The Beothuk
Home Radio Television CBC Learning
CAPH banner left CAPH banner centre CAPH banner right
Early Encounters
The Beothuk
Header 3 Header 4 Header 5
History Home
The Beothuk

The first European fishermen called the Beothuk "The Red Indians," because they painted masks of ochre on their faces. But beyond rare glimpses through the forest, the two groups had little contact with one another.

The Beothuk, possibly having encountered violence from the Vikings centuries before, avoided the newly arrived Europeans by retreating from the coast. They crossed paths with the newcomers briefly, then moved inland, away from their ancestral fish camps built along the rocky shorelines.
Beothuk Drawing, 1829 Artist: Shawnadithit, National Archives of Canada C-28544
Beothuk Drawing, 1829 Artist: Shawnadithit, National Archives of Canada C-28544

Some of the Beothuk however were probably captured by the early European arrivals. In 1501, four years after John Cabot first encountered an abandoned Beothuk site in Newfoundland, an Italian diplomat named Alberto Cantino wrote of native captives he had seen in Lisbon, who may have been Beothuk.

"They forcibly kidnapped about fifty men and women of this country and brought them to the king," wrote Cantino. He described them as taller than average, with green eyes.

"They may appear to be savages yet they are gentle and have a strong sense of shame and are better made in the arms, legs and shoulders than it is possible to describe. Admirably fitted to endure labour and will probably turn out to be the best slaves that have been discovered up to this time." This didn't turn out to be the case; virtually all of them died, most on the voyage and the rest soon after landing.


St. Brendan the Navigator
St. Brendan the Navigator
The Beothuk were perhaps the first natives to be paraded in Europe as the exotic face of the New World but the fate of those who were brought to Europe would be the eventual fate of the entire nation.

By the mid-nineteenth century they had completely disappeared. The last Beothuk, a woman named Shawnadithit, died of tuberculosis in 1829.
Newfoundland and Labrador
Newfoundland and Labrador

top of page


Last Topic:
New Lands

Current Topic:
The Beothuk

Next Topic:
John Guy Settlement

New Lands
New Lands
read more ...

John Guy Settlement
John Guy Settlement
read more ...

Shawanadithit
Shawanadithit
read more ...

Road to Extinction
Road to Extinction
read more ...

Voyage of Richard Hore
Voyage of Richard Hore
read more ...

Viking Trail from Newfoundland & Labrador tourism

L'Anse aux Medows, bilingual

The Beothuks from Newfoundland and Labrador heritage project (English)

The Beothuks from Newfoundland and Labrador heritage project (French)

St. Brendan from the Catholic Encyclopedia

St. Brendan from Anglican Diocese of Cork, Cloyne and Ross Counties

Le voyage du Brendan (French)

history home | explore the episodes | biographies | teacher resources | bibliography | games and puzzles | sitemap | contact us
cbc home | tv episode summaries | merchandise | press releases | behind the scenes | audio/video

copyright � 2001 CBC