FROM: "Appendix: Letter from the Lordbishop
of Nova Scotia," S.P.G. Annual Report 1827 (London: S.P.G.
and C.&J. Rivington, 1828), 85-88.
Additional information regarding the bishop's
interest in Shanawdithit and the Boeothick Institution is documented in
a correspondence of Inglis with Cormack, printed in James P. Howley, THE
BEOTHUCKS OR RED INDIANS: THE ABORIGINAL INHABITANTS OF NEWFOUNDLAND (Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 1915), 205-210. For a critical current discussion
of Shanawdithit and the Boeothick Institution, see Ingeborg Marshall, A
HISTORY AND ETHNOGRAPHY OF THE BEOTHUK (Montreal & Kingston, London,
Buffalo: McGill-Queen's University Press, 1996), 181-223 -- Hans Rollmann
BISHOP JOHN INGLIS' INTERVIEW
Tuesday, 3d. This was the first day since I left Halifax that was devoted
to personal gratification. The weather was fine, but as hot as I have ever
felt it. While the ship was being provided with wood, we went in the boats
about thirteen miles up the river to a rapid, where we landed, and walked
about two miles to a splendid waterfall. The land is good, finely wooded
with large timber, and the scenery is rich and picturesque. Mr. Peyton,
who was with us, has twelve fishing stations for salmon along thirty miles
of the river, and the abundance of seal, deer, wild fowl, and game of every
description is surprising. But our interest in all we saw was greatly increased
by knowing that this was the retreat of the Beothick, or red, or wild Indians,
until the last four or five years. We were on several of their stations
and saw many /85/ of their traces. These stations were admirably chosen
on points of land, where they were concealed by the forest, but had long
views up and down the river, to guard against surprise. When Cabot first
landed, he took away three of this unhappy tribe, and from that day to
the present they have had reason to lament the discovery of their island
by Europeans. Not the least advancement has been made towards their civilization.
They are still clothed in skins, if any remnant of their race be left,
and bows and arrows are their only weapons. English and French, and Mic-Macs
and mountaineers, and Labradors and Esquimaux shoot at the Beothick as
they shoot at the deer. The several attempts that have been made under
the sanction of Government to promote an intercourse with this race have
been most unfortunate, though some of them had every prospect of success.
An institution has been formed in the present year to renew these praiseworthy
attempts, the expenses of which must be borne by benevolent individuals;
and while I am writing, Mr. Cormack, the enterprising individual who was
named in page 65 of this report, is engaged in a search for the remnant
of the race; but as it is known that they were reduced to the greatest
distress by being driven from the shores and rivers, where alone they could
procure sufficient food, and none have been seen for several years, it
is feared by some that a young woman who was brought in about four years
ago, and is now living in Mr. Peyton's family, is the only survivor of
her tribe. The Beothick Institution have now assumed the charge of this
interesting female, that she may be well instructed and provided for. Mr.
Cormack has only taken with him one Mic-Mac, one mountaineer, and one Canadian
Indian, and they are provided with shields to protect them from arrows,
that they may not be compelled to fire. If any remain, they are hidden
in the most retired covers of the forest, which is chiefly confined to
the margins of lakes and the banks of rivers. Mr. Cormack and his three
companions are provided with various hieroglyphics and emblems of peace,
and hope to discover the objects of their pursuit by looking from the tops
of hills for their /86/ smoke, which may sometimes be seen at the distance
of eight or ten miles in the dawn of a calm frosty morning. Who can fail
to wish complete success to so charitable an attempt? We returned to our
ship in the evening greatly delighted with every thing we had seen, but
much exhausted with excessive heat; several of the party also suffered
from the mosquitoes, which were innumerable.
Wednesday, July 4th. The weather continued fine, and we had a rapid
sail down the river at an early hour in the morning, making only one stop
at a beautiful fishing station on Sandy Point, from whence the Beothick
a few years ago stole a vessel and several hundred pounds worth of property
from Mr. Peyton. Between nine and ten we landed at Burnt Island, and while
the clergy were engaged in assembling the people for service, I had some
conversation with Shanawdithit, the Beothick young woman I have already
mentioned. The history of her introduction to Mr. Peyton's family is soon
related. In April, 1823, a party of furriers in the neighbourhood of the
Exploits River followed the traces of some Red Indians, until they came
to a wigwam or hut, from whence an Indian had just gone, and near it they
found an old woman, so infirm that she could not escape. They took her
to Mr. Peyton's, where she was kindly treated, and laden with presents.
After a few days she was left at her wigwam, while the furriers searched
for others. Two females were soon discovered, whose dress was but little
different from that of the men. Though much alarmed, they were made to
understand by signs that the old woman, who was their mother, was at hand.
The man who had been first seen was their father, who was drowned by falling
through the ice. The women were in such lamentable want of food that they
were easily induced to go to Mr. Peyton's. He took them to St. John's,
where every thing they could desire was given to them, and after a stay
of ten days they were taken back to Exploits, and returned to their wigwam,
in full confidence that an amicable intercourse with their tribe would
be established. One of the young women, who had suffered some time from
a /87/ pulmonary complaint, died as soon as she was landed. In a short
time the other two returned to one of Mr. Peyton's stations nearly famished,
and very soon after they arrived there the old woman also died, and Mr.
Peyton has retained her daughter, Shanawdithit, in his family ever since.
She is fond of his children, who leave their mother to go to her, and soon
learned all that was necessary to make her useful in the family. Her progress
in the English language has been slow, and I greatly lamented to find that
she had not received sufficient instruction to be baptized and confirmed.
I should have brought her to Halifax for this purpose, but her presence
will be of infinite importance if any more of her tribe should be discovered.
She is now twenty-three years old, very interesting, rather graceful, and
of a good disposition; her countenance mild, and her voice soft and harmonious.
Sometimes a little sullenness appears, and an anxiety to wander, when she
will pass twenty-four hours in the woods, and return; but this seldom occurs.
She is fearful that her race has died from want of food. Mr. Peyton has
learnt from her that the traditions of the Beothick represent their descent
from the Labrador Indians, but the language of one is wholly unintelligible
to the other. All that could be discovered of
their religion is, that they feared some powerful monster, who was to appear
from the sea, and punish the wicked. They consider death as a long sleep,
and it is customary to bury the implements and ornaments of the dead in
the same grave with their former possessors. They believe in incantations.
When the girl who died was very ill, her mother, who was of a violent and
savage disposition, heated large stones, and then poured water upon them
until she was encircled by the fumes, from the midst of which she uttered
horrid shrieks, expecting benefit to her suffering child.[emphasis
my own --HR]
Mr. Chapman had been diligent in visiting and instructing the people
during our short absence in the upper part of the river. A congregation
was assembled at eleven o'clock, and forty-nine persons were confirmed.
All of these were /88/ very decorous in their whole behaviour, and many
of them appeared sincerely devout. Shanawdithit was present. She perfectly
understood that we were engaged in religious services, and seemed struck
with their solemnity. Her whole deportment was serious and becoming. She
was also made to understand my regret that her previous instruction had
not been such as to allow of her baptism and confirmation, and my hope
and expectation that she would be well prepared if it should please God
that we met again. Mr. Peyton pledged himself that every possible endeavour
should be made for this purpose.
(E-text furnished by Dr. Hans Rollmann; typed by Ms. Heather
Russell; htmlized by Dr. Hans Rollmann)
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