately their miserable appearance,
when within gunshot, led to the unusual circumstance of their not
being fired at. The husband of the elder woman in attempting to avoid
the observation of the white men, tried to cross the creek upon the
ice, fell through and was drowned. About a month before this event,
and a few miles distant from the spot where this accident occurred,
the brother of this man and his daughter, belonging to the same
party, were shot by two English furriers. The man was first shot, and
the woman in despair remained calmly to be fired at, and incredible as
it may appear, this poor woman, far from her tribe--helpless--with her
back to her murderers,--excited in them no feeling of compassion--they
deliberately shot her,--the slugs passed through her body, and she
fell dead by the side of her father. The mind is slow to believe that
so brutal an act as this could have been committed, and is willing to
doubt the correctness of the report, but the proof of its accuracy is
the statement of one of the ruffians who perpetrated the foul act.

The three females were brought to St. John's, where they remained four
or five weeks, and were then sent back to the Exploits with many
presents, in the hope that they may meet and share such presents with
their people. They were conveyed up the river Exploits to some
distance, by a party of Europeans, and left on its banks with some
provisions and clothing, to find their friends as they best might.
Their provisions however were soon consumed, and not finding any of
the tribe, they wandered down the right bank of the river, and in a
few days again reached the Exploits habitations. The mother and one
daughter died there shortly afterwards, and within a few days of each
other. The Survivor known as "Nancy" here, but among her tribe as
"Shaw-na-dith-it," was received and taken care of by Mr. Peyton, jun.
and family, with whom she remained several years. She was then brought
to St. John's, and as a Society called the "Boeothick Institution"
had then been established, Shaw-na-dith-it became the object of its
peculiar care and solicitude, and it is to this interesting woman we
are indebted for much of the information we possess regarding her
race. She remained under the care of the Boeothick Institution for
about nine months, during the greater part pf which period she was in
bad health. Much attention was shewn her, and attempts were
perseveringly made to communicate to her a knowledge of the English
language, and this she so far acquired as to be able to communicate
with tolerable ease. In person Shaw-na-dith-it was 5 feet 5 inches
high--her natural abilities were good. She was grateful for any
kindness shown her, and evinced a strong affection for her parents and
friends. As she evinced some taste for drawing, she was kept supplied
with pencils of various colors, and by the use of these made herself
better understood than she otherwise could have done. In her own
person she had received two gun-shot wounds at two different times
from volleys fired at the band she was with by the English people at
the Exploits--one wound was that of a slug through the leg. Poor
Shaw-na-dith-it! she died destitute of any of this world's goods, yet,
desirous of showing her gratitude to one from whom she had received
great kindness, she presented a keepsake to Mr. Cormack, and there is
something very affecting under the circumstances in which she was
placed, as associated with the simple articles of which her present
consisted--they were a rounded piece of granite--a piece of
quartz--both derived from the soil of which her tribe were once the
sole owners and lords, but which were all of that soil she could then
call her own; and added to these, was a lock of her hair. This present
has now a place in the Museum of the Mechanics' Institution, and will,
it may not be doubted, be an object of interest to many.
Shaw-na-dith-it lived in Mr. Cormack's house until he left the colony
in 1829, when she was taken to the house of the then Attorney-General.
She died in June following, and was interred in the burial ground on
the South-side. A Newfoundland paper, of the 12th of June, 1829,
notices her death thus:--"Died, on Saturday night, the 6th inst., at
the Hospital, Shaw-na-dith-it, the female Indian, one of the
aborigines of this Island. She died of consumption,--a disease which
seems to have been remarkably prevalent among her tribe, and which has
unfortunately been fatal to all who have fallen into the hands of the
settlers. Since the departure of Mr. Cormack from the Island, this
poor woman has had an asylum afforded her in the house of James Simms,
Esq., Attorney General, where every attention has been paid to her
wants and comforts, and under the able and professional advice of Dr.
Carson, who has most liberally and kindly attended her for many
months, it was hoped her health might have been re-established.
Latterly, however, her disease became daily more formidable, and her
strength rapidly declined, and a short time since it was deemed
advisable to send her to the hospital, where her sudden decease has
but too soon fulfilled the fears that were entertained for her."

