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The Ties that Bind and Divide: Encounters with the Beothuk in Southeastern Newfoundland
Donald H. Holly, Jr., Christopher Wolff, and John Erwin

Journal of the North Atlantic, Volume 3 (2010): 31–44

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The Ties that Bind and Divide: Encounters with the Beothuk in Southeastern Newfoundland Donald H. Holly, Jr.1.*, Christopher Wolff 2, and John Erwin3 Abstract - Encounters between Europeans and the Beothuk in southeastern Newfoundland took a variety of forms in the sixteenth and early seventeenth century. There is evidence to suggest some trade, but also scavenging, theft, mutual hostility, and avoidance. By the middle of the seventeenth century, relations had deteriorated to the point that the Beothuk retreated from this area to points north and west. This paper examines the nature of Beothuk-European relations during the early contact period as it is evident in the archaeological and historic record of southeastern Newfoundland, including new evidence from the site of Stock Cove, and suggests that the failure of the Beothuk and Europeans to solidify and sustain relations was due to the unpredictable nature of the encounter experience. Ultimately, this failure would play a significant role in the demise of the Beothuk. 1Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Eastern Illinois University, Charleston, IL 61920, USA. 2Department of Anthropology, NMNH MRC-138, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC 20560, USA. 3Provincial Archaeology Office, Department of Tourism, Culture and Recreation, Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, St. John’s, NL A1B 4J6, Canada. *Corresponding author - dhholly@eiu.edu. Introduction: Trinity Bay, 1612 In the autumn of 1612, John Guy, then governor of Newfoundland’s first official colony, set sail from Cupers Cove with fellow colonists into Trinity Bay. It was a voyage of discovery and commerce. The aim was to explore the Bay and establish friendly trading relations with the native peoples of the island, the Beothuk. It was a success. After days of exploring the deep recesses of Trinity Bay, noting unoccupied Beothuk campsites along the shores and spotting the Beothuk at a distance, Guy’s crew finally made contact with a small party of Beothuk Indians on 6 November 1612 (Fig. 1). That afternoon, the crew spotted smoke in the vicinity of Bull Arm. Upon 2010 Journal of the North Atlantic 3:31–44 Figure 1. A depiction of Guy’s meeting with the Beothuk in 1612 (Merian 1628). See Gilbert (2007) for discussion of this illustration. Courtesy of the Centre for Newfoundland Studies, Memorial University of Newfoundland. 32 Journal of the North Atlantic Volume 3 investigating, Guy’s crew met a small party of Beothuk men on the shore. Although initially wary, the Beothuk initiated a series of actions that seemed to be aimed at establishing their friendly intentions: a white wolf’s skin was waved and headless arrowshafts were offered to the colonists, accompanied by singing and dancing. The colonists followed suit, waving a white flag, joining the Beothuk in dance, and offering them various items including “bread, butter and reasons [raisins] of the sun to eate, and beere and aquavitae to drinke” (Cell 1982:74). Then the party shared a meal of smoked caribou meat and wild roots. As dusk fell, a prominent member of the Beothuk party gave the colonists the white animal skin that earlier had been presented as a token of peace and took their white flag in exchange. Then the Beothuk departed. Eager to further develop this relationship, the colonists started to construct a small trading post the following day, but worsening weather conditions forced them to depart on November 8th (Gilbert 1990:159). On their way, the colonists spied animal furs, shell necklaces, and other items on display in a prominent location. Taking the clue that the Beothuk wished to trade, Guy’s party landed at the spot, took several of the displayed items and left a hatchet, knife, scissors, and sewing needles in their place. Then they sailed for home, no doubt pleased with their encounter and the prospects of establishing a profitable trade with the natives. However, such hopes were never realized. Subsequent attempts by the colonists to sustain trading relations with the natives were largely unsuccessful, and by the middle of the seventeenth century the Beothuk had abandoned the area (Gilbert 2002:43–45). For the next hundred years or so, a pattern of indifference and avoidance would characterize the state of relations between Europeans and the Beothuk. In the eighteenth century, the expansion and growing permanence of European settlement on the island would lead to competition and conflict, and with guns and numbers in the settlers’ favor, the Beothuk were compelled to retreat into the interior of the island (Holly 2008). By the turn of the nineteenth century, the Beothuk had dwindled in number, and soon after they disappeared. The fate of the Beothuk people did not turn in Trinity Bay in the autumn of 1612, but it is as good a place and date as any to ponder the path that Beothuk-European relations would take in the next two centuries. There is good reason to suggest that the Beothuk had some amicable experiences with Europeans—including trade—prior to the time of Guy’s voyage into Trinity Bay (Cell 1969:68, Gilbert 1992). Early familiarity with Europeans is evident in Guy’s account, the recovery of possible trade items at Beothuk sites, and hearsay by the colonists and other early observers. But this reading of sometimes friendly Beothuk-European relations in the early historic period would soon be replaced by a narrative dominated by accounts of the Beothuk avoiding Europeans, a growing chorus of fishermen and settler complaints regarding Beothuk “thievery”, and an archaeological record of “scavenging” on the part of the natives. Scholars of early Newfoundland history have long been intrigued by these developments, particularly the general absence of European-Beothuk relations and the plausible role that this might have played in the demise of the Beothuk. To date, two explanations have dominated these discussions (Holly 