Beothuks in Hant’s Harbour?
Smudging ceremony purfies suspected Beothuk settlement in Trinity Bay
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, 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.