"Shawnadithit" was the name of the last member of the Beothuk tribe of Newfoundland.
The Beothuk tribe suffered greatly from starvation, tuberculosis, and attacks by white trappers and fishermen,
and by the early 1800's, there were only a few Beothuk families surviving. In 1823, Shawnadithit and two female
relatives were captured by a trapper (her father was killed in the attack.) The other women soon died of tuberculosis;
Shawnadithit was permitted to return to her tribe but found no one there left alive.
With no friends or family remaining, Shawnadithit became a domestic servant in
the white settlement at Exploits, where she lived for six years before dying of tuberculosis herself.
In addition to being the last of her people, Shawnadithit was notable for two other things. First, she learned enough
English before she died to tell the story of the Beothuk tribe for posterity. Shawnadithit's stories and drawings make
up much of what is known about the Beothuk Indians today. Similarly, she became one of the only sources of information
about the Beothuk language.
Second, Shawnadithit played a role in changing the public perception of Native Americans. Despite great personal
hardship, she displayed dignity, intelligence, and charm, forcing many white Canadians to rethink their ideas of
indigenous people as ignorant savages. Shawnadithit remains a poignant symbol of colonization and its tragic effects
in Newfoundland today.