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Shanawdithit, last of the Beothuks
"Shanawdithit" was the name of the last surviving member of the Beothuk tribe of Newfoundland.
Decimated by starvation, tuberculosis, and attacks by white trappers and fishermen, the Beothuks were reduced
to only a few remaining families by the early 1800's, when Shanawdithit and two female relatives were captured
by a trapper. The other women soon died of tuberculosis; Shanawdithit was permitted to return to her tribe
but found no one there left alive. With no friends or family remaining, Shanawdithit became a domestic servant in
the white settlement at Exploits, where she lived for six years before succumbing to tuberculosis herself.
Besides being the last of her people, Shanawdithit was notable for two other things. First, she learned enough
English during her stay at Exploits to tell the story of the Beothuk tribe. Shanawdithit's stories and drawings make
up much of what is known about the Beothuk Indians today (and nearly everything that is known about their language.)
Second, Shanawdithit played a role in changing the public perception of Native Americans; in the face of great personal
tragedy she exhibited dignity, intelligence, and charm, and forced many white Canadians to rethink their ideas of
indigenous people as ignorant savages.
Books about Shanawdithit
The Last of the Beothuk: A Canadian Tragedy:
Biography of Shanawdithit, the last surviving Beothuk Indian woman.
All Gone Widdun:
Historical fiction book about the life of Shanawdithit.
The Ballad of Nancy April: Shawnadithit:
Interesting graphic novel based on Shanawdithit's life, by a First Nations author.
Shanawdithit: Last of the Beothuk:
Another biography of Shanawdithit.
Here are some links to online information about Shanawdithit:
Shanawdithit: Last of the Beothuk
Shanawdithit and the Extinction of the Beothuk
Dictionary of Canadian Biography: Shawnadithit
Shanawdithit, Last of the Beothucks
Interview with Shanawdithit
And here are our webpages about the Beothuk tribe and language:
History of the Red Indians
Shanawdithit and the Beothuk tribe
The Algonkian language family
First Nations of Canada
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