2000). The first, advocated by noted Beothuk scholar Ingeborg Marshall (1996), anchors the Beothuk pattern of avoidance to a particular world view and culture. The second, advanced by the late historian Ralph Pastore (1987), frames Beothuk (and European) avoidance largely in economic terms. In this paper, we present an alternative position, one that emphasizes the role that “social unpredictability” played in hindering efforts to establish and sustain relations during the early contact period. We also offer a picture of the situation on the ground, through a review and discussion of the archaeological record of contact-era Beothuk sites in the region, including recent work by the authors at Stock Cove (CkAl-3; Fig. 2)—the probable site where John Guy observed “nine savage [houses]” in 1612 (Gilbert 1990:157, 161). An Archaeological Overview The Beothuk’s tenure on the island extends back at least 1500 years. Shortly after the turn of the first millennium A.D., archaeologists recognize the presence of new Amerindian peoples on the island. Diversity in the material culture of these early immigrants may suggest that several different Amerindian groups were part of the settlement process (Hartery 2007, Hull 2002, Pastore 2000, Teal 2001). This possibility, combined with the complex processes by which ethnicity is crafted and asserted, makes it difficult to draw a direct line from the ancient past to historic Beothuk; nonetheless, it is safe to assume that what we have come to think of as “Beothuk” emerged out of this early matrix of settlers. These settlers joined Paleoeskimo peoples, who had already been living on the island for hundreds of years by the time the Amerindians arrived. The two groups would co-exist on the island for nearly a thousand years, at which point the Paleoeskimos (Dorset) disappear from the archaeological record. The cause for this, and the fate of the Newfoundland Dorset, is the subject of much discussion and debate (Bell and Renouf 2008; Holly, in press; Renouf 2010 Donald H. Holly, Jr., Christopher Wolff, and John Erwin 33 1999; Tuck and Pastore 1985), but the consequences of the Dorset’s “failure” for Amerindian peoples is not. With the Dorset out of the way, Amerindian peoples soon expanded into coastal locations that had previously been home to their Paleoeskimo neighbors (Renouf 2003:9–10, Renouf and Bell 2009). The Amerindian inheritors of this landscape are known to archaeologists through their material culture: the Little Passage complex. The Little Passage complex was first recognized with Gerald Penney’s (1981, 1984) work at the L’Anse à Flamme site, on the island’s south coast. The complex dates between A.D. 1000 and A.D. 1500 (contact), and is characterized by linear flakes, triangular bifaces, thumbnail scrapers, and small corner-notched projectile points—most of which appear to have functioned as arrowheads (Erwin et al. 2005). Little Passage sites are small and nondescript. Structural remains are rare. Indeed, many sites amount to little more than lithic scatters. Little Passage sites also tend to cluster on the coast, especially in sheltered bays and inlets, leading one to the impression that these people can best be described as mobile and generalized coastal foragers who made seasonal use of the near-coastal interior to hunt caribou (Gilbert 2002, Holly 2002, Rowley-Conwy 1990, Schwarz 1994). Faunal evidence, although rather paltry, supports this assertion. It suggests that Little Passage groups targeted a broad range of coastal and terrestrial resources when at or close to the coast (Cridland 1998, Gilbert 2002:91–98, Holly 2002) and caribou when farther inland (Penney 1990:4) Figure 2. Trinity Bay, Newfoundland. 34 Journal of the North Atlantic Volume 3 The Late Prehistoric Period in Southeastern Newfoundland Little Passage sites in southeastern Newfoundland broadly reflect subsistence and settlement trends seen elsewhere on the island, but there are some differences. On the north and west coast, harp seals could be intercepted in open water as they made their way south in early winter, and hunted on the pack ice when they returned north in the early spring. If historic herd positions are indicative of those in the past, it would have been more difficult for foragers residing in southeastern Newfoundland to do this. Harp seals are not as numerous nor as accessible in southeastern Newfoundland as they are farther north and west. Nonetheless, archaeological evidence suggests that harp seals were occasionally taken by people living in Trinity Bay (Gilbert 2006:3, Nomokonova 2010). In all likelihood, harbor and grey seals would have figured more prominently in the diet of people living in southeastern Newfoundland. Unlike harp seals, harbor and grey seals are non-migratory species. They remain close to shore in the spring and summer, and in the vicinity during the ice-covered winter months. The proximity of these seal species in the spring and summer, together with the wide array of coastal resources available at this time, may account for the presence of Little Passage sites on the coast in southeastern Newfoundland. It is possible, however, that coastal locations were also frequented in autumn and/or early spring. In southeastern Newfoundland, Little Passage/ Beothuk material has been recovered from Frenchman’s Island (ClAl-1), Stock Cove (CkAl-3), and Sampson’s Head Cove (CkAl-4), all in Bull Arm, at the bottom of Trinity Bay (Fig. 2). The Frenchman’s Island site was excavated over the course of two seasons in the early 1980s. These excavations yielded pre-contact and European material. The Little Passage component at the site is represented by triangular bifaces, retouched flakes, corner-notched projectile points, and a scraper. In the eastern area of the site, Little Passage material overlaid an older Dorset Paleoeskimo occupation. In the western portion, Little Passage material was associated with a small deposit of fire-cracked rock, unidentified bird and mammal bones, clam shells, and some European objects (Evans 1982). The association of the Little Passage material and European objects will be discussed later, but the nature of the Little Passage material at the site broadly suggests a small