Lost Religion of the Beothuk

Little is known about the spiritual beliefs of Newfoundland's now-extinct Beothuk people. But archaeologists have recently come up with some new theories.

Posted January 22, 2014

The Beothuk people of Newfoundland became culturally extinct in the nineteenth century after being hunted down and driven from their land.

Little is known of Beothuk spiritual beliefs, but two archaeologists believe they may have found the key to understanding their religion — birds. Seabirds in particular were important sources of food for the Beothuk, who hunted the birds and their eggs by making dangerous journeys by canoe to nesting islands far offshore.

Artifacts found in burial sites, such as pendants carved in the shape of feathers and bird feet, suggest the Beothuk may have believed these objects would speed a departed person's journey into the afterlife.




A story about the the Beothuk and their beliefs, entitled “Wings and a Prayer” by Todd Kristensen, appeared in the February-March 2014 issue of Canada’s History magazine.

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