Shaw-na-dith-it as before observed, gave much information as to the
state of her tribe, and the following is the substance of the
statement she made with reference to Captain Buchan's expedition to
the Great Lake in the winter of 1811:--

The tribe, she said, at that time had been much reduced in numbers, in
consequence of the hostile encroachments and meetings of the Europeans
at the sea-coast. But they still had, up to that time, enjoyed,
unmolested, the possession of their favorite interior parts of the
Island, especially the territory around and adjacent to the Great Lake
and Exploits River. There number then it would appear barely amounted
to one hundred and seventy two--and these were encamped in their
winter quarters, in three divisions, on different parts of the margin
of the Great Lake. The principal encampment was at the East end of the
Lake, on the South-side. There were here three mamaseeks or wigwams,
containing forty-two persons. A smaller encampment lay six or eight
miles to the Westward on the North-side of the Lake, containing two
mamaseeks with thirteen people, and another lay near the West end of
the Lake on the South-side, and consisted of two mamaseeks with
seventeen people. It was the principal encampment which Captain Buchan
fell in with. He took it by surprise, and made the whole party
prisoners. This occurred in the morning; after a guarded and
pantomimic interchange for several hours, it was agreed that two
hostages should be given on each side, for Captain Buchan wished to
return down the river for an additional supply of presents, in order
thereby the better to secure the friendship of the Indians.

Captain Buchan had no sooner departed with his men and hostages, than
the Indians suspected he had gone down the river for an additional
force, with, which to return--make them all prisoners, and carry them
off to the coast. Their suspicions induced them to break up their
encampment immediately and retire farther into the interior, where the
rest of the tribe were, and where they would be less liable to be
again surprised.

To ensure concealment of their proceedings, they first destroyed the
two Europeans left as hostages, by shooting them with arrows--then
packed up what clothing and utensils they could conveniently
carry--crossed the lake on the ice the same afternoon, carrying the
heads of the two Europeans with them--one of which they stuck on a
pole, and left it on the north side of the lake; they then followed
along the margin of the lake westward, and about midnight reached the
encampment of their friends--the alarm was given, and next morning
they all joined in the retreat westward. They proceeded a few miles in
order to reach a secure and retired place to halt at, in the hope soon
of hearing something of the two Indians whom Captain Buchan had taken
with him. On the second day the Indians appeared among them, and
stated to them that upon returning with the white men and discovering
the first encampment destroyed, they fled instantly and escaped,--one
of these was Shaw-na-dith-it's uncle. All now resumed the retreat, and
crossed on the ice to the south-side of the lake, where the only
remaining and undisturbed encampment lay. Upon reaching the shore, a
party was despatched to the encampment which lay further to the
westward to sound the alarm. This encampment was then likewise broken
up, and the occupants came east to join the tribe. To avoid discovery,
the whole retired together to an unfrequented part of the forest,
situate some distance from the shore of the lake, carrying with them
all the winter stock of provisions they possessed.

In this sequestered spot they built six winter wigwams, and remained
unmolested for the remainder of the winter,--about six weeks. They had
conveyed with them the head of one of the hostages; this was placed on
a pole, around which the Indians danced and sang.

When spring advanced and their provisions were exhausted, some of them
went back to the encampment at which they had been surprised, and
there supplied themselves out of the winter stock of venison that had
been left there.

After the disaster the tribe became scattered, and continued dispersed
in bands frequenting the more remote and sequestered parts of the
northern interior. In the second winter afterwards twenty-two had died
about the river Exploits, at the Great Lake, and in the vicinity of
Green Bay; in the following years also numbers died of hardship and
want. In 1819 their numbers were reduced to thirty-one, and in 1823 it
consisted of only a remnant of twelve or thirteen. Such is the
substance of Shaw-na-dith-it's statement, and which it is said she
never related without tears.

