Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Beothuk Indian Tribes and Language


= Bethuck, Latham in Trans. Philolog. Soc. Lond., 58, 1856 (stated to be “Algonkin rather than aught else”). Latham, Opuscula, 327, 1860. Latham, El. Comp. Phil., 453, 1862.
= Beothuk, Gatschet in Proc. Am. Philosoph. Soc., 408, Oct., 1885. Gatschet, ibid., 411, July, 1886 (language affirmed to represent a distinct linguistic family). Gatschet, ibid., 1, Jan-June, 1890.

Derivation: Beothuk signifies “Indian” or “red Indian.”
The position of the language spoken by the aborigines of Newfoundland must be considered to be doubtful.
In 1846 Latham examined the material then accessible, and was led to the somewhat ambiguous statement that the language “was akin to those of the ordinary American Indians rather than to the Eskimo; further investigation showing that, of the ordinary American languages, it was Algonkin rather than aught else.”
Since then Mr. Gatschet has been able to examine a much larger and more satisfactory body of material, and although neither in amount nor quality is the material sufficient to permit final and 58satisfactory deductions, yet so far as it goes it shows that the language is quite distinct from any of the Algonquian dialects, and in fact from any other American tongue.

It seems highly probable that the whole of Newfoundland at the time of its discovery by Cabot in 1497 was inhabited by Beothuk Indians.
In 1534 Cartier met with Indians inhabiting the southeastern part of the island, who, very likely, were of this people, though the description is too vague to permit certain identification. A century later the southern portion of the island appears to have been abandoned by these Indians, whoever they were, on account of European settlements, and only the northern and eastern parts of the island were occupied by them. About the beginning of the eighteenth century western Newfoundland was colonized by the Micmac from Nova Scotia. As a consequence of the persistent warfare which followed the advent of the latter and which was also waged against the Beothuk by the Europeans, especially the French, the Beothuk rapidly wasted in numbers. Their main territory was soon confined to the neighborhood of the Exploits River. The tribe was finally lost sight of about 1827, having become extinct, or possibly the few survivors having crossed to the Labrador coast and joined the Nascapi with whom the tribe had always been on friendly terms.
Upon the map only the small portion of the island is given to the Beothuk which is known definitely to have been occupied by them, viz., the neighborhood of the Exploits River, though, as stated above, it seems probable that the entire island was once in their possession.