encampment. Additional work at the site (see Mills and Gaulton 2010), however, may soon modify this interpretation. The Stock Cove site was first excavated in the early 1980s under the direction of Douglas Robbins, then a graduate student at Memorial University of Newfoundland. His excavations revealed a thin Amerindian deposit that broadly overlaid, but was also mixed within, a rich Dorset Paleoeskimo stratum. Robbins’ M.A. Thesis (1985) primarily focused on the Dorset component at the site. As a consequence, the Amerindian occupation at Stock Cove has received relatively little attention. Descriptions of the Amerindian material by Robbins (1982) and visual inspection of his collections by the authors of this paper indicate, however, a small but significant Little Passage presence at the site too. Robbins excavations at Stock Cove yielded nearly three dozen straight-stemmed and corner-notched projectile points, seventeen triangular bifaces, and eight endscrapers (Robbins 1982:203). He noted that many of these objects were recovered from a 3-m oval concentration of rocks and cobbles (Robbins 1982:198), although it is difficult to verify the distribution with the published reports. In the summer of 2008, Wolff returned to Stock Cove and excavated a series of test pits to evaluate the depositional and cultural history of the site. At that time, Wolff recovered Recent Indian material, primarily associated with the Little Passage complex, in low frequencies in almost every part of the site that was tested, along with thick Dorset deposits (Wolff et al. 2009). In 2009, the authors returned to Stock Cove to excavate a small area (6 m2, ≈65 cm deep) approximately 12 m west of Robbins’ earlier excavation (Wolff et al. 2010) (Fig. 3). This area had been identified by Wolff in 2008 as having strata containing both Recent Indian and Dorset material. Our excavations in this area in 2009 broadly support Robbins’ interpretations. We recovered eight small projectile points and two triangular bifaces made from several varieties of chert (Fig. 4). One projectile point was found at a depth of 32 cm from the surface, but most of the Little Passage material was recovered between 9 and 21 cm and above the Dorset Paleoeskimo material. We did not discern any Little Passage features, although like Robbins we did encounter an incredibly rich Dorset Paleoeskimo stratum and exposed part of what we believe to be a Dorset Paleoeskimo dwelling. Clearly, the Dorset component overshadows the Little Passage component at Stock Cove. Nonetheless, the collective yield of Little Passage material suggests a significant presence of late prehistoric Amerindians at the site too. What this presence represents is unclear. To date, the high number of projectile points recovered relative to other tool types, in combination with the apparent absence of associated structural remains, hearths and middens, suggests that the site represents specialized hunting activities rather than an area of sustained habitation. It is quite possible, however, that the habitation area of the site has not been located. 2010 Donald H. Holly, Jr., Christopher Wolff, and John Erwin 35 The Samson’s Head Cove site (CkAl-4) is situated about halfway between Stock Cove and Frenchman’s Island. It was discovered in 1990 by Callum Thomson in the course of an environmental impact survey. Like all of the sites discussed so far, Samson’s Head yielded material from several different cultural occupations. A Little Passage component was identified just beneath the peat in a thick black soil horizon (Thomson 1990:17). Diagnostic material from the Little Passage component amounted to a single corner-notched projectile point, a couple of triangular bifaces, and an end-scraper (Thomson 1990: plate 11). Earlier Amerindian (Beaches complex) artifacts were found just beneath this horizon together with faunal material and charcoal dated to 830 ± 130 B.P. (Beta 35837, wood charcoal); calibrated A.D. 1033–1290. The date obtained from the charcoal is rather late for the Beaches Complex. This finding could suggest that it and some of the faunal material are associated with the Little Passage component of the site. Faunal material from the Samson’s Head Cove site speaks to interesting aspects of land-use strategies in the region. The faunal remains from Samson’s Head Cove included beaver, caribou, thick-billed murre, sea urchin, and clam shells, as well as unidentified mammal remains. This faunal evidence, particularly the presence of thick-billed murre bones, could suggest an occupation between late fall and early spring (Thomson 1990:20–1). In addition, the presence of beaver and caribou point to terrestrial Figure 3. Excavations at Stock Cove (CkAl-3), 2009. Figure 4. Little Passage/Beothuk projectile points recovered from Stock Cove (CkAl-3) in 2009. 36 Journal of the North Atlantic Volume 3 hunting activities at a time when these people were obviously living on the coast. Terrestrial resources at a coastal site is not unanticipated, as Little Passage peoples are thought to have pursued a wide range of resources from centrally located coastal camps in the inner reaches of bays and inlets. In addition, both caribou and beaver can be found close to coastal areas in many parts of the island. Rather, the signifi- cance is that the Bull Arm sites are all situated on the shores of the narrow Isthmus of Avalon. From here, residents would have been able to access and monitor coastal resources easily, including those in Placentia Bay (a mere 10 km across the isthmus) and intercept caribou on the Isthmus of Avalon. The latter advantage may have been a more important consideration for people residing in the Bull Arm area. With this in mind, it is perhaps not surprising that the largest Little Passage site on the island—Russell’s Point—is located at the far eastern end of the isthmus, directly in the path of migrating caribou. Russell’s Point (CiAj-1) is a remarkable site. Excavated by William Gilbert (2002) between 1994 and 1997, the site appears to represent a fall and winter base camp used by Little Passage, and later, Beothuk peoples. Gilbert identified over a dozen hearth features and recovered over 1200 artifacts at the site—including 368 projectile