In 1827 Mr. Cormack renewed his attempt to discover and open a
friendly intercourse with the Boeothicks, and for this purpose with a
small party, consisting of Europeans and a couple of Micmacs, entered
the country at the mouth of the River Exploits, and took a
north-westerly direction which led them to Hall's Bay. On the fourth
day after their departure, at the east end of Badger Bay, at a portage
known by the name of the Indian Path, they found traces made by the
Indians, evidently in the spring or summer of the preceding year.
Their party had been possessed of two canoes, and they had built a
canoe-rest, on which the daubs of red ochre and the roots of trees
used to tie or fasten it together appeared fresh. A canoe-rest is
simply a few beams' supported horizontally about five feet from the
ground by perpendicular posts. Among other things which lay strewed
about here was a spear shaft, eight feet long, recently made and
stained with ochre--parts of old canoes--fragments, of their skin
dresses, &c. Some of the cuts in the trees, made with an axe, were
evidently of not more than a year's date. Besides these signs, the
party were elated by other encouraging marks. After some further
search, but without meeting with any greater success, the party
determined to proceed to the Red Indian Lake. On reaching this
magnificent sheet of water, they found around its shores abundant
evidence that this had been for a long time the central and
undisturbed rendezvous of the tribe. At several places by the margin
of the lake were found small clusters of summer and winter wigwams,
but all in ruins--one large wooden building, presumed to have been
used for the purpose of drying and smoking venison, was found in a
perfect state. The repositories for the dead were found perfect, and
in one of these the party discovered the remains of the ill-fated Mary
March, whom the Indians had placed by the side of her unfortunate
husband. On the north-side of this lake, opposite the River Exploits,
were seen the extremities of two deer fences, about half a mile apart,
where they lead to the water--and in gliding down the river, the
attention of the traveller is arrested by a continuation of these
fences which extend from the lake downwards on the banks of the river
at least thirty miles. After spending several days in wandering round
the margin of the lake, and having fully satisfied themselves that no
encampment of the Indians was to be found there, they returned.
Subsequently to this excursion, a party of men under the direction of
an Institution termed the "Boeothick Institution," which was
established with the view of benefiting the Indians, were sent on the
same errand, but they too returned after a fruitless search, and with
this attempt ends all efforts that have been made to open a
communication with the Red Indians.

And now what opinion may be reasonably formed after a careful
consideration of all the foregoing facts? Shall it be concluded as
many, nay, as most people have done, that the Red Indians are wholly
extinct? The mind is slow to entertain so painful a conclusion, and
more especially as there is some reason to hope that the tribe, to
some extent at least, yet survives.

If indeed Shaw-na-dith-it's statement is to be taken as of
unquestionable authority, and is not to be subjected to any scrutiny,
then indeed but slight hopes can be entertained of the existence of
any of her race; but if the information she supplied be compared with
that conveyed to us through various other sources, then a very
different conclusion may be most legitimately reached.

And first let Shaw-na-dith-it's recital of the circumstances connected
with Captain Buchan's visit to the Great Lake in the winter of 1810
and 1811 be contrasted with that gentleman's own statement of the same

Shaw-na-dith-it when entering into the particulars of the condition of
her tribe at the period just referred to, said it consisted of no more
than seventy two persons, and whom she thus further described: In the
principal encampment, that which Captain Buchan surprised, there were
in one mamaseek or wigwam four men, five women and six children--in a
second mamaseek there were four men, two women and six children--in a
third mamaseek there were three men, five woman, and seven
children--in the whole forty-two persons. In the second encampment
there were thirteen persons, and in the third seventeen persons,
making in the whole seventy-two; the two smaller encampments being
several miles distant from the larger one. Now, compare this account
with what Captain Buchan saw, bearing in mind that it was only the
larger encampment he surprised,--of the two smaller ones, it does not
appear that he was at all aware, Shaw-na-dith-it states the encampment
contained forty-two persons, of whom nineteen were children. Captain
Buchan asserts in his official Report, that it contained seventy-five
persons, and it is by no means clear that in this number he included
any of the women or children, as in another part of his report, he
estimates the number of the Red Indians as consisting at least of
three hundred persons--an opinion formed solely from the appearances
which the one encampment presented. Then we have the testimony of a
writer, an anonymous one it is true, yet it is evidently the testimony
of a person who was present at the scenes he describes, and he tells
us that in 1819 he estimated the number of Indians he saw, at from
three to four hundred, including women and children. Then again, we
find Mr. Cormack, in 1827, declaring "that hundreds of Indians must
have been in existence not many years ago," otherwise it would be
impossible to account for the great extent of deer fences which he
found so late as the period above-named, yet in being. And lastly, we
have the opinions of the Micmacs, who are so satisfied of the
continued existence of the Red Indian tribe, that they can with
difficulty be made to comprehend that it is possible to entertain a
doubt of a fact, which to them appears so palpable. Their opinion is
that the whole tribe of Boeothicks passed over to the Labrador some
twenty or twenty-five years since, and the place of their final
embarkation, as they allege, is yet plainly discernable.

