Tag Archives: Red Indians

Three Newfoundlanders receive National Historic Designations

Nangle, Howley, Munn Named as Having National Significance

In celebration of Heritage Day,  (February 15, 2016) the Honourable Catherine McKenna, Minister of the Environment and Climate Change and Minister responsible for Parks Canada, announced the designation of 38 nationally significant persons, places and events that helped define Canada’s history. Three Newfoundlanders were among those named as having National Significance.

Padre Thomas Nangle

Padre Thomas Nangle

WWI chaplain, Thomas Nangle of St. John’s was named a person of historic significance because of his efforts in creating the “Trail of the Caribou” a series of monuments at each of the five major battlefields where Newfoundlanders fought. The St. John’s native became the “padre” of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment after the Battle of Beaumont-Hamel. He was instrumental in having a caribou monument erected at each of the five main battlefields where Newfoundlanders had fallen. He was also instrumental in the creation of the National War Memorial in St. John’s.

More on Padre Thomas Nangle: http://news.gc.ca/web/article-en.do?nid=1032979

Recommended Archival Collection: The Rooms Provincial Archives: NANGLE, Thomas Extent   320   pages. Forms part of [Collection GN 19] Newfoundland military service records (Great War) collection


Jamesd Patrick Howley

Jamesd Patrick Howley

James Patrick Howley of St. John’s was a geologist and surveyor who was one of the first Europeans to visit and document the Bay du Nord river system deep in the interior.

He conducted the first thorough geological survey of the island, and documented the known history of the Beothuck people, a work that still stands the test of time.

More on James Patrick Howley: http://news.gc.ca/web/article-en.do?nid=1032909

Recommended Archival Collection: The Rooms Provincial Archives James Patrick Howley fonds. Description number MG 105 . Extent   39   cm   textual records


John Munn

John Munn

John Munn is considered an outstanding example of a prominent Newfoundland outport merchant. From small beginnings in 1833, he built the largest general fishery supply firm outside St. John’s in Harbour Grace and became the single largest owner of vessels in the colony. His innovative business practices fostered the growth of his firm Punton and Munn, which became John Munn and Company in 1872 and continued operation until Newfoundland’s disastrous Bank Crash of 1894.

More on John Munn: http://news.gc.ca/web/article-en.do?nid=1033249

Recommended Archival Collection: Maritime History Archives, Memorial University. John Munn and Co. (Harbour Grace) fonds, 1770-1918 45 centimeters of textual records

These new designations reflect the rich and varied history of our nation. The commemoration process is largely driven by public nominations and designations are made on the recommendation of the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada. To date, more than 2,000 designations have been made.

The Honourable Catherine McKenna, Minister responsible for Parks Canada, in a press release on February 15, 2016 said:

“As we celebrate National Heritage Day I am very proud to recognize the people, places and events that shaped Canada. They tell the stories of who we are as a people, including our history, cultures and contributions of Indigenous peoples. I encourage all Canadians to take this opportunity to learn more about our rich and diverse history.”

Take some time to explore archives throughout Newfoundland and Labrador to discover the significant persons, places and events that helped define this place and our history.

They disappeared from the earth like a shadow…


October 2, 1827


Photo Credit: Drawings by Shanawdithit showing spears, water buckets, cups, a dancing woman, a devil Source: Library and Archives Canada/C-028544 © Public Domain nlc-683

They disappeared from the earth like a shadow…

On October 2, 1827, William Cormack, described as an explorer, agriculturalist and merchant in St. John’s, formed the ‘Beothic Institution’, for the purpose of opening a communication with, and promoting the civilization of the “Red Indians of Newfoundland.”

Cormack, had become alarmed at the decimation the Beothuk people and culture, and began searching the Newfoundland wilderness for the Beothuk. In 1823 he heard that a young Beothuk woman Shawnadithit (Nancy April) had been captured,  one of only a few Beothuk with whom to communicate. He immediately sought her out to learn about the Beothuk culture.

Shawnadithit, in effect, became the Beothuk Institution, supplying Cormack with  some of his only first-hand information on the tribe.  Cormack wrote:

“We have traces enough left only to cause our sorrow that so peculiar and so superior a people should have disappeared from the earth like a shadow… Shawnadithit is now becoming very interesting as she improves in the English language and gains confidence in people around. I keep her pretty busily employed in drawing historical representations of everything that suggests itself relating to her tribe, which I find is the best and readiest way of gathering information from her.”

Many prominent citizens subscribed to become members of the Institute.

Cormack subsequently set off with three native guides to explore the area around the Exploits River and Red Indian Lake where the Beothuk were known to have lived but found the country deserted. As a last resort a native search party was sent to the region of Notre Dame and White Bays under the auspices of the Beothuk Institution.

No Beothuk were encountered, as Cormack had feared they were on the verge of extinction.  With the death of Shawnadithit in 1829, Cormack wrote,  they had “disappeared from the earth like a shadow…”

On 2 October 1997, 170 years after its inception, the Beothic Institution was revived as the Beothuk Institute. Its mandate was to arrange for the erection of a statue of a Beothuk woman to commemorate the Beothuk people, and to promote public awareness of the Beothuk and other aboriginal peoples of the province. The idea of a statue came from Newfoundland artist  Gerald Squires, who had a vision of a female Beothuk in the Bay of Exploits, and wanted to honour the spirit of her people. He was commissioned to create the statue. It was poured in bronze by artist Lubin Boykov and unveiled at the Boyd’s Cove Provincial Historic Site in July 2000.

Since then the Beothuk Institute has sponsored the publication of a booklet on the Beothuk, provided essays on the Beothuk  and has initiated a study of Beothuk DNA.

Recommended Archival Collection: At the Rooms Provincial Archives read MG 257 consists of a vocabulary of the Native Red Indians language, from Mary March / compiled by the Rev. John Leigh, 1819-1820, composed of words learned from Demasduit (Mary March), a female Beothuk captured by John Peyton, Jr., at Red Indian Lake, on 5 March 1819. Fonds consist of one booklet, with 17 sheets and cover.

Recommended Website:  At the Rooms Provincial Museum see Museum NotesThe Beothuks  By Ralph T. Pastore  http://www.therooms.ca/museum/mnotes1.asp

Recommended Film: Shanaditti : Last of the Beothuks. Directed by Ken Pittman; produced by Rex Tasker and Barry Cowling. Montréal: National Film Board ofCanada, 1982. 20 min., 22 sec.

Recommended Reading:  Marshall, Ingeborg. The Beothuk of Newfoundland: A Vanished People.St. John’s, 1989.