points. The sheer abundance of artifacts combined with radiocarbon dates spanning six hundred years (Gilbert 2002:60) indicates that this had been an attractive location for the Beothuk and their ancestors for quite some time. Caribou was likely the main draw. Russell’s Point is located on the shores of Dildo Pond. It is an ideal spot to intercept caribou, a fact supported by faunal evidence from the site and historic observations (Gilbert 2000). Beaver were also available in the area (see Gilbert 2002:95–96). And Dildo Pond offers easy access to the bottom of Trinity Bay—just a short portage from the northern end of the pond— and the marine resources that could be found there. Accordingly, like Samson’s Head Cove and other sites in Bull Arm, Russell’s Point gave Little Passage peoples a variety of subsistence options—and the fact that seal bones were found at Russell’s Point (Gilbert 2002:80–2) and caribou at Samson’s Head Cove (Thomson 1990:20) indicates that such options were often exercised. Little Passage sites are rare east of the Isthmus of Avalon. There are a couple of reasons why this might be the case. One possibility is that coastal erosion and hundreds of years of development in this relatively populated area have taken a toll on the archaeological record. Another is that the absence of Little Passage sites on the eastern end of the Peninsula reflects a real pattern of land-use by late prehistoric peoples. While coastal sites are still to be expected, if Russell’s Point offers a clue, it could be that caribou were more important to Little Passage and (early contact) Beothuk peoples on the Avalon Peninsula than coastal resources, and that the bulk of sites that exist are located in the largely unexplored interior of the Peninsula (R. Gaulton 2001). Historic observations of the Avalon caribou herd indicate that the herd was once much larger and widespread than it is today (Mercer et al. 1985:20). In addition, the rather limited yearly range of the Avalon herd (see Bergerud et al. 1983) and comparatively low amount of snowfall on the Peninsula when compared to the central interior of the island, might have made it easier for people to monitor caribou herd movements. Thus, people on the Avalon Peninsula may have established larger settlements in the near interior during the fall and winter and made little and less intensive use of the coast in the spring and summer— essentially the opposite pattern from the Bull Arm area. If this was indeed the case, it could help explain the relative absence of Little Passage sites east of the Isthmus when compared to those farther to the west. Archaeological surveys in the interior of the Avalon Peninsula would help test this proposition. The Beothuk in Southeastern Newfoundland The arrival of Europeans in the early sixteenth century is the point at which archaeologists mark the end of the Little Passage complex. Thereafter, the people who made Little Passage tools are referred to as the Beothuk. But identifying the Beothuk in the early historic record is no easy feat. Early voyages to the island, if recorded at all, often either made no mention of the native peoples or else addressed them so broadly and the geography so vaguely as to make it difficult to determine who exactly was being observed. Moreover, descriptions that made it into print were often secondhand—or worse—recollections, sometimes written years after the event. As such, the early historic record is peppered with accounts of godless people who drank blood, practiced cannibalism, and lived in caves (see Marshall 1996:14–21). But if identifying the Beothuk in early documents is a daunting task, identifying the early historic era Beothuk in the archaeological record is even more trying. The only way to identify the “Beothuk” unambiguously in the archaeological record is with the presence of modified European implements, such as iron nails hammered into arrowheads, or less convincingly with unmodified implements firmly associated with stone tools. Without such supporting evidence, historic Beothuk Indians run the risk of being identified as late prehistoric Little Passage peoples. Indeed, it is quite possible that some of the “Little Passage” material found at the sites discussed thus far may represent the work of Beothuk Indians of the early historic period. Furthermore, radiometric dating 2010 Donald H. Holly, Jr., Christopher Wolff, and John Erwin 37 offers little help; the resolution of carbon 14 dating, as expressed in error rate, is simply too coarse to distinguish early historic from late prehistoric material. With these limitations in mind, current evidence suggests that the Beothuk in the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries favored sheltered locations in the deep recesses of bays and inlets in the spring and summer and the near interior in the fall and winter. In this way, the Beothuk of the early historic period resembled their Little Passage predecessors. At the same time, early contact with Europeans could have changed the tenor of the Beothuk economy in significant ways. The Beothuk spent most of the spring and summer close to the shore, hunting harbor seals, collecting bird eggs, and perhaps fishing too (Marshall 1996). This pattern would have put them on the coast at the time when European fishermen would have been arriving to engage in the seasonal cod fishery. Beothuk access to some coastal locations, particularly bird colonies (see Pope 2009), was likely negatively impacted by these developments. Evidence from Samson’s Head Cove (CkAl-4) suggests that the Beothuk in southeastern Newfoundland might have visited the coast in the fall and maybe even the winter too—and if they were not at the coast at this time of the year, they clearly would have been very close to it (see Russell’s Point; CiAj-1). As discussed earlier, the strategic advantage offered by the bottom of Trinity Bay and the adjacent isthmus of the Avalon Peninsula is that it gave residents the ability to keep one foot in the interior and another on the coast. From here, the Beothuk could easily monitor a variety of environments and resources within a relatively short distance. They could also monitor Europeans. The nature of early Beothuk