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Newfoundland ( ; , ) — is a large Canadian island off the east coast of North America, and the most populous part of the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labradormarker.

The island of Newfoundland (originally called Terra Nova, from "New Land" in Latin) was discovered and named by the Italian John Cabot (Giovanni Caboto), working under contract to England on his expedition from Bristolmarker, England in 1497. This discovery is considered by historians as having laid the initial foundation of the British Empire. The province where this island is located was also called "Newfoundland" until 2001, when its name was changed to "Newfoundland and Labrador" (the postal abbreviation was later changed from NF to NL).

L'Anse aux Meadowsmarker was a Norse settlement on the northernmost tip of Newfoundland, that has been dated to be approximately 1000 years old, making it the only undisputed evidence of Pre-Columbian contact between the Old and New Worlds, if the Norse-Inuit contact on Greenlandmarker is not counted. It is a likely location of Vinland, although this has been disputed.

The island of Newfoundland is separated from the Labrador Peninsulamarker by the Strait of Belle Islemarker and from Cape Breton Islandmarker by the Cabot Straitmarker. It blocks the mouth of the Saint Lawrence Rivermarker, creating the Gulf of Saint Lawrencemarker, the world's largest estuary. Newfoundland's nearest neighbour is the tiny Frenchmarker overseas community of Saint-Pierre and Miquelonmarker.

With an area of 108,860 square kilometers (41,701 sq mi), Newfoundland is the world's 15th largest island, and Canada's fourth-largest island. The provincial capital, St. John'smarker, is located on the southeastern coast of the island; Cape Spearmarker, just south of the capital, is arguably North America's easternmost point. It is common to consider all directly neighbouring islands such as New World, Twillingatemarker, Fogo and Bell Islandmarker to be 'part of Newfoundland' (as distinct from Labrador), and by that measure, Newfoundland and its associated small islands have a total area of 111,390 square kilometers (43,008 sq mi) and a population of 479,105 as of 2006.

Newfoundland has a dialect of English known as Newfoundland English and a dialect of French known as Newfoundland French. It once had a dialect of Irish known as Newfoundland Irish, as well as an Amerindian language, Beothuk.

According to 2006 official Census Canada statistics, 57% of responding Newfoundlanders and Labradorians claim British or Irish ancestry, with 43.2% claiming at least one English parent, 21.5% at least one Irish parent, and 7% at least one parent of Scots origin. Additionally 6.1% claimed at least one parent of French ancestry.

First inhabitants

The first inhabitants of Newfoundland were the probable ancestors of the Beothuk inhabitants at the time of European contact. Beothuk means "people" in the Beothuk language. The origins of the Beothuks are uncertain, but it appears that they were a native group that came from Labrador. The culture is now extinct, remembered only in museum, historical and archaeological records. Shanawdithit, the last known Beothuk (a woman), died in St. John's in 1829 of tuberculosis.

It is probable that the natives described by the Norsemen as skraelings were Beothuk people of Labrador and Newfoundland. The first conflicts between Europeans and native peoples may have occurred around 1006 at L'Anse aux Meadowsmarker when parties of Norsemen attempted to establish permanent settlements along the coast of Newfoundland. According to the Icelandic sagas, the native skraelings responded so ferociously that the newcomers eventually withdrew and apparently gave up their original intentions to settle.

When other Europeans arrived, beginning with John Cabot in 1497, contact with the Beothuks was established. Estimates of the number of Beothuks on the island at this time vary, ranging from 1,000 to 5,000.

As European settlement became year-round and expanded to new areas of the coast the area available to the Beothuks to harvest the marine resources they relied upon was diminished. By the beginning of the nineteenth century there were few Beothuks remaining, many having been killed by settlers or having died as a result of starvation and diseases brought on by the European settlers which their immune systems could not handle. Government attempts to open a dialogue with the native peoples of Newfoundland came too late to save them.

Some Newfoundland residents can trace a clear Native American ancestry, mostly Mi'kmaq.

