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This is about the island in Canada. For the Canadian province formerly and still colloquially known as Newfoundland, see Newfoundland and Labrador. For other meanings of Newfoundland, see Newfoundland (disambiguation).

Newfoundland flag
Tricolour Flag (unofficial)
Area: 111,390 km²
Water area: 7,797 km²
Coastline: 9,656 km
Highest Point: Lewis Hills
Longest River: Exploits River
Admin HQ: St. John's
Population(2001): 485,066
Major Ethnic Groups : Irish, English, Some French
Largest City: St. John's
Government of Newfoundland & Labrador
Members of the House of Commons: 7
Members of the Senate of Canada: 6
Members of the House of Assembly: 48

Newfoundland (French: Terre-Neuve; Irish: Talamh an Éisc; Latin: Terra Nova) is a large island off the northeast coast of North America, and the most populous part of the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador. (The province was called "Newfoundland" until 2001.) "Newfoundland" (originally, Terra Nova) was very likely named by the Italian John Cabot (Giovanni Caboto) in 1497, which would make it the oldest European name in North America.

Newfoundland is separated from the Labrador Peninsula by the Strait of Belle Isle and from Cape Breton Island by the Cabot Strait. It blocks the mouth of the Saint Lawrence River, creating the Gulf of Saint Lawrence, the world's largest estuary. Newfoundland shares a border with France, as the nearby islands of Saint-Pierre and Miquelon are French-ruled territory.

It is 111,390 km2 in area, making it the world's 15th largest island. The provincial capital, St. John's, is found on the southeastern tip of the island. Cape Spear, just south of the capital, is Canada's easternmost point. The island of Newfoundland has an approximate population of 485,000.

The word 'Newfoundland' is pronounced by Newfoundlanders with the second syllable slurred and the accent on the last, (as 'new-f'nd-LAND') and rhymes with "understand". Newfoundland has a dialect of English known as Newfoundland English, a dialect of French known as Newfoundland French and a dialect of Irish known as Newfoundland Irish.

The popular 1993 novel by Annie Proulx, The Shipping News, was mostly set in northernmost Newfoundland.


First Nations

Beothuk means "people" in the Beothuk language. The origins of the Beothuks are uncertain, but it appears that they were an Algonquian group who displaced a Dorset culture on Newfoundland about 1,000 years ago.

The Beothuk tribe of Newfoundland is now extinct, remembered only in museum, historical and archaeological records.

It is likely that the natives described by the Vikings as Skraelings were Beothuk inhabitants of Labrador and Newfoundland. The first conflicts between Europeans and native peoples may have occurred around 1006 at L'Anse aux Meadows when parties of Norsemen attempted to establish permanent settlements along the coast of Newfoundland. According to Norse sagas, the native Beothuk (called skraelings or skraelingars by the Norse) 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.

Rather than trade for items of European manufacture, the Beothuks scavanged iron and other materials from migratory fishing stations which were abandoned each fall. This unfortunately resulted in the mistaken impression that the Beothuks were hostile. 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 in misunderstandings with settlers or having died as a result of starvation and disease. Government attempts to open a dialogue with the native peoples of Newfoundland came too late to save them.

Discovery, Colonization, and Settlement

Newfoundland is the site of the only authenticated Norse settlement in North America, discovered by Norwegian explorer Dr. Helge Ingstad and his archaeologist wife, Anne Stine Ingstad, at L'Anse aux Meadows in 1960. The site of a multi-year archaeological dig, the settlement dating to more than 500 years before Christopher Columbus contains the earliest European structures in North America. Named a World Heritage site by UNESCO, it is believed to be the legendary Vinland settlement of explorer Leif Ericson.

After the Norse, the first European visitors to Newfoundland were Portuguese and English migratory fishermen. Late in the 17th century came Irish 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.

Newfoundland was visited by Giovanni Caboto (John Cabot) in 1497, who landed near the Strait of Belle Isle, although local tradition has his landfall at Bonavista. It was probably also sighted by Giovanni da Verrazano in 1524, whose expedition was financed by the citizens of Lyon, under the auspices of King François I of France.

A Newfoundland fishing outport
A Newfoundland fishing outport

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 voayge, thereby ending any plans of settlement.

On July 5, 1610, John Guy set sail from Bristol, England with 39 other colonists for Cuper's Cove. This, and other early attempts at permanent settlement failed to make a profit for the English investors, but some settlers remained. By 1620 the fishermen of England's West Country had excluded other nations from most of the east coast of Newfoundland, while fishers from France dominated the island's south coast and Northern Penninsula.

The French name for the island was 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 carefull 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 neighbors 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. It has been suggested that the 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 base at Argentia. Interaction with the base helped make cash a more widespread economic medium and consolidated a traditional admiration for America contrasted with apprehension of mainland Canada that is often forgotten today. It is also believed that American soliders coined the word "Newfie".

Newfoundland and Labrador is the youngest province in Canada, enjoying the status of a country until 1949. That year, the population voted by a margin of approximately one percent to join Canada, whose history, economy, culture and political institutions were significantly different. 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 politican, 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 Joeseph 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 acheived 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.

To underline Mr. Smallwood's position in Newfoundland political history an old joke runs as follows:

A policeman was driving along when he saw a speeding car. He pursued and pulled over the vehicle. As he approached, he saw none other than Mr. Smallwood in the driver's seat.

