Beothuck History

Red Indian Lake is situated in the western interior of Newfoundland. The Beothuk, also know as Red Indians, inhabited several campsites along the shores of this lake. The origin of the Beothuk has not yet been firmly established, but it is believed that they are distinct relative of the Algonquin and that they came to Newfoundland and Labrador across the 18 kilometer straight of Belle Isle. Beothuk living sites and burial grounds are abundant in Newfoundland and it is believed that the Beothuk inhabited the region for close to 2000 years. The Beothuk were one of the first native groups to settle in Newfoundland mainly inhabiting the central part of the province along the coast of the Exploits River which they used as a waterway for transport in boats that were migratory peoples and traveled seasonally along the Exploits River. They moved out to the coast in the spring and summer and stayed inland during fall and winter. An expedition into the interior by John Cartwright and his brother, George Cartwright, in search of the Beothuk only resulted in the findings of abandoned campsites in 1768.

In January of the year 1811, an expedition led by David Buchan attempted to establish friendly contact with them but ended tragically with the death of the two marines. While they were meeting with a group of Beothuks, David Buchan left two of his marines with the Beothuks while he returned to his camp for gifts to give them. The Beothuks panicked in Buchan’s absence and killed the two marines. This happened near Indian Point. Another expedition, this time led by John Peyton Jr., happened in 1819 which also ended in tragedy. This time the expedition resulted in the capture of Demasduit and the death of the Beothuk chief, Nonosabusat. A young Beothuk woman named Shanawdithit was captured in 1828. She was presumed to be the last of her kind and when she died in 1829 from what was described as pulmonary consumption (tuberculosis), the whole race became extinct.