European discovery, colonization, and settlement

Newfoundland is the site of the only authenticated Norse (mostly Greenlandic Icelanders) settlement in North America, discovered by Norwegianmarker explorer Dr. Helge Ingstad and his wife, archaeologist Anne Stine Ingstad, at L'Anse aux Meadowsmarker in 1960. The site of multi-year archaeological digs in the 1960s and 1970s, the settlement dating to more than 500 years before John Cabot, contains the earliest known European structures in North America.Named a World Heritage site by UNESCOmarker, it is believed to be the Vinland settlement of explorer Leifr Eiriksson (the Icelandic Skálholt Vinland Map of 1570 refers to the area as "Promontorium Winlandiæ" and correctly shows it on a 51°N parallel with Bristolmarker, England). The Norse stayed for a relatively short period of time, believed to be between 999 and 1001 AD.

Other speculative discoverers of the island would fall to other nationalities of Europe. The Irish Saint Brendan, who has been popularized in Newfoundland song 'Saint Brendan's Voyage’, is noted among possible discoverers of Newfoundland. Welsh folklore makes note of explorer and Prince Madoc who landed in America in 1170. No detail is given of his route or the lands that was attributed to his discovery. Then there is the Scottish who claim that the Earl of the Orkneys, Prince Henry Sinclair had discovered the New World in the late 1300s. The Portuguesemarker also lay claim to discovering the New World in 1431 when Prince Henry the Navigator discovered the Azores, by virtue of the existence of the Paris Map c. 1490 which depicts a group of three islands southwest of Iceland at roughly the same latitude as Ireland, Newfoundland and possibly some other, nearby islands (such as Cape Breton). These three islands are known as 'Islands of the Seven Cities' and 'The Isle of Brasile' said to be discovered by seven bishops. Documents from the voyages made by Bristol merchants in 1480 speak of a trip in search of the Isle of Brasile, to no avail.

After the departure of the Norse, the island would be left to the aboriginal populations for nearly 500 years until the island was rediscovered by the Italianmarker navigator John Cabot (Zuan/Giovanni Cabotto), in 1497. The exact place where John Cabot landed is unknown, but popularly believed to be Cape Bonavistamarker, along the island's East coast, although other sites along the East coast also have significant claims. Perhaps the site with the best claim is Cape Bauldmarker, at the tip of the Great Northern Peninsulamarker. It is supported by a document found in the Spanish National Archives written by a Bristol merchant which reports that the crew landed west of Dursey Headmarker, Ireland (latitude 51° 35'N) which would put Cabot within sight of Cape Bauld. Also in this document is mention of an island that Cabot sailed past to go ashore on the mainland. This description fits with Cape Bauld theory, Belle Islemarker being not far offshore.

After Cabot, the first European visitors to Newfoundland were Portuguese, Spanish, French and English migratory fishermen. Late in the 17th century came Irishmarker fishermen, who named the island Talamh an Éisc, meaning "land of the fish", or "the fishing grounds" in Irish Gaelic. This was to foreshadow the centuries of importance of Newfoundland's offshore fishing waters.

In 1583, when Sir Humphrey Gilbert formally claimed Newfoundland as a colony of England, he found numerous English, French and Portuguese vessels in St. John's. However there was no permanent population and Gilbert was lost at sea during his return voyage, thereby ending any plans of settlement.

On July 5, 1610, John Guy set sail from Bristolmarker, Englandmarker with 39 other colonists for Cuper's Covemarker. This, and other early attempts at permanent settlement failed to make a profit for the English investors, but some settlers remained anyway, forming the very earliest European population on the island. By 1620, the fishermen of England's West Country had excluded other nations from most of the east coast of Newfoundland, while fishermen from France dominated the island's south coast and Northern Peninsula.

After 1713, with the Treaty of Utrecht, the French ceded control of south and north shores of the island to the British, keeping only the nearby islands of St. Pierre and Miquelonmarker located in the fish-rich Grand Banksmarker off the south coast. Despite some early settlements by the English, permanent, year-round settlement of Newfoundland of migratory fishery workers was discouraged by the British. But with the geographic remoteness of its isolated harbours and convenience of year-round access to the fish stations without having to make the bi-annual voyage across the ocean, permanent settlement increased rapidly by the late 18th century, peaking in the early years of the 19th century.

