Beothuk not extinct

Steve Bartlett
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Mi'kmaq chief cites DNA results as evidence

The statue Spirit of the Beothuk stands overlooking the site where the Beothuk once made their home in Boyd’s Cove. DNA testing is showing a link between the Beothuk and other peoples.

Science is proving something Mi’sel Joe has always known — European settlers did not drive the Beothuk to extinction.

“Not by a long shot,” says the chief of the Miawpukek First Nation in Conne River.  

“They may have gotten to a point where they couldn’t find any more when they were looking, but that’s not to say they were all gone, and DNA will prove that.” In fact, Joe says it already has. “I know of DNA testing that has been done ... that shows there is a link between our people (the Mi’kmaq) and the Beothuk people,” he says, adding that’s happened in the past six months or so.

The Beothuk had lived in Newfoundland for centuries when European settlers and fishermen started arriving in the 16th century.

As the European presence spread, the Beothuk dwindled to the point where the last known Beothuk, Shanawdithit, died in St. John’s in 1829.

Over the years, a consensus has been that Europeans drove the Beothuk to extinction.  

But Joe says such sentiment “pisses me off … because it’s not accurate.”

He says Mi’kmaq oral history recounts that there were marriages between the Beothuk and his people, and also that the Mi’kmaq helped some Beothuk escape European pressure by helping them reach continental North America.

He remembers his grandfather talking about the Beothuk, and says there was always a hushed tone when he did.

“Among all of us, there is Beothuk blood somewhere in our genes, through the intermarriage that took place,” Joe says. “Not only through Conne River, but particularly on the west coast of Newfoundland.”

DNA testing on the remains of Beothuk people has been going on for years.

In 2009, the central Newfoundland-based Beothuk Institute said there were plans to test the remains of two Beothuks and then compare the samples with the DNA of members of modern native groups, including the Mi’kmaq.

And in 2010, a team of geneticists from Iceland and Spain announced they had discovered a strain of DNA in a small group of Icelanders which may represent the genetic survival of the Beothuk.

The theory was that the Vikings captured a female Beothuk — which the Norse called skraelings — and brought her to Iceland.

She is then thought to have had children and her lineage survives in the Icelanders who were tested.

Teresa Greene is the chairwoman of the Beothuk Institute.

“It kind of makes sense, but I don’t know if there is any scientific proof,” she says of the possible Beothuk-Mi’kmaq connection. “It does really make sense because they were around here at the same time, so why wouldn’t they (connect)?”

Greene says the institute has run out of funding to continue the DNA work, but she expects it will apply for more.

“It’s very expensive work,” she says, adding they appreciate the public donations for this work made at the Beothuk Interpretation Centre in Boyd’s Cove.

Joe notes there have been conversations in Conne River about conducting DNA testing themselves.

“We’ve talked a couple of times about doing that, and we’ll get to that,” he says.

Organizations: Miawpukek First Nation, Beothuk Institute, DNA of members Vikings Beothuk Interpretation Centre

Geographic location: Conne River, Newfoundland, Iceland North America Spain

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Recent comments

  • White Hair
    April 07, 2014 - 14:16

    Here is an extract excerpted from the 2013 PAO Annual Field Report regarding the preliminary results of a survey in the Piper's Hole watershed area: ...Ten new sites were recorded. They consist of five unknown aboriginal, three historical/aboriginal and two historic localities. Piper's Hole-1 (CLAn-03), one of the historic/aboriginal sites, is a possible Beothuk occupation, based on the recovery of a headless wrought iron nail and 33 non-diagnostic lithic artifacts. The four other historic components include the alleged homestead of John Barrington, a prominent late-nineteenth century Mi'kmaq resident.... Nine of the 10 new sites yielded surface finds, four of the localities produced artifacts from test pits. Thirty one of ClAn-03s 33 stone artifacts were found on the surface of a blowout and eroding banks. In total, 49 of 53 lithics found in the survey were collected from the surface of eight sites.... (L. Maclean 2013: 99). With regard to the enigma or question as to why archaeologists have not been successful in finding more Beothuk skeletal remains to date, other than the 22 currently being tested for aDNA, one should ask the question: did the 2 primary Beothuk splinter groups that left the Red Indian Lake area ca. 1823-28, one migrating north to Labrador and the other east-southeast to the Piper's Hole-Black River watersheds, shift their mode of burial practices in response to increasing encroachment in their traditional territory to ensure that their remains would not be appropriated by intruders? It is known that the Newfoundland Mi'kmaq and Quebec Mi'kmaq sank their birch-bark canoes during late fall-early winter for preservation. It is quite possible that other Eastern Algonquian groups as well as NL beothuk practiced this tradition. No one ever asked the question, at least in a public medium anyways: did the splinter groups bury their dead with their sunken canoes in lakes and ponds in the interior of Keta'mshi't (Ktaqmkuk) as an alteration or adaptation to an already pre-existing practice, to evade detection by grave robbers? Perhaps that would be a question best answered in the future by the discipline of underwater archaeology! Another area which has not been explored in more detail but warrants further research is the satellite imaging and topographic mapping, and coastal surveying of caves. It is known that the Beothuk and Dorset Inuit (Tuniit) buried their dead in coastal caves and rock outcrops. For example, it is known that some members of the Martin family from Indian Cove, Piper's Hole-Le Cornu (The Horn) were born in a cave located in the side of a mountain. Source:(