interactions with Europeans is not understood, owing to the poor documentary record. It is likely, however, that early interactions defy generalization. One must consider, for instance, the number of potential actors involved at the time. The early European fishery in Newfoundland engaged fishermen from all across Western Europe: Basques, Bretons, Dutch, French, English, and Portuguese (Pope 2004). While ships hailing from different nations may have favored particular areas in Newfoundland, this might have been lost on, or mattered little, to highly mobile coastal foragers like the Beothuk. In addition, one cannot assume that “national” policy or custom dictated the conditions under which interactions took place. There was great variation within and between fishing fleets, vessels, and crews. When you also consider crew turnover from year to year and the varying New World experience and temperament of fishing crews and pirates, it is quite possible that each ship or crew represented a potentially different encounter experience: there might be bloodshed or trade—enslavement or indifference. This social unpredictability would be different than that expected between resident indigenous peoples and established settler communities. In the latter scenario, a history of relations could be used to predict future encounters. Policies, or at least customs, would have dictated rules of engagement, and a community of actors with some tenure in the place and familiarity with the “other” would have helped to establish reasonable expectations for encounter experiences. This was not, however, the situation in sixteenth-century Newfoundland. At that time, the potential outcomes of encounters between mobile Beothuk hunters and gatherers and diverse European fishing crews were varied and uncertain. While the nature of early encounters is not understood, it is quite clear from the archaeological and historical evidence that the Beothuk had some access to European goods from a very early date. The acquisition of goods likely assumed the form of direct trade with Europeans (including silent trade), indirect exchange through native allies, and scavenging. An account as early as 1501, from Gaspar de Côrte Real’s journey through the Strait of Belle Isle, for instance, mentions a broken sword and silver rings in the possession of the native people he captured (Marshall 1996:15–6). As with other earlier documents, it is difficult to assess who these people were and where they were from. It is possible that they were Montagnais, Beothuk, or perhaps even St. Lawrence Iroquois or Inuit, and that the event occurred either on the mainland coast of Québec and Labrador or on the island of Newfoundland. In this case, however, the specific identity of the people and place might not matter, as historic and archaeological evidence suggests that the Strait of Belle Isle was a hub of activity, interaction, and exchange among different peoples (Hull 2002, Jukes 1842, Martijn 1990, 2009; Martijn and Dorais 2001, cf. Robbins 1989). Accordingly, if people on one side of the Strait had access to European goods, it is quite possible that those on the other side did too, if only indirectly through native channels. Indeed, given evidence to suggest that Native-European trade in the Strait of Belle Isle was occurring with some frequency by the middle of the sixteenth century (Barkham 1980:53– 54; Trigger and Swagerty 1996:350–1; Turgeon 1990:83, 1998), this scenario seems rather plausible. A better case for the Beothuk having access to European goods dates to 1594, when observers noted a campsite adjacent to a couple of shipwrecks that were apparently being scavenged by native people in St. George’s Bay (Quinn 1979: 64). The best evidence for Beothuk possession of European goods comes from the accounts of John Guy’s voyage into Trinity Bay in 1612. Guy’s party visited several Beothuk campsites during the course of their expedition. One campsite they visited appears to be 38 Journal of the North Atlantic Volume 3 but some objects may indicate a Beothuk presence as well. Excavations revealed a midden feature consisting of clam shells, unidentified animal remains, rich black soil, and fire-cracked rock. The midden feature also contained “Little Passage” stone tools and debris, iron nails, lead shot, ballast flint, bottle glass, coarse earthenware, and an unusual cache of clay pipe stems and some bowl fragments (Evans 1981:89–90, 1982:214). Evans (1982:215) interprets this as a case of mixing, and dismisses the possibility that the Little Passage (“prehistoric”) lithic material represents a Beothuk (historic) occupation, largely on account of early carbon 14 dates (1870 ± 180 B.P. [Beta 2142, charcoal] and 1320 ± 100 B.P. [unknown]) obtained from the feature. According to conventional wisdom, however, these dates are too old for Little Passage material. Moreover, another date obtained from an apparently secure Dorset Paleoeskimo context at the site yielded an unlikely recent date (805 ± 70 B.P. [unknown, charcoal]) for this material (Evans 1982:215). In short, the dating seems rather unreliable. Mixing may have indeed occurred, but we are not confident that it negates a Beothuk presence. If anything, the cache of pipe stem pieces that the excavators identified could suggest that the Beothuk were there. Excavators found about 500 pipe stem pieces and a few clay the exact location of the Russell’s Point site (CiAj-1). Here, among the dwellings and storehouses, the colonists spied a copper kettle, an old sail, and fishing reel (Cell 1982:71). Archaeological excavations at Russell’s Point have also produced iron nails, fish-hooks, a knife, and a key (Gilbert 2002:116). At the Stock Cove site, the probable location of Guy’s “nine savage [houses]” (Gilbert 1990: 157, 161), Robbins found an iron spike, clay pipe bowl, green glass, and pipe stem pieces. Robbins claims that the iron spike was found in association with a cornernotched stone point, and suspected that some of the other European-manufactured objects might be contemporaneous with the Amerindian occupation too (Robbins 1982:199). Our excavations at Stock Cove in 2009 failed to produce any European objects in association with Amerindian material, but test pits immediately to the east of our excavations yielded pipe stems and pipe bowl fragments, European pottery, and nails. Likewise, test pits 150 m to the west of our excavations led to the discovery of a new site, Stock Cove West (CkAl-10), and the recovery of iron nails, bottle glass, worked ballast flint, and possible early seventeenth century ceramics (Fig. 5). European objects were also found at the Frenchman’s Island site. Its excavators interpret this as evidence of a European occupation (Evans 1982:215–6), Figure 5. Artifacts from Stock Cove West (CkAl-10): projectile points, pipe stems, bottle glass, and ceramics. 