The Newfoundland and Labrador coat of arms is shown in this undated handout image. The Newfoundland and Labrador government has formally decided to change the province’s 400-year-old coat of arms, which includes a description that refers to Indigenous people as “savages.” THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - Government of Newfoundland and Labrador *MANDATORY CREDIT*

The Newfoundland and Labrador coat of arms is shown in this undated handout image. The Newfoundland and Labrador government has formally decided to change the province’s 400-year-old coat of arms, which includes a description that refers to Indigenous people as “savages.” THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - Government of Newfoundland and Labrador *MANDATORY CREDIT*

N.L. premier vows change: coat of arms description calls Indigenous people ‘savages’

Coat of arms features two Indigenous figures in traditional garb, on either side of a red shield

The Newfoundland and Labrador government has decided to change the official description of the province’s 400-year-old coat of arms, which includes a reference to Indigenous people as “savages.”

Premier Andrew Furey said a formal notice was submitted to the legislature on Thursday following a discussion earlier in the week with Indigenous leaders.

The Liberal premier said his weekly discussion with Indigenous leaders initially focused on the terrible news from Kamloops, B.C., where last week an Indigenous band reported finding what are believed to be the remains of 215 children at a former residential school.

“The Indigenous leaders are going to reflect on what it means in their communities, and where we want to go in terms of investigating residential schools,” Furey said Thursday, referring to the fact that the province once supported five church-run residential schools — four in Labrador and one at the northern tip of the island.

Furey said the discussion then turned to the province’s coat of arms.

“The description of the coat of arms in our legislation still refers to savages,” Furey said. “We don’t think that is at all appropriate. We gave notice today in the house to change that.”

The premier said the next step is public consultations. “We’ll see where the conversations go,” he said.

In June 2018, the governing Liberals said they would drop the archaic description and redesign the coat of arms after Indigenous leaders and the party’s own Indigenous Peoples Commission called for changes.

The coat of arms features two Indigenous figures in traditional garb, standing on either side of a red shield. In the official description, the Beothuk warriors are described as “savages.”

Qalipu First Nation Chief Brendan Mitchell said everyone who attended the virtual meeting on Wednesday agreed that the insulting term had to be dropped.

“They’re all in favour of changing the description,” the Mi’kmaq leader said in an interview Friday from Corner Brook. “For me, taking the name ‘savage’ out of there has to done. That’s an unfair statement to make …. We didn’t get into a lengthy discussion on the actual text.”

The meeting included representatives from other Mi’kmaq communities, the Innu Nation and Labrador’s Inuit.

When the issue first surfaced in 2018, Labrador politician Randy Edmunds said the Beothuk must be represented on the coat of arms to honour an Indigenous group that was wiped out after European settlers encroached on their land, resulting in deadly conflicts and the introduction of new diseases.

Shawnadithit, the last known surviving Beothuk, died of tuberculosis in St. John’s in June 1829.

Edmunds, an Inuk who was defeated in the 2019 provincial election, said other Indigenous groups should also be recognized.

The original coat of arms was granted by royal warrant from King Charles I of England in 1637. At the time, the island of Newfoundland was known as Terra Nova, and it wasn’t yet joined with Labrador. The heraldic symbol was actually given to a business syndicate known as the Company of Adventurers to Newfoundland, which seemed to have little knowledge of the area.

Aside from the coarse description of the Beothuk, the coat of arms includes a depiction of a prancing elk, hovering between the two warriors. The animals are not native to Newfoundland and Labrador.

— By Michael MacDonald, The Canadian Press

RELATED: MPs fast-tracking bill to create a national day for truth and reconciliation

Indigenousracism

Just Posted

Rick Ruppenthal of Saltair will host a 12-hour talk-a-thon Friday, June 18 over Facebook live. (Photo submitted)
Talk-a-thon to focus on men’s mental health issues

Saltair man spearheading a campaign to generate more conversation during fundraiser

Julie Nygaard’s By Moonlight Raven Flight is one of the photo-artist works in her show Through My Eyes – A Visual Journey, which will be featured at Rainforest Arts through August. (Photo submitted)
Photographer-painter Nygaard featured at Rainforest Arts

Real images enhanced through digital means to create compelling art

Filming of The Baker’s Son in Chemainus. (File photo by Don Bodger)
Bread-making brilliance and mediocrity the recipe for movie ingredients

Willow Street on the map as a prominent location in The Baker’s Son

The return of Community Policing will be a welcome addition by residents. (File photo by Don Bodger)
Return of Community Policing in the works

Volunteers being sought and coordinators to be announced soon

Sonia Furstenau, MLA
Proposed Health Professions Act would eliminate barriers, guide regulations

Is your doctor a member of good standing with the BC College… Continue reading

People watch a car burn during a riot following game 7 of the NHL Stanley Cup final in downtown Vancouver, B.C., in this June 15, 2011 photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Geoff Howe
10 years ago: Where were you during the 2011 Vancouver Stanley Cup Riots?

Smashed-in storefronts, looting, garbage can fires and overturned cars some of the damage remembered today

(Black Press Media file)
Dirty money: Canadian currency the most germ-filled in the world, survey suggests

Canadian plastic currency was found to contain 209 bacterial cultures

(pixabay file shot)
B.C. ombudsperson labels youth confinement in jail ‘unsafe,’ calls for changes

Review states a maximum of 22 hours for youth, aged 12 from to 17, to be placed in solitary

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Eleonore Alamillo-Laberge, 6, reads a book in Ottawa on Monday, June 12, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Parents will need to fight ‘COVID learning slump’ over summer: B.C. literacy experts

Parents who play an active role in educating their children this summer can reverse the slump by nearly 80%, says Janet Mort

The border crossing on Highway 11 in Abbotsford heading south (file)
Western premiers call for clarity, timelines on international travel, reopening rules

Trudeau has called Thursday meeting, premiers say they expect to leave that meeting with a plan

The B.C. government’s vaccine booking website is busy processing second-dose appointments, with more than 76 per cent of adults having received a first dose. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C.’s COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations stable for Tuesday

108 new confirmed cases, 139 in hospital, 39 in intensive care

Cowichan Tribes man Adrian Sylvester is worried that he was targetted by a trailer hitch thrown from a vehicle. (Facebook photo)
Cowichan Tribes man worried he was target of trailer hitch

Adrian Sylvester says no one has reported a missing hitch after one nearly hit him

Most Read