The French name for the island is Terre Neuve, while the name "Newfoundland"' is one of the oldest European place names in Canada in continuous geographical and cartographical use, dating from a 1502 letter, and clearly stated in the following early poem:

A Skeltonicall continued ryme, in praise of my New-found-Land

Although in cloaths, company, buildings faire
With England, New-found-land cannot compare:
Did some know what contentment I found there,
Alwayes enough, most times somewhat to spare,
With little paines, lesse toyle, and lesser care,
Exempt from taxings, ill newes, Lawing, feare,
If cleane, and warme, no matter what you weare,
Healthy, and wealthy, if men careful are,
With much-much more, then I will now declare,
(I say) if some wise men knew what this were
(I doe beleeue) they'd live no other where.

:From 'The First Booke of Qvodlibets'
:Composed and done at Harbor-Grace in
:Britaniola, anciently called Newfound-Land
:by Governor Robert Hayman - 1628.

The European immigrants who settled in Newfoundland brought their knowledge, beliefs, loyalties and prejudices with them, but the society they built in the New World was unlike the ones they had left, and different from the ones other immigrants would build on the American mainland. As a fish-exporting society, Newfoundland was in contact with many places around the Atlantic rim, but its geographic location and political distinctiveness also isolated it from its closest neighbours in Canada and the United States, so much so that this isolation can be felt even today. Internally, most of its population was spread widely around a rugged coastline in small outport settlements, many of them a long distance from larger centers of population and isolated for long periods by winter ice or bad weather. These conditions had an effect on the culture the immigrants had brought with them and generated new ways of thinking and acting, giving Newfoundland and Labrador a wide variety of distinctive customs, beliefs, stories, songs, and dialects.

The First World War had a powerful and lasting effect on the society. From a population of about a quarter of a million, 5,482 men went overseas. Nearly 1,500 were killed and 2,300 wounded. On July 1, 1916, at Beaumont-Hamel, France, 753 men of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment went over the top of a trench. The casualties were staggering; the next morning, only 68 men answered the roll-call. Newfoundland had lost about one-quarter of its young men in WWI and it has been suggested that this loss of so many men, proportionally speaking, in the prime of their lives contributed to the economic collapse that was to ultimately influence confederation with Canada. Even now, when the rest of Canada celebrates the founding of the country on July 1, many Newfoundlanders take part in solemn ceremonies of remembrance.

World War II also had a lasting impact on Newfoundland. In particular, the war ushered in an American presence at the military bases at Argentia, Gander, Stephenville, Goose Bay and St. John's. Interaction with the bases helped make cash a more widespread economic medium and consolidated a traditional admiration for the United States .

Newfoundland and Labrador is the youngest province in Canada, which existed as a British colony until 1949, self-governing from 1855-1934, holding Dominion status from 1907-1949 (see Dominion of Newfoundland). In late 1948, the population voted 52.3% to 47.7% in favour of joining Canada, with opposition to Canada being concentrated in the capital, St. John's, and on the Avalon Peninsulamarker. Newfoundland joined Canada on March 31, 1949. Union with Canada has done little to reduce Newfoundlanders' self-image as a unique group, with 72% identifying themselves as being primarily Newfoundlanders, secondarily Canadians, in 2003. Separatist sentiment is low, though—12% in the same 2003 study.

The referendum campaign was bitterly fought and interests in both Canada and Britain favoured and supported confederation with Canada. This is exemplified in the role of Jack Pickersgill, a western Canadian native and politician, who worked with the confederation camp during the campaign. Religion played a significant role in the final analysis as well with the Catholic Church lobbying for continued independence. Financial incentives played their part, particularly the "baby bonus" which promised Newfoundlanders a cash sum for each child in a family. The Confederates were led by the charismatic Joseph Smallwood, a former radio broadcaster who had developed socialist political inclinations while working for a socialist newspaper in New York. His policies as premier would assume a form closer to liberalism than socialism. Mr. Smallwood led Newfoundland for decades as the elected premier following confederation and achieved a "cult of personality" amongst his many supporters that persisted long after his political defeat. Indeed, some homes actually had pictures of Joey in their living rooms in a place of prominence. It has been suggested that some members of the public regarded financial incentives like the baby bonus as the direct products of Smallwood's benevolence rather than their right as Canadian citizens.

