Saturday, July 25, 2009

Day 202: Stream near Beothuk camp

We stopped at Boyd's Cove at the Beothuk Interpretation Centre. The grounds were probably used from the mid 1600s to around 1720 by a group of up to 40 Beothuks. It is on a cove which would have been ideal for bringing in their canoes and to which the capelin come in to spawn in the spring bringing a rich source of food. A brook empties into the cove (a source of fresh water as well as fish) and the grassy meadow, which still holds the depressions where their dwellings (teepee like structures covered with caribou hides) were placed, sits on glacial gravel so the site drains quickly in rain – no sitting in mud.

It was a beautiful walk through the woods to the site (about 1.5 km), with the flora well identified with small signs. There are so many kinds of berries that grow there (partridge berries, crackberries, raspberries, blueberries and several others).

The Beothuk covered their bodies and their belongings with red ochre mixed with seal fat. The early European fishermen, seeing them called them red men or red Indians and this is the reason they have been known that way. They lived with the land, hunting caribou and other smaller animals, fishing and gathering. When the Europeans came they slowly pushed them out of their coastal land and into the interior where food was less plentiful. This, the diseases brought from Europe and the violence (on both sides) decimated them and the last known Beothuk, a woman who had been captured and brought to St. John's died in 1829. As you walk through the woods to the site you come across a bronze 6 foot statue of a Beothuk woman – a haunting reminder of their time there.

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