A Tribute to Womanhood
Welcome to "I Am Woman"...a tribute to all those women who had the courage and perseverance to stand up and fight for their rights. Thanks to those who came before us we enjoy a freedom unknown to women not too long ago. But, sadly, in many parts of the world, women continue to be repressed. In fact, even in this country there are women living today under the threat of violence...completely controlled by a violent spouse. Some may make it; others won't. Hopefully, one day ALL women will be free. May that day come soon.
Shawnadithit, Last of the Beothuk
She was born 1801, the daughter of Doodebewshet, a member of an aboriginal tribe in Newfoundland--the Beothuk. Her people had lived in the area for more than 1800 years. Beothuk means 'people' in the Beothuk language, and their origin is unknown. Some believe they may be a branch of the Algonquian. They were a semi-nomadic peoples who wintered around the shores of the beautiful lakes in Newfoundland where they hunted caribou and other game. In spring, they paddled down river to the coast to hunt seal and salmon. Their habit of covering themselves with red ochre gained them the name of "Red Indians".
As a young woman, she was familiar with hunger for, by then, the Europeans had come and put a stop to their hunting and fishing...wanting it for themselves. In the spring of 1823, her father died, falling through the ice while trying to escape a group of hunters. Weakened by hunger, Shawnadithit, her mother, and her only sister surrendered to a trapper called William Cull.
The three women were taken to St. John's, and then to the Exploits where it was hoped they would be able to convince the surviving Beothuk that the British and other colonial officials were hoping to establish friendly relations, but the women were unsuccessful...and the women retunred....her mother and sister desperately ill. They died within a few days of one another. Shawnadithit was then brought back and worked as a servant until she was taken in by an explorer, William Cormack, who began writing her story.
Her health was precarious for many years, and she began to deteriorate. In June of 1829, Shawnadithit died of tuberculosis. She was buried two days later in the military and naval cemetery at St. John's river head. A monument to her memory stands somewhat to the east of her burial site.
She was 28 years old and the last known survivor of the Beothuks. With her death, the people of the ochre became officially extinct as an ethnic group, but thanks to Shawnadithit, they have not been forgotten. It is to her that we owe much of the data written down by Cormack--their language, their customs, and the events and general condition of her tribe in the final years when their numbers had dwindled down. And Shawnadithit, herself, was gifted with a talent for art; her drawings done with a pencil and a sketchbook are invaluable.