In the _Royal Gazette_, dated the 2nd September, 1828, there appears a
statement referring to the Red Indians, of which the following is a
copy:--"Nippers Harbor, where the Red Indians were said to have been
seen three weeks ago, and where one of their arrows was picked up,
after having been ineffectually shot at one of the settlers, is in
Green Bay." This accumulation of facts, all of a widely different
character from Shaw-na-dith-it's testimony, would seem, to render the
latter more than doubtful, and it ought to be borne in mind that
Shaw-na-dith-it acquired a knowledge of the English language very
slowly; and though it is said that before her death she could
communicate with tolerable ease, yet it would be incorrect to assume
that she could, without fear of mistake, make such a detailed
statement as that which is attributed to her; but even allowing that
which is most uncertain,--allowing that she expressed herself with
tolerable clearness, and admitting that the parties to whom she made
her communication fully understood her broken English, and were
acquainted with the Boeothick words, which it was her wont to mingle
in all she said--admitting all this--yet even in this view of the
case, it may not be difficult to suppose a reason for her giving an
incorrect account of the state of her tribe. Shaw-na-dith-it knew from
bitter experience, that all former attempts made by Europeans to open
a communication with the Red Indians, had to the latter issued only in
the most disastrous and fatal results. She knew too the antipathy her
own people had to the whites,--so great was this, that she feared to
return to them, believing that the mere fact of her having resided
among the whites for a time would make her an object of hatred to the
Red man.--Knowing all this, is it a violent deduction to draw from all
the circumstances surrounding this subject, that Shaw-na-dith-it in
very love for her own people, may have purposely given an incorrect
account of the numbers of her tribe--lessening it, in the hope that by
so doing no further search would be made for then. Supposing it
possible that such may have been the case, then, it follows that
Shaw-na-dith-it may not have been, as many persons have presumed her
to be, the last of the Boeothicks.

Some account of the usages and habits of this people, and of such
particulars as have special reference to them, will now close this
narrative: and first it may be observed that the extensive works which
they completed and kept in repair for a number of years, would seem to
indicate, and that almost beyond a doubt, that the Boeothicks were
once a numerous and energetic tribe.

That they were intelligent, their buildings, store-houses, &c., would
appear to be a sufficient evidence. Their mamaseeks, for such was the
word they used to describe their habitations, were far superior to the
wigwams of the Micmacs. The dwellings of the Boeothicks were in
general built of straight pieces of fir, about twelve feet high,
flattened at the sides, and driven in the earth close to each other,
the corners being made stronger than the other parts. The crevices
were filled up with moss, and the inside lined with the same material;
the roof was raised so as to slant from all parts and meet in a point
in the centre, where a hole was left for the smoke to escape--the
remainder of thereof was covered with a treble coat of birch bark, and
between the first and second layers of bark was placed about six
inches of moss--about the chimney clay was substituted for the moss.
The sides of these mamaseeks were covered with arms--that is, bows,
arrows, clubs, stone hatchets, arrow heads, and all these were
arranged in the neatest manner. Beams were placed across where the
roof began, over which smaller ones were laid; and on the latter were
piled their provisions--dried salmon, venison, &c.

That the Boeothicks were a bold, heroic, self-dependant tribe, few
will be disposed to question, when it is remembered that they never
courted the friendship of, neither were they ever subdued by, any
other tribe, or by Europeans--by the combined efforts of both Micmacs
and Whites, their numbers were greatly reduced, if not utterly
exterminated, but they were never conquered.


This was peculiar to the tribe, and consisted of but one garment--a
sort of mantle formed out of two deer skins, sewed together so as to
be nearly square--a collar also formed with skins was sometimes
attached to the mantle, and reached along its whole breadth--it was
formed without sleeves or buttons, and was worn thrown over the
shoulders, the corners doubling over at the breast and arms. When the
bow is to be used the upper part of the dress was thrown off from the
shoulders and arms, and a broad fold, the whole extent of it, was
secured round the loins, with a belt to keep the lower part from the
ground and the whole from falling off, when the arms were at liberty.
The collar of the dress was sometimes made of alternate stripes of
otter and deer skins sewed together, and sufficiently broad to cover
the head and face when turned up, and this is made to answer the
purpose of a hood of a cloak in bad weather--occasionally leggings or
gaiters were worn, and arm coverings, all made of deer skins--their
moccasins were also made of the same material; in summer, however,
they frequently went without any covering for the feet.


These, whether offensive or defensive, or for killing game, were
simply the bow and arrow, spear, and club. The arrow-heads were of two
kinds, viz.:--stone, bone or iron, the latter material being derived
from Europeans, and the blunt arrow, the point being a knob
continuous with the shaft--the former of these was used for killing
quadrupeds and large birds, the latter for killing small birds--two
strips of goose feathers were tied on to balance the arrow, and it has
been remarked by many persons who have seen the Red Indians' arrows,
that they have invariably been a yard long; the reason of this would
seem to be that their measure for the arrow was the arm's length, that
is, from the centre of the chest to the tip of the middle finger, that
being the proper length to draw the bow--the latter was about five
feet long, generally made of mountain ash, but sometimes of spruce.

