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The Beothuk were the aboriginal inhabitants of Newfoundland when European settlers first arrived The total Beothuk population at any one time is thought by present day archaeologists to have numbered between 500 and 1000 individuals Their subsistence economy was marine based supplemented by inland Caribou hunting Their traditional enemies were the Micmac and the Labrador Eskimos and for the most part the Beothuk kept to themselves and avoided contact with Europeans so very little is known about them The tragic story of the Beothuks has attracted a great deal of attention with the supposition that the extinction of their people was due to the settlers and fishermen slaughtering them Given the Beothuk pattern of avoiding Europeans it is also likely that there was relatively little danger of infection from European disease until relatively late in the history of the Beothuks when contacts with outsiders were more frequent Although some were killed by the Europeans who resented Beothuk thefts and some perished due to disease this was not the major cause of their demise Their fate was sealed by the growing Micmac presence and English settlement which caused a loss of access to the seals fish birds and shellfish of the coasts Following contact with the Europeans it was a combination of disease malnutrition conflict with settlers and other native groups and disruption of traditional Beothuk fishing sites by settlers that resulted in the extinction of the Beothuk people when the last known Beothuk Shanawdithit died in 1829 Howely 1974 Historians are not absolutely certain of the origins of the Beothuk Indians however they have hypothesized that they were the descendants of the Maritime Archaic people of Newfoundland and Labrador Ancestors of the Beothuks have been traced back to approximately 1000 years ago Although archaeological digs have provided information on Beothuk technology little is know about actual numbers the organization of their society and their religious beliefs Estimates of the population at the
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