Wednesday, May 26, 2010

A Few Good Beothuk References

A History and Ethnography of the BeothukThe Beothuk were the indigenous people living on the Island of Newfoundland when Europeans began fishing and settling the area about 500 years ago.  In 1829, the last known Beothuk woman, Shanawdithit, died in St. John's, marking the end of a people and way of life that could trace its roots back over 1000 years.  Here's a list of some of the easier to access and more useful publications written about the Beothuk.

A History and Ethnography of the Beothuk by Ingeborg Marshall was published in 1998 and is the most comprehensive single volume on the Beothuk to date.  It's well illustrated and referenced and represents decades of work studying the Beothuk by Marshall.  Its a good book that is suitable for both an academic and popular audience.

Beothuk of Newfoundland a 
Vanished PeopleMarshall has published other books and papers on the Beothuk over the years and they are all worth owning and reading.  Her books like The Red Ochre People: How Newfoundland's Beothuck Indians lived and The Beothuk of Newfoundland: A Vanished People are written for a more general or younger audience, but as is the case with most books targeted at a young audience they are well illustrated.

One of the earliest books written on the Beothuk is still one of the best,The Beothucks or Red Indians; The Aboriginal Inhabitants of Newfoundland.  It was published by James P. Howley in 1915.  Howley was a geologist who was fascinated by the Beothuk and in his book, which is organized by century, he collects together all of the historical documents, letters, and journal entries that he could find that described the Beothuk.  The plates in the back are also extremely valuable as there are artifacts shown there whose whereabouts are no longer known.  Although, you need to approach the photographs with caution - in the 100 years since Howley's book we have learned a lot more about the pre-contact cultures of Newfoundland and many of the artifacts that Howley assumed to be Beothuk, in fact belong to other cultures.  The entire book and all of the photos, except for those depicting human remains, are online here.

Ralph Pastore was a historian studying the Beothuk through documentary sources, like those collected in Howley's book, but he grew frustrated by the limits of the existing literature and turned to archaeology to answer some of his gnawing questions.  He excavated a large Beothuk site at Boyd's Cove in the 1980s and published academically on the Beothuk throughout his life.  He told the story of the excavations at Boyd's Cove and the Beothuk in an illustrated, full-colour book called Shanawdithit's People, The Archaeology of the Beothuks.  This book is out of print, but I do have a few copies available through Elfshot ($19.95 +tax and shipping).

There have been a number of Beothuk themed theses by archaeology students at Memorial University of Newfoundland and other universities.  They are accessible, but can be a little harder to track down and tend to be written for an academic audience.  Several of the Master's theses from MUN dealing with the Beothuk have been collected together onto CDs.  I prefer to use these .pdf version of these theses on CD rather than the printed version because they are so much easier to search for keywords.  All eight of the volumes in this series, including the two dedicated to the Beothuk/Recent Indians are available through Elfshot for $10ea. +tax and shipping.

Volume 4: Beothuks: In Honour of Dr. Ralph T. Pastore Includes three articles on the Beothuks of Newfoundland by Ralph Pastore. Reprinted by permission. 

G. William Gilbert: Russell's Point (CiAj-1): A Little Passage/Beothuk Site at the Bottom of Trinity Bay. (MA Thesis, Anthropology, Memorial University, May 2002)

Raymond Joseph LeBlanc: The Wigwam Brook Site and The Historic Beothuk Indians (MA Thesis, Anthropology, Memorial University, June 1973)

Laurie Allan McLean: The Beothuk Adoption of Iron Technology (MA Thesis, Anthropology, Memorial University, August 1989)

Gerald Penney: The Prehistory of the Southwest Coast of Newfoundland (MA Thesis, Anthropology, Memorial University, November 1984)

Fred Schwarz: The Little Passage Complex in Newfoundland: A Comparative Study of Assemblages (Honours Dissertation, Anthropology, Memorial University, Spring 1984)

Volume 5: Recent Indians (Beothuks and their Predecessors)

Paul C. Carignan: Prehistoric Cultural Traditions at The Beaches Site, DeAk-1 Bonavista Bay (MA Thesis, Anthropology, Memorial University, December 1973)

Janet Elizabeth Chute: A Comparative Study of The Bark, Bone, Wood and Hide Items Made by the Historic Micmac, Montagnais/Nascapi and Beothuk Indians (MA Thesis, Anthropology, Memorial University, August 1976)

Timothy L. Rast: Investigating Palaeo-Eskimo and Indian Settlement Patterns Along A Submerging Coast at Burgeo, Newfoundland (MA Thesis, Anthropology, Memorial University, January 1999)

David N. Simpson: Prehistoric Archaeology Of The Port Au Port Peninsula, Western Newfoundland (MA Thesis, Anthropology, Memorial University, August 1986)

Michael A. Teal: An Archaeological Investigation of the Gould Site (EeBi-42) in Port Au Choix, Northwestern Newfoundland: New Insight into the Recent Indian Cow Head Complex (MA Thesis, Anthropology, Memorial University, September 2001)

Many researchers are putting copies of their publications online, so even some of the harder to find papers from archaeology journals are becoming easier to access.  One active Beothuk researcher of note is Don Holly at Eastern Illinois University.  You can view several of his Beothuk-themed publications on his Research and Teaching page to get a sense of the ongoing archaeological investigations into the Beothuk.

Finally, if you live in Newfoundland or are planning a visit here, then you can also check out the Beothuk artifacts and information at The Rooms in St. John's, The Mary March Museum in Grand Falls-Windsor,  The Beothuk Interpretation Centre in Boyd's Cove, or the Burnside Archaeology Centre in Burnside.

Photo Credits:
All cover images belong to their respective publishers.

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