This web site will be looking at how the Europeans and the Beothuks lived in relation to the natural environment. Overall the Europeans proved to be the more savage culture and the Beothuk were the civilized ones. The civilized nature of the Beothuk was due to the fact that the whole aboriginal culture was based around the environment (resources).They have peace with their land and gave back to the environment. The Europeans are the savages because all they do is cut the trees down and do not put back any of the resources that they use.
There are few accounts of interaction with the Beothuk because they chose to stay away from the Europeans for the most part so little is known about before the Europeans came. We do know that the growing season in Newfoundland was too short for maize agriculture so the Beothuk were not farmers. They were subartic hunter-gatherers they had to follow a precise year-round migratory system to get the food and other materials they needed to survive. In the summer they would travel to the coast and in the winter to the interior, there are accounts of some Beothuk having villages on the coast year round and sending out small hunting parties.
There weren't many types of large animals on Newfoundland so it seems that the only large animal hunted was Caribou, which was very crucial to the survival of the Beothuk. The shoreline was also very important it had a huge assortment of sea life, which was in abundance. They also harvest birch bark for cooking, housing and making boats.
We do know that their religion tied in with the environment. To them the Great Spirit was a part of the earth that they had to be thankful for what they caught and how they treated the wilderness with respect. They were very keen to using red ochre on everything. Many knew them as the Red Indians because they would cover themselves with this red substance. On contrast to how the Beothuk coincided with the environment the Europeans were savages and very destructive to their surroundings.
Before the Europeans, The Beothuk seemed to be at equilibrium with their environment. They had a respect and understanding of it that we could learn from. Things may not have been easy for the Beothuk before the Europeans but they could manage and get what they needed. But when the Europeans came they were pushed to the interior where they couldn't get what they needed and slowly starved to death.
When the white people came to the island and took it over the land with their people and their technology that they had brought with them. That is not the only thing that was brought with the settlers. They had brought disease (tuberculosis) as well. Hypothetically, if the Europeans came over and the Beothuk Indians had killed off or fought them, and kicked them off their land, it would not be as damaged now as if only the Beothuks were using the land for their resources. The Beothuks were not harming their environment, the only thing they had to do was cut down trees for their mamateeks and hunt the animals so they could survive. The settlers were hunting the animals for fur, polluting the air and cutting lots of trees for builiding and fire. They had to use a lot more trees for their housing than did the natives. The Beothuks only had to use a couple small trees. The Europeans came onto the island thinking that it was theirs to take over and do whatever they wanted to. They took over the land so that the Beothuks had to move inland, away from the shoreline. When they moved inland, they started feeling the affects because there was less water and more animals closer to the shore then in the middle of the island.
Today the Beothuk tribe is extinct because of the European settlers. Now after their extinction we are drastically killing our animals and using too many natural resources which is leading to air pollution and land pollution. Now there are fewer animals than ever and they are becoming extinct because of humans destroying the forest. Oil spills are one of the leading causes that seal, whales, fish, and other sea animals are all going extinct.
When the Europeans first discovered what Newfoundland and the Grand Banks had to offer they almost immediately started to invade this new land, and through this invasion they dramatically started to change and damage the environment that the Beothuks had lived in harmony with for many years. They started to clear areas along the coast to build summer housing, they started to abuse the resources this area had to offer, leaving almost nothing for the Beothuk, and any food sources that were plentiful were inhabited by the Europeans, not allowing the Beothuk to access these resources. The main difference between the Beothuk and the Europeans was that the Beothuk lived with the environment, not on the environment like the Europeans. What was taken or used was given back or replenished, for everything that was taken from the environment something was always given in return, thus allowing the Beothuk to live off the environment for a very long time. The Europeans were totally opposite: they used and used the resources nature had to offer, never giving back, in the end eventually depleting everything Mother Nature had to offer.
Things would have been different if the Europeans hadn't come to this new land, and inhabited it. The Beothuk may not have lived forever if they had not had an encounter with the Europeans, though it is almost definite that they would have lived considerably longer. What is clear, however, is that of the two cultures, the "savages" were obviously the more civilized in their relationship with the natural environment.
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