The Beothuk people of Newfoundland were not the very first inhabitants of the
island. Thousands of years before their arrival there existed an ancient race, named the
Maritime Archaic Indians who lived on the shores of Newfoundland. (Red Ochre Indians,
Burial plots and polished stone tools are occasionally discovered near Beothuk
remains. Some people speculate that, because of the proximity of the artifacts to the
former lands of the Beothuk, the Maritime Archaic Indians and the Beothuk may have
been related. It is not certain when the Beothuk arrived on the island. In fact little is
actually known about the people, compared to what is known about other amerindian
civilizations, only artifacts and stories told by elders tell the historians who these people
really were. Some speculate that they traveled from 'Labrador to Newfoundland across
the strait of Belle Isle, which at one time was only 12 miles wide.
By about 200 AD the
Beothuk Indians were probably well settled into Newfoundland.'(Red Ochre, 8)
The Beothuk were not alone on Newfoundland either. The Dorset Eskimos, who
came from Cape Dorset regions of the north around 500 BC also shared the island. They
presumably had contact with the Beothuk, exchanging tools or engaging in battle. In any
case the Dorset Indians died out leaving Newfoundland empty to the control of the
Beothuk people who now had no enemies and a wide vast territory.
The Beothuk, although part of the Algonkian family developed their own language
and culture. The 400 words that are still known from their language prove their Algonkian
heritage. The development of their culture was a great success. The success of the
Beothuk people as a whole was in part because of their skills in fishing, hunting and travel.
They were the 'only amerindian group to navigate...