  • White Hair
    April 07, 2014 - 13:18

    I have been following up on some of the comment of "Ardy Born With Three Thumbs". While not questioing the veracity or truthfulness of her genealogical claims to tracing direct descent from Santu, or her reported connections to Demasduit via genetic genealogy testing (mtDNA C1), I must address 2 question of relevance indirectly relating to the topic. First, I am sure that you are aware that there exists reconstructed circumstantial evidence collated from NL Mi'kmaw oral tradition accounts and other ethnographic evidence that both Santu and John William Paul, Speck's informant and guide, were believed to be brother and sister. I am sure that you are also aware that both John William Paul and John Barrington, of Conne River (Breton "Le Cornu" The Horn")-Indian Cove, Piper's Hole-Black River, PB, are known to be related, at least through family oral traditions and reconstructed circumstantial evidence. For example, Alphonse Barrington Jr. of Badger s/o Alphonsus Barrington Sr (b. Black River, PB, b. ca. 1880) reiterated on numerous occasions after citing stories told to him by NL Mi'kmaw elders from the community of Badger, where he grew up that both the Barringtons and Pauls were indeed related. In relating what an elder member of the Paul family told him as a young man, Alphonse stated: "you guys [Barringtons] are related to us [Pauls]. You guys are Mountaineers from Labrador". The question remains was the ethnonym "Mountaineer" noting more than a taboo-deformed term for Beothuk Indian, given the proven close ethnographic, linguistic and, perhaps, genetic affinities of both groups? This Labrador Montagnais-Naskapi connection was attested through not only oral tradition accounts of Beothuk informants that confirmed friendly relations with the Shaudamunk (Innu-aimun Tshiuatin-innuat/k) "Northen People" (cf. Mc Oqwatnukewaq), an origin myth or legend of the Beothuk tracing ancestry and migration from Labrador, as well as the destination of a small surviving splinter group that migrated there ca. 1826-28. A similar argument of such alleged Mountaineer ancestry may also be extended to the John/Baptiste/Sekaquet patriline of Miawpukek-Nukamkia'ji'jk. As an extension to this reasoning, albeit hitherto unproven pending future comparative genetic genealogy testing of the Beothuk skeletal remains and their full genome sequencing & comparison to extant (Mi'kmaq, Innuat, Labridorimiut, Kablunanngajuit) and extinct (Maritime Archaic Indian-Red Paint People, Beothuk, and Tuniit/Dorset Inuit), I am sure that Ms. Landry (Ardy Born With Three Thumbs) is also aware that the phenotypic trait of having multiple thumbs or radial preaxial polydactyly, is a congenital, autosomal-dominant, hereditary condition encoded by a zinc-finger GLi3 frameshift mutation on locus 7p13 (short p arm of chromosome 7 @ position 13, located from base pair 41,960,948-42,237,869). So as to air on the side of caution and not to presuppose, I am also sure that you are aware that this GLi3 mutation also encodes both Greig Cephalopolysyndactyly and Pallister-Hall Syndrome, with their associated embedded clusters of syndromic and non-syndromic symptoms. My question for "Ardy Born With Three Thumbs": has your family been tested for GLi3 frameshift mutation on 7p13, and, if not, will you and/or your family members be willing and able to participate in a future full genome SNP comparative autosomal DNA study to help in identifying this gene and other related gene clusters associated with this and other related medical conditions?

    • Ardy Born With 3 Thumbs
      April 18, 2014 - 02:31

      White Hair, My email is: I would like to further discuss your DNA request in the best interest of medical science for future generations. Do not hesitate to contact me at the above address so I can learn more about your role in this topic. Also, I assume you have seen a copy of my mtDNA certificate to be aware that I was born to a Landry father. Today, my legal name is: Ardy Born With 3 Thumbs as recorded on my property deed, driver's license, utility bills and other documents. Also, I have made application to Misel Joe, Newfoundland Government & Beothuk Institute in the past as to having Demasduit and her husband's skulls repatriated from Scotland to Red Indian Lake for reburial, however, none of the said parties were interested in supporting my request. Furthermore, Chris Aylward from Nfld whom teaches at Ryerson in Ontario visited me in 2012 at my dwelling in Nova Scotia to assist in a dissertation he is preparing on the Beothuk. Professor Aylward was accompanied by a cameraman from Ontario as he is also preparing a film on this matter. Each & every person involved is like a Link, but, when we join hands, we have Forged a Chain === Together we shall make a difference. Hope my Smoke Signal reaches your Camp in Good Spirit! Ardy

