Canadian History Research Proposal

Canadian History Research Proposal

Essay Proposal:Beothuk extinction as an example of the genocide against Native peoples.


The relationships between whites and Beothucks passed through three well-defined stages. The first lasted from 1500 to 1612 and was marked by occasional kidnapping, casual trade and sporadic pillage and mutual retaliation. The second stage began when Beothucks withdrew into the interior. The Beothuck strategy of withdrawal has no parallel elsewhere in the region and its cause cannot be known. The third and final stage began in the middle of the eighteenth century …The resulting competition saw the extermination of the Beothucks. [1]


This essay will attempt to answer one or more of the following questions: Was the Beothuck extinction a manifestation of the genocide against Native peoples? Was it a well-planned strategy or a huge tragedy? What factors that led to a complete extinction of the whole ethnic group became predominant?

Historical Background:

There is no consensus among historians concerning the causes and consequences of the ultimate extension of Beothucks. Even less clear whether this ethnic group totally disappeared or there are some still living descendants of Beothucks. It is traditionally believed that the year 1829 when the last representative of this group died marked the end of Beothucks’ era and became the most outrageous manifestation of the hostility of the whites towards Native peoples. By far, this is one of the most tragic events that took place in the history of Canada and its citizens. This tragedy was researched in numerous publications but still every year there appear many new facts that leave dark spots and demand further researches that would shed light on the factors that led to the extinction of the whole ethnic group of people. Such researchers as R.T. Pastore emphasize that there were several groups of invaders such as Europeans, Micmacs, and Inuit who deprived Beothucks of vitally needed resources and in this way they contributed to their extinction and Europeans were not the most aggressive group of invaders. In his turn, Douglas T. Robbbins states that the extinction of the Beothucks was not a planned action; it was a great tragedy of this ethnic group because instead of developing trade relations, they withdrew inland and got into isolation that brought them to extinction. Actually, their dying was their own fault, because the environmental resources of the island were impoverished and Beothucks could not satisfy their needs only by means of the available resources. Partially, this idea is supported by Leslie Upton who claims that exactly their withdrawal and eliminating of the contacts with other groups of settlers was the main factor that contributed to their dying out.

At the same time, we argue that the lack of natural resources and ultimate withdrawal of Beothucks were important but not crucial factors. The most important factor was the tactics of violent elimination of the Native peoples that was aimed at grasping their territories. Beothucks died because of many factors including, hunger and diseases brought by Europeans, but it is also impossible to deny that a huge amount of Beothucks were mercilessly killed.

So, this essay will try to define what factor among the mentioned ones was the most important and, finally, caused ultimate extinction of this ethnic group.

[1] Upton, Leslie F.S. The Extermination of the Beothucks of Newfoundland. (Canadian Historical Review 58, no. 2 (1977)), 135 .

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