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Red Indian Lake, Newfoundland, 1801
St. John's, Newfoundland, 1829
Biography synopsis
Nancy Shananditti (also known as Nancy April/Nance/Shanawdithit/Shawnawdithit/Shanaditti/Shawnadithit) was a First Nations artist of the Beothuk tribe. The niece of Demasduit (renamed Mary March by her English captors) and Chief Nonosbawsut, Shananditti is often referred to as the last Beothuk because her tribe was exterminated in the early 19th century. Many Beothuks died in battles against European colonizers and other native Canadian tribes while others succumbed to tuberculosis. Shananditti endured many hardships, and several attempts were made on her life. With the exceptions of her mother and her sister, all of her relatives were killed by settlers. In 1823, she, her mother (Doodebewshet), and her sister were captured by English fur traders and later taken to St. John's, where Shananditti worked for Sir John Peyton Jr. as a domestic. While working in Peyton's household, Shananditti was commissioned by the scholar William E. Cormack to create sketches and drawings for the Beothuk Institution, outlining the history and customs of her nearly extinct people. In 1828, the artist presented Cormack with verbal descriptions as well as detailed records and sketches of Beothuk culture. The drawings, only ten of which survive today, depict various elements of Beothuk life, such as living quarters, diet, and religious rituals. One of Shananditti's sketches illustrates an historic encounter between her village and a convoy of English troops, and another drawing records the brutal murder of Beothuk women in 1816. It was through her clearly detailed works that historians such as Cormack preserved and disseminated valuable information about the lost tribe. In 1829, Shananditti passed away after succumbing to tuberculosis.
Media used
File & Archive locations
National Gallery of Canada, ON - Library and Archives
Public Record Office of Great Britain
Archive of the United Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, UK
Public Archives of Newfoundland and Labrador
Provincial Resource Library, NL
Centre for Newfoundland Studies Archives
Library and Archives Canada / Bibliothèque et Archives Canada, ON

Writings about
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