2010 Donald H. Holly, Jr., Christopher Wolff, and John Erwin 39 instead might mark the termination of their tenure at Ferryland (R. Gaulton 2001:26–7). In addition, one of the projectile points appears to have been fashioned from ballast flint (R. Gaulton 2001:36–7). Accordingly, it would appear that the Beothuk were visiting Ferryland in the early sixteenth century, at a time when the area was being used by seasonal fishermen. On the Nature of Beothuk-European Interactions Among the intriguing items found at Ferryland were twenty grape seeds recovered from Feature 38, a Beothuk hearth. Grape seeds have also been discovered at Russell’s Point in association with a linear hearth feature (Deal and Butt 2002:19–20). The colonists, it should be recalled, offered the Beothuk “reasons [raisins] of the sun to eate” (Cell 1982:74) during their friendly encounter in the fall of 1612. This reference could suggest that the seeds found at Russell’s Point (CiAj-1) and Ferryland (CgAf-2) were likewise obtained through trade with Europeans. Guy’s colonists, and other early observers, noted copper kettles, sails, fishing gear, iron knives, and other European-manufactured implements at Beothuk encampments and in their physical possession. Their accounts also suggest that the Beothuk were familiar with the rituals of silent trade, even if the colonists were not. And the Beothuk made gestures, such as waving a white skin and displaying headless arrows, which would seem to indicate some prior experience with Europeans (Cell 1969:68, Gilbert 1990:164). Indeed, there are some indications that the Beothuk were familiar with the French (Cell 1982:117, Howley 1915:25). The colonists also mention a man who had apparently lived with the Beothuk and could speak their language (Crout 1613). There is, however, ample evidence that the Beothuk also scavenged and stole items from fishermen. As discussed earlier, archaeological evidence from Trinity Bay and the vicinity indicate that the Beothuk may have made forays to the coast or would have been near the coast for much of the year. Accordingly, it would have been easy for them to monitor European activities and descend on their fishing stages and camps when they set sail for home in early autumn. Beothuk scavenging must have been a common enough occurrence, for caretakers were sometimes stationed to guard against raids (Pope 1993). Yet, early on, the Beothuk do not appear to have been deterred much by the presence of fishermen or their caretakers, for they scavenged from fishing stages, camps, and carried out raids when fishermen were present as well. As mentioned above, English fishermen in 1594 noted a native encampment in the vicinity of two shipwrecks. Quite likely the camp pipe bowls at Frenchman’s Island. About half of the pipe stems were associated with a cache-like feature (Evans 1981:89). A cache of pipe stems would seem like an odd feature for Europeans, but perhaps not for the Beothuk. The Rooms (the Museum of Newfoundland and Labrador), for instance, has a Beothuk necklace, made in part, of sectioned pipe stem pieces smothered in red ochre (Howley 1915: plate xxxv), indicating that the Beothuk were using pipe stems as beads (Fig. 6). Little Passage/Beothuk material has also been found at the site of Lord Baltimore’s seventeenthcentury colony at Ferryland (CgAf-2), on the eastern shore of the Avalon Peninsula. The amount of material found at Ferryland is impressive. Nearly 100 Little Passage/Beothuk objects and a half a dozen features have been discovered at Ferryland, with additional material being unearthed each year (B. Gaulton et al. 2010). Most of the artifacts and features cluster in what has been called area B, an area of the site that predates the colony and is associated with a sixteenth-century European fishing presence. Excavations in Area B have uncovered five hearths, concentrated deposits of fire-cracked rock, lithic tools and debris, and a possible tent ring (B. Gaulton et al. 2010, R. Gaulton 2001, Tuck 1996:27–28). All of the artifacts recovered so far are made from stone. There is good evidence, however, to suggest that the site represents a historic Beothuk occupation. One biface, for instance, was recovered on top of a deposit of sixteenth-century European material (R. Gaulton 2001:22), and a pipe bowl dated to 1580 was found in association with a Beothuk hearth—although the placement of the pipe bowl in the hearth may not have been the work of the Beothuk but Figure 6. Beothuk necklace (VIIIA-275). Courtesy of the Rooms, Provincial Museum Division, NL, Canada. 40 Journal of the North Atlantic Volume 3 disinterest to a lack of need. The Beothuk did not need to trade with Europeans to obtain the iron, sails, fishing hooks, and other gear they desired since they could just scavenge for them. Likewise Europeans did not need the Beothuk to obtain what they were interested in, which was primarily fish; and if they desired furs, they could simply trap them themselves (Pastore 1987:50). As a result, with little reason for the two groups to interact with one another, a sustained trading relationship never developed (Pastore 1987). In contrast, Ingeborg Marshall has advocated that Beothuk traditions and cultural values led them to reject, or at least, avoid trading with Europeans. In this way, she agrees with Pastore with regard to a general pattern of Beothuk avoidance, but disputes the reason. Marshall asserts that Europeans were initially interested in trading, but that the Beothuk were not because of their “… strong adherence to traditional values and behavior … [and] … an