The Algonquian-speaking Beothuks, who reached Newfoundland in about 200 AD, were seminomadic, spending the summer on the coast and moving inland during the winter. They were the first North American Aboriginal peoples to be contacted by English explorers, who came to describe them as “Red Indians” from their habit of covering themselves with red ochre, perhaps as some sort of fertility ritual or simply to keep the flies off. Neither side seemed to need or want anything from the other, and even after three hundred years of coexistence, hardly anything was known about the Beothuks. As settlers spread north from the Avalon Peninsula in the eighteenth century, they began to encroach on the Beothuks’ ancient hunting grounds, pushing them inland. By the early 1800s, settlers’ attitudes had hardened and the Beothuks who hadn’t succumbed to European diseases were casually slaughtered. Some white settlers organized expeditions into the interior to catch one or two alive, but the last seen member of the tribe, a young woman named Shanawdithit, died of tuberculosis aged 29 in 1829. She spent the last years of her life in the protective custody of the attorney general in St John’s, and it was here that she built a small model of a Beothuk canoe and made ten simple drawings of her people and their customs. No other Beothuks were ever found; she is considered the last of her people.

Travel offers; book through Rough Guides

Canada features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

19 phenomenal pictures of Canada

19 phenomenal pictures of Canada

Canada is famous for its stunning vistas, from the Arctic shores to the Rocky Mountains. But that's not all the country has to boast about. It also has engro…

30 Jun 2017 • Rough Guides Editors insert_drive_file Article
Video: the most beautiful places in Canada

Video: the most beautiful places in Canada

Simply put, Canada is stunning. The second largest country in the world, Canada is a land of crashing waterfalls, turquoise lakes and magnificent soaring mounta…

29 Jun 2017 • Olivia Rawes videocam Video
Road trip Canada: 5 of the best routes

Road trip Canada: 5 of the best routes

Rugged and vast, Canada is a road-trippers dream. Driving gives you the freedom to travel at your own pace – pull over and drink in the scenery along the wa…

27 Jun 2017 • Stuart Forster insert_drive_file Article
View more featureschevron_right

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month