In­dige­nous an­ces­try is to be ex­pected in N.L.

The Labradorian - - EDITORIAL - David Ben­son Tors Cove

To the Amer­i­can wo­man who claims Beothuk an­ces­try, I would say so might we all. In­ter­mar­riage be­tween set­tlers and abo­rig­i­nals was com­mon ev­ery­where in the world through­out his­tory. It was so com­mon in early New Eng­land that colo­nial gov­ern­ments passed laws try­ing to stop it. Later, at the be­gin­ning of the Amer­i­can Repub­lic, un­der en­light­ened lead­ers like Thomas Jef­fer­son, it was ac­tively en­cour­aged with land grants.

Un­like other Euro­pean set­tle­ments in North Amer­ica, New­found­land was not a colony in the early days. It had no colo­nial gov­ern­ment. It was an an­ar­chic and cos­mopoli­tan so­ci­ety for most of the year. The tran­sient Fish­ing Ad­mi­rals sim­ply didn’t care about in­ter­mar­riage and didn’t have the au­thor­ity to stop it even if they had. Later naval au­thor­i­ties only ex­er­cised some mea­sure of le­gal con­trol when they were here in the sum­mer, but they had no real in­ter­est in the mat­ter ei­ther.

Un­like Euro­pean set­tlers on the main­land, early New­found­lan­ders moved into the woods to live in the win­ter. In­ter­mar­riage with abo­rig­i­nals would have hap­pened as it hap­pened ev­ery­where else and, given the lack of colo­nial ad­min­is­tra­tion, com­bined with the win­ter­hous­ing cul­ture, it prob­a­bly hap­pened here more of­ten than else­where.

New­found­lan­ders of nom­i­nal Euro­pean de­scent with an­ces­try go­ing back 250 years and more, likely have a scat­tered Beothuk, Mi’kmaq, Abe­naki, Labrador Innu or Inuit some­where among the fam­ily tuck­amore.

It would be sur­pris­ing if they didn’t. And there are prob­a­bly an­ces­tors from fur­ther afield as well: Black Africans and Bar­bary cor­sairs, who we know were here in the early days, hence Turk’s Gut, Turk’s Cove and Turk’s Wa­ter. It was not for noth­ing that New­found­lan­ders were re­ferred to as “Cop­per Coloureds” by the Bri­tish and Ir­ish in the early- mid19th cen­tury. The New­found­lan­ders called them­selves “na­tives.”

We are ar­guably among the most “racially” mixed of any peo­ple in North Amer­ica. It’s how we sur­vived suc­ces­sive gen­er­a­tions with­out much im­mi­gra­tion.

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