early rejection of Europeans and their culture” (1996:74). Thus, it was more that the Beothuk did not want European items than they did not need them. If Pastore attributes Beothuk avoidance to economics and Ingeborg to ideology, others have emphasized the complex, nuanced nature of Beothuk- European relations that played out locally. Gilbert (1990, 1992), for instance, suggests that trade was perhaps more frequent and relations between the Beothuk and Europeans more amicable—at least initially—than often acknowledged. McLean (1990), likewise, has suggested that Europeans may have traded some heat-modified iron implements and beads to the Beothuk in exchange for furs. Our analysis of the archaeological and historic record of southeastern Newfoundland supports this more complex assessment, especially as it pertains to the early encounter experience. Yet, to be fair, both Pastore and Marshall aim to explain a larger trend in Beothuk-European relations (Holly 2000:84). They are correct to assert that the sweep of European- Beothuk relations might best be summarized as one of avoidance. In addition, a general absence of relations—or the presence of contentious ones— certainly characterized later Beothuk-European history and contributed to the Beothuk’s demise. Yet, a generalized and pervasive pattern of avoidance does not accurately represent the state of relations in the first century or so following contact. The nature of these relations might best be described as complex, situational, and variable, the implications of which will be discussed shortly. Malinowski (1961) and Mauss (1990) taught us that economics are fundamentally a social endeavor. In “traditional” societies especially, material goods might be a vehicle for establishing social relationships, a means of asserting status, and a political was established there for the sole purpose of scavenging the wrecks. Later in the voyage, the same crew was forced to leave their fishing grounds “… for feare of a shrewder turne of the Savages …” after the Beothuk had cut some of their small boats away in the night (Quinn 1979:65). Writing in 1639, Sir David Kirke also notes that English fishermen who frequented Trinity Bay and further north [Bonavista Bay] found the Beothuk to be “bad neighbors”. He also describes how the Beothuk caused problems and “mischief” with the French, with whom they sometimes traded (Gilbert 2002:122, Howley 1915:23). Another observer, Richard Whitbourne, indicated that fishermen avoided Bonavista Bay, in part, because of the Beothuk presence there. In addition, he notes that the Beothuk “… come into Trinity Bay and Harbour, in the night time, purposely to steale Sailes, Lines, Hatchets, Hookes, Kniues, and such like” (Cell 1982:118). Whitbourne also discusses an incident in which a ship at anchor in Trinity Bay was raided by the Beothuk under the cover of darkness (Cell 1982:193). Whitbourne’s accounting of such problems are all the more impressive when one takes into account that he was writing to encourage settlement on the island—even going so far as to describe the land as “no less fertill than the English soyle” (Cell 1982:120), and the mosquitoes as only a bother to “loitering and idle people” (Cell 1982:192–3). The archaeological record is mute on the manner of the Beothuk’s acquisition of European implements, but it is easy to imagine that it represents a wide variety of methods. Thus, the Beothuk campsite at Ferryland may have been a place where the Beothuk gathered to scavenge fishing gear and to devour raisins traded to them (R. Gaulton 2001:50– 51). Likewise, while the iron nails and fish hooks recovered at Russell’s Point were likely scavenged by the Beothuk, the iron knife, key, and grapes [raisins?] also found in the course of excavations may have been given to them—perhaps in exchange for beaver furs (Gilbert 2002:116,125–126). Accordingly, the archaeological record seems to mirror the impression gleaned from historic documents—that early encounters between the Beothuk and Europeans took myriad forms, and that they are best understood as a collection of unique and varied events. Conclusion: Explaining Early Interactions and Encounters in Southeastern Newfoundland The nature of economic relations between the Beothuk and Europeans has long been debated by scholars (see Holly 2000). Ralph Pastore argues that a reading of the historical record suggests a pattern of mutual avoidance—that neither the Beothuk nor Europeans seemed very interested in trading with one another. Pastore attributes this 2010 Donald H. Holly, Jr., Christopher Wolff, and John Erwin 41 of avoidance, but we suggest that this probably developed, or at least “hardened,” later as a consequence of deteriorating relations (Holly 2000:86–89) and that it was not a deep-seated “traditional” Beothuk policy at the dawn of the encounter experience. We suggest that the failure of the Beothuk and Europeans to develop a trading relationship had less to do with needs and beliefs than it had to do with the nature of the encounter experience in the early contact period. As discussed earlier, the archaeological and historic record of early contact catalogs a wide assortment of experiences. Sites contain artifacts that were likely traded and scavenged. Documents recount hostile and friendly encounters. They also convey a sense of unfamiliarity—as would be expected among strangers (Holly 2000:87). It was an era that was characterized by piracy, international conflict, and economic competition, and populated by actors who had wildly divergent encounter experiences— if they had any. Consequently, while it is difficult to generalize about the nature of European- Beothuk relations in the early contact period, one can probably say that the situation was complex, and that each encounter experience would be a unique and unpredictable event. This pervasive unpredictably is perhaps best illustrated by an early seventeenth century account of a tragic encounter between the Beothuk and Europeans in Trinity Bay. According to Sir David Kirke, in about the year 1620, a Captain Whittington met with the Beothuk in Trinity Bay and successfully traded with them. He then arranged to meet them there again the following year, but his