The province's provincial flag, designed by Newfoundland artist Christopher Pratt, was officially adopted by the provincial legislature on May 28, 1980. Labrador has its own unofficial flag, created in 1973 by Mike Martin, former Member of the Legislative Assembly for Labrador South. There is also an unofficial "Pink, White and Green" flag of nineteenth century origins. The flag was flown on sealing vessels well into the 20th century. Its colours represent the symbolic union of Newfoundland's three historically dominant ethnic/religious group: English, Scottish and Irish respectively. Sealers also used the flag as a marker to distinguish cached seal pellets on the ice from the caches of other nations. It is now flown outside many Newfoundland homes, although it is mistaken by many tourists as the Irish flag. This "unofficial" flag has seen a rise in popularity in the St. John's area in recent years, before which it had been relatively forgotten by a majority of Newfoundlanders. "Pink White and Green" emblems now appear on a multitude of items in Newfoundland gift shops, and it has developed into a symbolic gesture of one's ties with one's Newfoundland heritage as well as a trendy fashion statement. A government sponsored poll in 2005 revealed that 75% of Newfoundlanders did not support adoption of the Tricolour flag as the province's official flag.

Pre-Confederation and current Provincial Anthem

The pre-Confederation and current Provincial Anthem is the Ode to Newfoundland. Written in the late 19th century, it continues to be heard at public events in Newfoundland. At most of these events, however, only the first and last verses are traditionally sung.

When sun rays crown thy pine clad hills,
And summer spreads her hand,
When silvern voices tune thy rills,
We love thee, smiling land,
We love thee, we love thee
We love thee, smiling land.
When spreads thy cloak of shimm'ring white,
At winter's stern command,
Thro' shortened day and starlit night,
We love thee, frozen land,
We love thee, we love thee,
We love thee, frozen land.
When blinding storm gusts fret thy shore,
And wild waves lash thy strand,
Thro' sprindrift swirl and tempest roar,
We love thee, windswept land,
We love thee, we love thee,
We love thee, windswept land.
As loved our fathers, so we love,
Where once they stood we stand,
Their prayer we raise to heav'n above,
God guard thee, Newfoundland,
God guard thee, God guard thee,
God guard thee, Newfoundland.

Points of interest and major settlements

Cod, the traditional mainstay of Newfoundland fisheries
Being one of the first places in the New World to which Europeans travelled, Newfoundland has a rich history of human settlement. St. John'smarker is considered to be the oldest city in Canada and the oldest continuously settled location in English speaking North America. The St. John's census metropolitan areamarker also includes 12 suburban communities, the largest of which are the city of Mount Pearlmarker and the towns of Conception Bay Southmarker and Paradisemarker. The west coast of the island hosts Corner Brookmarker, the province's third largest city, is situated on the Bay of Islandsmarker which was discovered by Captain James Cook.

The island of Newfoundland has extraordinary natural beauty and hosts numerous provincial parks such as Barachois Pond Provincial Parkmarker, considered to be a model forest, as well as two national parks.

  • Gros Morne National Parkmarker is located on the west coast of Newfoundland and was named a UNESCOmarker World Heritage site in 1987 due to its complex geology and remarkable scenery. It is the largest national park in Atlantic Canadamarker at . It continues to be a popular tourist destination within the province for campers and hikers.

  • Terra Nova National Parkmarker, on the island's east side, preserves the rugged geography of the Bonavista Baymarker region and allows visitors to explore the historic interplay of land, sea and man.

The island has many eco-tourism opportunities, ranging from sea kayaking, camping, fishing and hunting, to hiking. The International Appalachian Trail (IAT) is being extended along the island's mountainous west coast. On the east coast, the East Coast Trail extends through the Avalon Peninsulamarker for , beginning near Fort Amherstmarker in St. John'smarker and ending in Cappahaydenmarker, with an additional of trail under construction.

The Marble Mountain Ski Resortmarker near Corner Brook is a major attraction in the winter for skiers in eastern Canada.

Other major communities include the following towns:

300 px

Cultural attractions include the provincial university, Memorial University of Newfoundlandmarker in St. John's and Sir Wilfred Grenfell Collegemarker in Corner Brook, along with the College of the North Atlanticmarker in Stephenville and other communities.