Their spears were of two kinds--the one, their chief weapon, was
twelve feet in length, pointed with bone or iron, whenever the latter
material could be obtained, and was used in killing deer and other
animals. The other was fourteen feet in length and was used chiefly,
if not wholly, in killing seals--the head or point being easily
separated from the shaft--the service of the latter being, indeed
mainly, to guide the point into the body of the animal, and which
being effected, the shaft was withdrawn, and a strong strip of deer
skin, which was always kept fastened to the spear head, was held by
the Indian, and who in this manner secured his prey.


These varied from sixteen to twenty-two feet in length, with an upward
curve towards each end. Laths were introduced from stem to stern
instead of planks--they were provided with a gunwhale or edging which,
though slight, added strength to the fabric--the whole was covered on
the outside with deer skins sewed together and fastened by stitching
the edges round the gunwhale.


The language of the Boeothicks, Mr. Cormack is of opinion, is
different from all the languages of the neighbouring tribes of Indians
with which any comparison has been made. Of all the words procured at
different times from the female Indian Shaw-na-dith-it, and which were
compared with the Micmac and Banake (the latter people bordering on
the Mohawk) not one was found similar to the language of the latter
people, and only two words which could be supposed to have had the
same origin, viz.: Keuis--Boeothick--and "Kuse" Banake--both words
meaning "Sun,"--and moosin Boeothick, and moccasin, Banake and Micmac.
The Boeothick also differs from the Mountaineer or Esquimaux language
of Labrador. The Micmac, Mountaineer, and Banake, have no "_r_." The
Boeothick has; the three first use "_l_" instead of "_r_." The
Boeothick has the dipthong _sh_.--the other languages, as before
enumerated, have it not. The Boeothicks have no characters to serve as
hieroglyphics or letters, but they had a few symbols or signatures.


The Boeothicks appear to have shown great respect for their dead, and
the most remarkable remains of them commonly observed by Europeans at
the sea coasts are their burial places. They had several modes of
interment--one was when the body of the deceased had been wrapped in
birch rind, it was then, with his property, placed on a sort of
scaffold about four feet from the ground--the scaffold supported a
flooring of small squared beams laid close together, on which the body
and property rested.

A second method was, when the body bent together and wrapped in birch
rinds was enclosed in a sort of box on the ground--this box was made
of small square posts laid on each other horizontally, and notched at
the corners to make them meet close--it was about four feet high,
three feet broad, and two-feet-and-a-half deep, well lined with birch
rind, so as to exclude the weather from the inside--the body was
always laid on its right side.

A third, and the most common method of burying among this people, was
to wrap the body in birch rind, and then cover it over with a heap of
stones on the surface of the earth; but occasionally in sandy places,
or where the earth was soft and easily removed, the body was sunk
lower in the earth and the stones omitted.

Their marriage ceremony consisted merely in a prolonged feast, and
which rarely terminated before the end of twenty-four hours. Polygamy
would seem not to have been countenanced by the tribe.

Of their remedies for disease, the following were those the most
frequently resorted to:--

For pains in the stomach, a decoction of the rind of the dogberry was

For sickness among old people--sickness in the stomach, pains in the
back, and for rheumatism, the vapor-bath was used.

For sore head, neck, &c., pounded sulphuret of iron mixed up with oil
was rubbed over the part affected, and was said generally to effect a
cure in two or three days.

Brief as the foregoing statement is, yet, so scanty are the materials
which relate to the subject, that it contains substantially all the
facts which can now be gathered together of that interesting people,
the original inhabitants of Newfoundland--a people whose origin and
fate are alike shrouded in mystery, and of whom, in their passage
across the stage of life, but little is certainly known, beyond the
cruel outrages, the bitter wrongs they endured at the hands of the
white man--before whose power, so mercilessly used, the tribe sank,
and was either utterly annihilated, or, as is more probable, a
remnant--worn out, harrassed beyond human endurance--left the homes of
their fathers, and in another land sought that security for their
lives which was denied them in this.



[Footnote A: "Large guns." The guns in common use there are what are
made for killing seals. The general size is a barrel of five feet
long, with a bore from seven-eighths to an inch and a quarter.]

[Footnote B: What I saw I should estimate at from three to four
hundred, including women and children: of this however hereafter.]

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Lecture on the Aborigines of Newfoundland - Delivered Before the Mechanics' Institute, at St. John's, - Newfoundland, on Monday, 17th January, 1859" ***

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