    • Ardy Born With 3 Thumbs
      April 18, 2014 - 13:30

      White Hair, Although I am familiar with Amerindian mtDNA ... I am not schooled in science as you appear to be able to quote genetic information at random; similarly, I consider myself well-versed in legislation, statutes & caselaw pertaining to Treaty & Aboriginal Rights of American Indians. It is very important to me as it is the only life I know - my life. I was born 1951, at a time that it was not so easy for Indians. Actually, today it is still not an easy life. I was born in a shack without electricity & water. I was forced to Catholic school as a child. I have a grade 6 education. I still live in a 2x4 shack without a foundation, furnace or septic system. I ate out of dumps as a child. I continue to see more mealtimes than meals. I weigh about 85 lbs. Just think, Canadian Taxpayers share in excess of $20 Billion Dollars a year with the Aboriginal People of Canada. Today, our people should not want for anything. Where are the monies going? I rely on our Treaty Rights for Survival - Hunting & Fishing for bounty provided by the Creator to be used as sustenance for food, personal consumption & ceremonial purpose. Like my Mother from whose Womb I stem and her Mother - my Grandmother - I refuse to live in captivity of a governmental Indian Reservation. I am a Status Indian registered with Indian Affairs Canada on the General List - Atlantic - therefore, I have no affiliation or membership with an INAC First Nations Band. I am MicMac Nation. I never received a Red Cent for being an Indian - I was born Indian. The Land does not belong to the Indian - The Indian belongs to the Land. It is of utmost importance to me that my Beothuk Ancestors remains be returned to Newfoundland to there original burial location and where their son is buried. Then and only then shall my Ancestors have Spiritual Peace. It seems today that others claiming to be "Indian" are only consumed by monies, moreso than a traditional value system of respect for those whom we have a duty owing as they gave their lives for us to be here today. It greatly disturbs me in regards to the Beothuk Institute's failure to support me on this sacred matter. The Institute continue to spend monies un-necessarily when they are aware that I have Beothuk mtDNA, as does my 2 daughters and 2 granddaughters. One would of thought that the Newfoundland Government would have taken my request of re-patriation more seriously as this matter also has great cultural relevance to the history of the province which may have financially boosted & positively affected the tourism industry. Furthermore, without balance there shall be no harmony ... Misel Joe failed me too. Many others fail not only to see the burden on the MicMac Woman's shoulder ... they also Fail to see the Motherlode - the Great Burden in the MicMac Woman's Heart. I am slowing up on the trail. I do not have many seasons walking the land of my Ancestors hunting, fishing & singing our songs in the fading sunset of my Indian Summer years. I remain a Free Indian. This is not talk I choose to speak, but talk that must be spoke. I honor my traditional unpaid role as Clanmother of the Tribe of MicMac. These talks are good medicine for us and healing for me, a MicMac Woman. Thank you for allowing me to share. Submitted in the Spirit & Intent of Treaty - Peace & Friendship. All my respect. Chief Ardy Born With 3 Thumbs - Sagama'sgw TTT (my mark)

    • Ardy Born With 3 Thumbs
      April 18, 2014 - 15:05

      White Hair, I forgot to mention that since I had my DNA tested in 2008 at Family Tree DNA, Houston Texas I agreed to further extensive testing paid by others through laboratories at MeAnd23 & DecodeMe; plus the University of Illinois whom studied my test results said my Amerindian mtDNA was "Special". I even received health reports from my testing. It is amazing the things DNA can tell us about ourselves. Scientific DNA evidence trumps British documents and Oral theories daily in Canadian Courts convicting, exonerating & determinig paternity. I was never a threat to Misel Joe, the "Chief" whom calls himself "Mi'kmaq", but, where is his Pride? I was not an enemy of the Newfoundland government, I even voluteerily issued a Permit to Premier Dunderdale for the dam development at Muskrat Falls. I could be their Strongest Ally - the original Spirit & Intent of the Sacred Covenant Chain of Peace & Friendship Treaties forged Nation to Nation between the Royal Imperial Crown of Great Britain and Her Majesty's Ally, the Tribe of MicMac in the 18th century. The Beothuk Institute which has been in existence for many moons continues to campaign for donations in their longtime search of locating living Beothuk DNA, yet they are aware that I have Beothuk mtDNA. They all forget that MicMac Woman has feelings too. Then I ponder ... if I was a "Man" would my re-patriation request been taken more seriously ... rather than be faced with systemic racism of a bygone colonial paternalistic era ... makes one wonder, doesn't it? Let us hope they all soon see the light. Historically speaking, the MicMac are very forgiving people. Let the healing begin. In closing, I would feel Great Honor to support you in your lifework in regards to the Ancient Ones of the MicMac - The Beothuk. Today is a Good Day! - Smile! - Ardy TTT