visit was preceded by a fisherman who fired on Beothuk who had gathered on the shore. According to Kirke, the Beothuk likely thought that the fisherman was Captain Whittington, and being so angered by this betrayal they “retyred … into the woode, and from that daye to this have sought all occasion every fishing season to do all the mischief they can amongst the fishermen” (Kirke [1640] 1908:142). There is some question as to whether this account refers to Guy’s earlier meeting with the Beothuk, in which a Master Whittington met the Beothuk on the shore (Marshall 1996:463–464), or if it recounts a different later encounter with the Beothuk (Gilbert 1992). If the latter, it is unlikely that this violent misunderstanding was the pivotal event that changed the course of Beothuk-European relations, as implied by Horwood (1959:36) and Upton (1977:137–138). It is doubtful that a single tragic event could motivate Beothuk all over the island to take up arms against Europeans, and in doing so, alter the course of Newfoundland history. But it is quite probable that similar experiences had exactly this affect. Accordingly, Kirke’s account could very well characterize the entire early Beothuk-European encounter experience. It was an tool, but rarely are they just about the goods themselves. As a case in point, people will go to great lengths to obtain materials for trade or ceremonial purposes that are not fundamentally different in kind or quality from other material. Thus, Australian Aborigines ventured far from waterholes and across great distances to obtain “sacred stones” for ceremonies and trade, even when better quality material or iron was available locally (Gould 1978, Gould and Saggers 1985, Thompson 1949:86); British Neolithic axes were quarried from treacherous locations when more accessible outcrops were of better quality (Watson 1995); and the Trobriand Islanders made difficult journeys to distant islands to obtain items they could have just as easily fashioned at home (Sillitoe 1998:79). Accordingly, objects are often more important for what they mean, and for the role they play in social relations, than for what they are and what they do. This manner of valuing objects is Stone Age economics (Sahlins 1972). In the early contact period, Native Americans broke European objects into nonfunctional pieces, wore them as ornaments, and otherwise manipulated them in ways to diminish their original utilitarian value. They also sought glass beads and other trinkets long after they had begun to employ trade items for utilitarian purposes (Miller and Hamell 1986, Trigger and Swagerty 1996, White 1991:99). Trade was also about social relationships and local politics, not just things. Native peoples and fur traders, for instance, formed alliances with each other to defeat their enemies and competitors, they sought relations that might lead to religious conversions or items that could help bolster one’s social standing, and they extended kinship ties, cohabited, or intermarried with each other to facilitate this (Penney 2007, Reedy- Maschner and Maschner 1999, Sleeper-Smith 2001, Van Kirk 1976, B. White 1984, R. White 1991). In this context, the social role of trade goods often transcended their mere utilitarian function. Traders that forgot this risked their livelihood and their lives (R. White 1991:114, 119). Accordingly, it would appear that people desire to trade when it is not necessary and they trade for things that are not needed. The failure of the Beothuk and Europeans to engage in trade, thus, cannot be due simply to the fact that they did not need to, as in the sense advocated by Pastore. “Need” cannot explain why the Trobriand Islanders trade for similar objects or why the United States and Cuba fail to trade when there is an obvious “need” for Cuban cigars and Coca Cola. Likewise, it is difficult to imagine an ideology of avoidance developing in a vacuum, as Marshall suggests. It is reasonable to assume that people would first consider interacting and trading with others before rejecting them. There might very well be a cultural and ideological basis to the Beothuk pattern 42 Journal of the North Atlantic Volume 3 Literature Cited Barkham, S. 1980. A note on the Strait of Belle Isle during the period of Basque contact with Indians and Inuit. Études/Inuit/Studies 4(1–2):51–58. 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William Gilbert (1990, 1992), for instance, has stressed the sometimes amicable state of relations between the Beothuk and Europeans. His work draws attention to the on-theground complexity of Beothuk-European encounters, and serves as a corrective to those that tended to see Beothuk-European relations as characterized by avoidance from the outset. There are, however, accounts of avoidance, mischief, and kidnappings in the early accounts. And even the Beothuk that Guy encountered seem to have been extremely timid and fearful at first (Cell 1982:70, 73). Tellingly, they also seemed to prefer to engage with the colonists through silent trade (see Gilbert 1992:6, Howley 1915:50–51), a manner of exchange that is often found under conditions where direct trade would be dangerous (Chapman 1980:38, Price 1980:80–81). Given these conditions, and the fact that the Beothuk did not have to incur risks to obtain what they wanted (i.e., Pastore 1987:48), it is hardly surprisingly that a sustained trading relationship never developed. Certainly the beliefs that Marshall (1996) claims spurred the Beothuk to reject Europeans and their goods were forged in this context. Thus, Beothuk beliefs did not contribute to the failure of the Beothuk and Europeans to establish ties so much as they were affected by it. Nonetheless, ideological factors likely played an increasingly important role in the later history of the Beothuk (Holly 2000). In short, the course of Beothuk-European history is perhaps best understood as neither a matter of economics nor a clash of cultures, but rather of a failure to establish social ties. Acknowledgments Research at Stock Cove in 2008 and 2009 was generously supported by a grant from the Provincial Archaeology Office, Government of Newfoundland and Labrador. 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