"Oh my God." Said the Officer. "and don't you forget it..." Mr. Smallwood replied.

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 MLA for Labrador South. There is also an unofficial “Pink, White and Green” flag of nineteenth century origins. It is now flown outside many Newfoundland homes, although it is mistaken by many tourists as the Irish flag.

A Nation?

It is undisputed Newfoundland was once an independent Nation. Yet, there are also hallmarks of "nationhood" readily visible today despite membership in Canada for fifty-six years. Newfoundland and Labrador is the most ethnically homogenous province in Canada. It has many totally unique cultural practices that are the product of centuries of relatively independent development. It has its famous dialect, often jokingly referred to as being difficult enough to understand at times that it may as well be its own language. Newfoundland also demonstrates a separate and distinct democractic practice emphasizing the individual member over the party, has had a unique experience with institutionalized religion in the Canadian context and appears to employ cultural mores in day-to-day interaction markedly different from the rest of Canada provided one is paying close attention. These mores emphasize casual familiarity rather than formal respect irrespective of the size of the local population. They are apparent in St. John's, the second largest urban centre in Atlantic Canada for instance. Discussion of them is an immense topic in itself.

Finally, Newfoundlanders consistently rank the highest on polls ascertaining identification with province over country. The results are generally in the seventies to eighties favouring provincial identification. This is markedly higher than similar polls in Quebec, though those polls are clearly affected by the sovereignty issue. The Newfoundland polls need not be read as indicating a separatist consciousness or even an emerging one. Rather, they simply indicate that many Newfoundlanders tend to naturally see themselves as Newfoundlanders who are Canadians and not the other way around. The identities are not irreconcilable but there is the danger they could become so should political or economic developments in the future assume a certain shape. It is instructive to consider the use of "nationalistic" appeals by leaders in provincial politics since Confederation. They have a tendency to be well received.

The Ode To Newfoundland (National Anthem)

This anthem continues to be heard at public events. It was written in the late 19th century.

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
Cod, the traditional mainstay of Newfoundland fisheries

Being one of the first places discovered in the New World, Newfoundland has a rich history. St. John's is considered to be the oldest city in English speaking North America.

Newfoundland is home to two national parks. Gros Morne National Park is located on the west coast of Newfoundland and was named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1987 due to its complex geology and remarkable scenery. It is the largest national park in Atlantic Canada at 1,805 km² (697 sq. mi.). Terra Nova National Park, on the island's east side, preserves the rugged geography of the Bonavista Bay region and allows visitors to explore the historic interplay of land, sea and man.

Stephenville, a town of about 8000, once served as an airport base for the US army in the early 1940s. It is about 20 miles north of its former train station, which is surrounded by the town of Stephenville Crossing.

Also on the West Coast, Corner Brook is situated in the Bay of Islands region. The major industry in Corner Brook is newsprint manufacturing, and is serviced by the Corner Brook Pulp and Paper Mill.

Sandy Point, which is located in Bay Saint George and north of the town of St. George's, was the first and largest settlement of the west coast. However, the last settler, Alphonsus Swyers, was forced to abandon in 1973.

Island of Newfoundland
Island of Newfoundland

Barachois Brook Park is a provincial park that is considered to be a model forest.

Marble Mountain is a major attraction in the winter for skiers. It is said to be the best skiing east of the Rocky Mountains.

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

Newfoundland is also host to a well-recognized university, Memorial University of Newfoundland, based in St. John's.

Newfoundland, 1800 miles from Ireland, is the only place outside Europe to have its own distinctive name in the Irish language.

Largest communities (2001 population)

  1. St. John's (98,182)
  2. Mount Pearl (24,964)
  3. Corner Brook (20,103)
  4. Conception Bay South (19,772)
  5. Grand Falls-Windsor (13,340)
  6. Gander (9,651)
  7. Paradise (9,598)
  8. Stephenville (7,109)
  9. Marystown (5,908)
  10. Portugal Cove-St. Philip's (5,866)
  11. Torbay (5,474)
  12. Bay Roberts (5,237)
  13. Clarenville (5,104)
  14. Deer Lake (4,769)
  15. Carbonear (4,759)
  16. Channel-Port aux Basques (4,637)
  17. Placentia (4,426)
  18. Bonavista (4,021)
  19. Bishop's Falls (3,688)


Further reading

  • Prowse, D.W. 2002. A History of Newfoundland. Boulder Publications, Portugal Cove, Newfoundland.
  • Neary, Peter. 1996. Newfoundland in the North Atlantic world, 1929-1949. McGill-Queen's University Press, Montreal, Quebec.
  • Gibbons, Henry K. 1997. The Myth and Mystery of John Cabot: The Discoverer of North America. Marten Cat Publishers, Port Aux Basques, Newfoundland.
  • Harris, Michael. 1992. Rare Ambition: The Crosbies of Newfoundland. Penguin. ISBN 0-14-023220-6
Vintage literature
  • 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, (Lonson, 1883)
  • Arnold Kennedy, Sport and Adventure in Newfoundland and West Indies, (London, 1885)
  • D. W. Prowse, History of Newfoundland, (second edition, London, 1897)
  • 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)

See also

External links

edit Former French colonies, protectorate and possessions
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