Nfld. & Labrador

City promises to respect Beothuk monument

The new sewage treatment plant for St. John's is being built on a grassy hill closely connected to Shanawdithit – the last known Beothuk.

The new sewage treatment plant for St. John's is being built on a grassy hill closely connected to Shanawdithit – the last known Beothuk.

Construction will take place on the former site of St. Mary's Anglican Church. Shanawdithit died in 1829, and church records show she was buried in the south side cemetery.

Two years later, her skull was exhumed and sent to England, where it was destroyed during Second World War air raid.

Excavation for the railway a century ago likely destroyed the cemetery, and no one knows the whereabouts of the rest of Shanawdithit's remains.

Today, all that's left to mark her final resting spot is a monument and a plaque.

That monument is in the middle of where the sewage treatment plant's administrative offices will be in three years. Project manager John Barry gives his assurance the monument will be protected.

"When we excavate this site, our plan is to take this monument down and we plan to have it restored here on site," Barry says.

Ingeborg Marshall

Ingeborg Marshall

Anthropologist Ingeborg Marshall has written extensively about the Beothuk.

"It's a very sad memory that Shanawdithit was kept by people in St. John's and died in this, for her, very strange surroundings," she says.

Since Shanawdithit's skeleton has been lost, Marshall says what matters most is that the monument is placed where people will see it and remember the Beothuk woman's fate.

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