Beothuks in Hant’s Har­bour?

Smudg­ing cer­e­mony pur­fies sus­pected Beothuk set­tle­ment in Trin­ity Bay

The Compass - - FRONT PAGE - BY MELISSA JENK­INS Melissa.jenk­

Many smaller New­found­land towns along the shore­line have in­ter­est­ing his­to­ries, fables and tales. For Hant’s Har­bour, Trin­ity Bay, that history con­tin­ues to come alive as more ar­ti­facts get found close to where a Beothuk tribe is said to have once lived. On July 23, a smudge cer­e­mony was held in that same area to pu­rify the land some 300 years af­ter those Beothuk were said to have been driven over a cliff to their death.

Some be­lieve Beothuk abo­rig­i­nals once lived near the Hant’s Har­bour shore­line. History tells a story of a hor­ri­ble slaugh­ter of some 400 Beothuks by Euro­peans in the 1700s.

Wal­ter Clarke of Car­bon­ear is the mem­ber of a first na­tions tribe. He was re­cently on hand to per­form a cer­e­mony of pu­rifi­ca­tion and re­birth in the com­mu­nity called a smudge cer­e­mony.

The smudge cer­e­mony acts to cleanse an area, whether it is in a home or in na­ture. He per­formed it within view­ing dis­tance of a cliff where history says the Beothuk were forced off to their deaths.

Clarke has per­formed the cer­e­mony many times per­son­ally. He was all too happy to take part in Hant’s Har­bour’s event, held last Thurs­day.

He opened with an in­tro­duc­tion and welcome to all in at­ten­dance.

“There are no strangers here, just friends we have not met yet,” he said with a smile.

He then asked ev­ery­one to take off their rings and watches.

With a pinch of to­bacco sprin­kled on the ground along the path to the town’s light­house and with more than a dozen peo­ple in at­ten­dance, the cer­e­mony be­gan.

Braided strands of sweet grass were passed around for ev­ery­one to smell. Un­for­tu­nately it was too damp to burn.

“Sweet grass is the hair of mother earth,” he noted.

Other items used in the cer­e­mony in­cluded an ea­gle’s feather, which was a gift from his brother, cedar, sage and a shell, among other ob­jects.

The herbs were burned and wafted over all those in at­ten­dance. The smoke sym­bol­izes re­moval of neg­a­tives from one’s body or mind or sur­round­ing area.

Clarke then faced north, south, east and west and said a heal­ing prayer to grand­fa­ther sun, grand­mother moon, mother earth and na­tive an­ces­tors.

When the cer­e­mony was over, most in at­ten­dance thanked Clarke for al­low­ing them to be a part of a tra­di­tional cer­e­mony, and he was in­vited to do it again at another event later this sum­mer.

Truth of the slaugh­ter?

Re­tired teacher and history en­thu­si­ast Grant Tucker is one of the faces be­hind Trin­ity Stones, an or­ga­ni­za­tion that has been dig­ging into the mean­ing be­hind dif­fer­ent stone struc­tures in the re­gion. He was on hand for the cer­e­mony.

Through his re­search, Tucker has come to be­lieve the idea that 400 Beothuks be­ing slaugh­tered was likely ex­ag­ger­ated.

“It could have been one or two, it could have been a dozen,” he ex­plained.

Af­ter the cer­e­mony, he spoke with Per­salvic stu­dent Katie Burke, who came along for the ex­pe­ri­ence. He showed her dif­fer­ent ar­eas of the land where it is be­lieved the Beothuk lived.

The patch of land, which is now cov­ered in blue­berry bushes, has a shel­tered area. It is also in be­tween two shores, one to the east, one to the west.

“If the Euro­peans at­tacked from this di­rec­tion, they could grab their boats and head to (the other side),” Tucker told young Katie.

Although peo­ple can never go back in time, the items found in Hant’s Har­bour and all over North Amer­ica from the past have helped tell a story of how na­tives lived. We have to fol­low the clues left be­hind, Tucker ex­plained.

Trin­ity Stones

Trin­ity Stones, the group that has been in­ves­ti­gat­ing the strone struc­tures in the re­gion, has been a big part of un­cov­er­ing some of those clues left be­hind by na­tives that lived in the re­gion.

A Face­book group has been set up to keep ev­ery­one in­ter­ested up-to-date on the hap­pen­ings in the re­gion, one of which was the smudg­ing cer­e­mony.

Tucker would like to see more stud­ies done in the re­gion, and even said it had pre­vi­ously been sug­gested that a sec­tion of land near shore where a spear­head was found should be ex­ca­vated. So far that doesn’t look like it will hap­pen.

Now that the area has been pu­ri­fied, by the way of the smudg­ing cer­e­mony, it is un­known what will hap­pen next. But Tucker is pleased to keep ev­ery­one in­formed of all the find­ings.

By hav­ing the cer­e­mony, up­dat­ing the Face­book page, hold­ing dif­fer­ent events and con­sis­tently dig­ging for more de­tails about the lives of abo­rig­i­nals in the area, Tucker and those in­volved with Trin­ity Stones hope to keep the history of Hant’s Har­bour and sur­round­ing ar­eas alive.


Wal­ter Clarke, a mem­ber of a first na­tions tribe and res­i­dent of Car­bon­ear, per­forms a tra­di­tional smudg­ing cer­e­mony in Hant’s Har­bour.

Grant Tucker (right) tells Per­salvic stu­dent Katie Burke about the Beothuk strate­gies to sur­vive liv­ing in Hant’s Har­bour.

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