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Section title: Beothuk
Introduction | History |  Daily Life | Culture |  References


History

Contact with Europeans

The first English settlers told stories about the Beothuk, that they were giants in height and had light skin. There may be some truth to both of these stories. Because of their balanced diet, the Beothuk were probably much taller and healthier than the early Europeans who encountered them. It is also possible that some Beothuk had light skin. About A.D. 1000, Norse sailors ("Vikings") from Greenland settled in the northern part of what is now the island of Newfoundland in a place that has come to be known as L'Anse aux Meadows. Norse legends tell us that after settling down and living in peace with the Beothuk, the Norse ended up fighting them and were forced to leave. During the first peaceful contact however, some children may have been born between Beothuk and Norse parents. If so, some Beothuk children could have been born with lighter skin.

Another explanation goes further back than the arrival of the Norse and is based on a story told by the Cree of James Bay. A long time ago, the Cree knew a people who lived near them, and who they called Buatuk. This was thousands of years ago, before the Inuit arrived in the area. These Buatuk were said to be a tall race of people, who inhabited several islands in what we now call the Hudson Bay region. The Buatuk left the area and were replaced by the Inuit. It is possible that the Buatuk traveled east and ended up on what is now the island of Newfoundland, where they later became known as the Beothuk.

Some 500 years after the Norse left what is now known as Newfoundland, a Portuguese explorer named Gaspar Corte Real was the next to meet the Beothuk. He captured 57 of them and brought them back to Europe. This set the stage for how the Beothuk would be treated by European explorers and settlers for the next 300 years.

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