Bonavistamarker, Placentiamarker and Ferrylandmarker are all historic locations for various early European settlement or discovery activities. Tilting Harbourmarker on Fogo Island is a Provincial Heritage District as well as a National Cultural Landscape District of Canada, one of only two national historic sites in Canada so recognized for their Irishmarker heritage.

Entertainment opportunities abound in the island's 3 cities and numerous towns, particularly during summer festivals. For nightlife, George Streetmarker, located in downtown St. John's, is closed to traffic twenty hours per day, and is widely understood to have the most pubs per square foot of any street in North America. The Mile One Stadiummarker in St. John's is the venue for large sporting and concert events in the province.

In March, the annual seal hunt (of the harp seal) takes place.

Largest Municipalities (2006 population)
  1. St. John'smarker (100,646)
  2. Mount Pearlmarker (24,671)
  3. Conception Bay Southmarker (21,966)
  4. Corner Brookmarker (20,083)
  5. Grand Falls-Windsormarker (13,558)
  6. Paradisemarker (12,584)
  7. Gandermarker (9,951)
  8. Stephenvillemarker (6,588)
  9. Portugal Cove-St. Philip'smarker (6,575)
  10. Torbaymarker (6,281)
  11. Marystownmarker (5,436)
  12. Bay Robertsmarker (5,414)
  13. Clarenvillemarker (5,274)
  14. Deer Lakemarker (4,827)
  15. Carbonearmarker (4,723)
  16. Channel-Port aux Basquesmarker (4,319)
  17. Placentiamarker (3,898)
  18. Bonavistamarker (3,764)
  19. Bishop's Fallsmarker (3,399)
  20. Lewisportemarker (3,308)

Fauna and flora

Notable Newfoundlanders

Further reading

Modern literature

  • Peter Neary. 1996. Newfoundland in the North Atlantic world, 1929-1949. McGill-Queen's University Press, Montreal, Quebec.
  • Henry K. Gibbons. 1997. The Myth and Mystery of John Cabot: The Discoverer of North America, Marten Cat Publishers, Port Aux Basques, Newfoundland.
  • Michael Harris. 1992. Rare Ambition: The Crosbies of Newfoundland. Penguin. ISBN 0-14-023220-6
  • Kevin Major, As Near To Heaven by Sea, (Toronto, 2001)
  • John Gimlette, Theatre of Fish, (Hutchinson, London, 2005). ISBN 0-09-179519-2
  • E. Annie Proulx, The Shipping News, (Simon & Schuster, 1993). ISBN 0-74322540-6
  • Bernice Morgan, Random Passage, (Breakwater Books Ltd, 1992). ISBN 1550810510
  • Bernice Morgan, Waiting for Time, (Breakwater Books Ltd, 1995). ISBN 1550810804
  • Bernice Morgan, The Topography of Love, (Breakwater Books Ltd, 2000). ISBN 1550811576
  • Wayne Johnston. 1999. "The Colony Of Unrequited Dreams". Vintage Canada, Toronto, Ontario. ISBN 978-0-676-97215-3 (0-676-97215-2)

Vintage literature

  • D. W. Prowse, A History of Newfoundland (1895), current edition 2002, Boulder Publications, Portugal Cove, Newfoundland.
  • Charles Pedley, History of Newfoundland, (London, 1863)
  • Philip Tocque, Newfoundland as it Was and Is, (London, 1878)
  • Joseph Hatton and Moses Harvey, Newfoundland: Its History and Present Condition, (London, 1883)
  • Arnold Kennedy, Sport and Adventure in Newfoundland and West Indies, (London, 1885)
  • Moses Harvey, Newfoundland, England's Oldest Colony, (London, 1897)
  • F. E. Smith, The Story of Newfoundland, (London, 1901)
  • Beckles Wilson, The Truth About Newfoundland, The Tenth Island, (second edition, London, 1901)
  • J. P. Howley, Mineral Resources of Newfoundland, (St. John's, 1909)
  • P. T. McGrath, Newfound in 1911, (London, 1911)


  1. Census Canada 2006, "Ethnic Origin by Sex, Newfoundland and Labrador", Census Canada.
  2. Mark Quinn, "Push for old Newfoundland flag fails to cause ripple, poll finds", Globe and Mail, 29 October, 2005, A16.

See also

External links

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