When I find one of Shanawdithit’s archived drawings I experience a necessary discomfort.
I go back to my childhood.
All my young life I hear the mythologizing, how she was the last of the Beothuk people. Ten minutes outside my hometown, the provincial Beothuk Interpretation Centre is a place I visit quite frequently as a child. There’s a walking trail, on which I come across a statue of Shanawdithit and the remnants of an ancient settlement. There are crosses that mark graves. My parents teach me that history shouldn’t have been written “this way.”
From this drawing I read memories, encounters, connections to place. I read loss and resistance. I do not read silence.
I know that mythology is also about evolvement – how we get to here from there.
As she “transferred her talent for constructing detailed patterns on bone and bark to the European medium of paper,” (Polack 2013: para 9) Shanawdithit’s drawings opened up a past that cannot be erased, and none of us can overlook or forget colonial encounters and mediations in Newfoundland and Labrador because of them.
Polack, Fiona. 2013. “Reading Shanawdithit’s Drawings: Transcultural Texts in the North American Colonial World,” In Journal of Colonialism and Colonial History, 14 (3). DOI: 10.1353/cch.2013.0035.