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McGill Queen's University Press

© McGill Queen’s University Press

Amina is a Beothuk word. The Beothuk were the aboriginal inhabitants of Newfoundland first encountered by European explorers and fisherman who visited the island. Unfortunately, exposure to new diseases, competition for resources, and hostile interaction with the Europeans led to Beothuk demise. Shanawdithit, the last Beothuk, died in 1829.

In the winter of 1829, Shanawdithit resided in St. John’s with the explorer William Epps Cormack who was also president of the Beothuk Institute, a society he founded in 1827 for the purpose of  ‘opening a communication with the Red Indians of Newfoundland’ (Royal Gazette 1827).  While staying with Cormack, Shanawdithit drew ten diagrams, each of which represented aspects of Beothuk life such as re-enactments of encounters with Europeans, smoke houses, cooking utensils, and mamateeks. On one of these diagrams was the amina or ‘deer’ spear. Today we know these ‘deer’ as caribou, an animal integral to livelihood of numerous circumpolar and sub-Arctic peoples. The attributes of the amina are described by Howley (1915) as having a long wooden shaft with a permanently attached iron point. The point, or blade, is triangular in shape but has a broad base possessing obtuse angles, which is attached to the shaft by a long narrow stem (see Shanawdithit’s diagram). The selection of this name is a tribute to the Beothuk people.

© Howley 1915

AARA Inc. aims to pursue indigenous and non-indigenous research, and to make this research available to the public. By doing this, we hope to protect heritage resources across the Arctic, Newfoundland and Labrador, and play a part in fostering multi-cultural relationships.

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