  • White Hair
    April 07, 2014 - 12:21

    Will the Beothuk Institute and the PAO (Provincial Archaeology Office) commit to undertaking an arcaeological survey and follow-up dig of the Red Indian Pond site in the Piper's Hole watershed area, where are a small group of Beothuk survivors were hiding out at a remote mountain camp ca. 1809-1819, prior to migrating to the old Mi'kmaw-Pi'tawkewaw campsite of Nukamkia'ji'jk (Indian Cove, Brown's Island), Piper's Hole, PB.? See the 2013 PAO Annual Field Report (Laurie Maclean 2013, Burnside Heritage Foundation) ( for preliminary results of a field survey and follow-up dig in the Nukamkia'ji'jk area.

  • Tony Stuckless
    April 02, 2014 - 14:28

    The Stucklesses of Twillingate always had it passed down from generation to generation that there is a Beothuck connection in our family. The most unique thing about us is our teeth.

  • Jessica Gallant-Hatt
    February 11, 2014 - 01:04

    I'm a status Mi'kmaq and had my mtDNA done last year I belong to hg X2a1 and a dna match to Chief Nonosabusut .

  • Grant Tucker
    November 13, 2013 - 14:52

    There is compelling historical, anecdotal and anatomical evidence that the Beothucks are not extinct. They may be alive and well and living all around us. Those of us who have roots in Hants Harbour consider it very likely that there was a Beothuck female in our ancestry. There is enough evidence to warrant genetic testing.

  • Carmel Whittle
    July 02, 2013 - 23:18

    The Beothuk did survive with great efforts made by the Mi'kmaq People who protected the Beothuk. The government of NL & Lab. needs to support the science community in investing funds to find the truth through DNA testing to uncover that the Beothuk (Pi,taw) People remain with us to this day despite all the efforts made by previous history to deny their existence. Wela'lin (Thank you) to the Mi'kmaq People who also must be cleared of being the blame for the Beothuk's demise. The truth is in the DNA. Many scientist who have researched the genetics of the Beothuk cannot say for certain that the Beothuk exist because they do not have enough genetic comparisons to go by unless the Mi'kmaq of NL & Lab have DNA testing. The government should do the right thing and make sure that those who wish to be tested can be out of respect for the First Nations Peoples of NL & Lab. To restore the Mi'kmaq pride in all Mi'kmaq People that they helped their Beothuk brothers and sisters survive. Scientist need the evidence and they need the cooperation and funds from the government to successfully claim the existence of the Beothuk.

  • Dave
    July 02, 2013 - 21:50

    I remember hearing about 15-20 yrs ago that there was a family in Central NL that had similar dental features/jaw structure of the Beothuck. But nothing ever came of it so I don't know if it is true or not. I would be so pleased to hear the Beothuck aren't all gone. But I'm not sure those with Beothuck ancestry would enjoy the amount of attention they would get. Talk about media frenzy.

  • Joe
    July 02, 2013 - 13:54

    It makes a lot o sense given the events surrounding our Mi'kmaq ancestry. It's understandable. It goes without say, "Out of sight; out of mind" There are probably many other ancestry groups that are alive and well! Wouldn't it be interesting to find out that we all have Indian blood flowing through our veins, except for Stephen Harper of course. I would be ashamed to know that he has Indian blood! How ironic would that be?

  • Cindy Murray
    April 29, 2013 - 16:45

    I hope the Beothuk Institute is soon successful in raising the remaining financial resources necessary to continue with their important DNA testing to find a genetic link between our beloved Beothuk and Mi'kmaq people. DNA testing should also be done to find a genetic link between the Beothuk and Europeon and French settlers as well because if the genetic link survived with just one known female brought to Iceland by the Vikings, it stands to reason that there could very well be much more to be discovered right here in Newfoundland!! Contact with Europeon or French settlers meant almost certain death for the Beothuk, so they would have likely gone to great lengths to keep their native origin secret. As far as I understand it, their skin was lighter than most native groups, so removing the red ocher from their bodies would have perhaps made it easier for them to blend in with Europeon and French settlers. I read at least one comment on-line from a Newfoundlander who claimed that his ancestor was of Beothuk origin.

  • Gerry Samms
    April 19, 2013 - 10:27

    I am excited to think that the Beothuck were not driven to extinction.. my family has great evidence of native blood, I would be pleased to undergo DNA testing if it meant proving a point.