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

An SUV sits where it crashed through the front window of the 2:18 Run store in Fairfield Plaza, after the driver appeared to lose control on Monday afternoon. (Photo by Phil Nicholls)
Driver crashes through front window of Victoria running store in Fairfield

Phil Nicholls of 2:18 Run said crash sounded like an earthquake at first

Processed sewage is still being deposited at the Hartland landfill rather than sent as biosolids to a Richmond cement plant. (Black Press Media file photo)
Biosolids at Hartland still being placed on landfill in Saanich

Richmond cement plant up and running, but CRD end product not suitable for purpose

The Greater Victoria Harbour Authority is calling on Transport Canada to rescind its ban to Feb. 28, 2022 on cruise ship stops in Canada, to allow planning to begin in advance of a reopening of the cruise industry next year.
Greater Victoria Harbour Authority seeks end to federal ban on cruise ship stops in Canada

Greater Victoria Harbour Authority CEO hopes cruises will resume by 2022

Seismic upgrading and expansion work at Victoria High School is about a year behind due to pandemic-related factors, the Greater Victoria School District announced. (Photo by Cole Descoteau)
Victoria High School seismic work, expansion a year behind schedule

Greater Victoria School District now targeting September 2023 for reopening of historic school

Elk Lake Drive area resident Michael Blayney protests a proposed multi-building development for his Royal Oak neighbourhood, outside Saanich municipal hall on Monday (June 14). (Photo by Megan Atkins-Baker/News Staff)
Demonstrators protest 11-storey development on Elk Lake Drive in Saanich

Saanich locals gather at municipal hall to protest development, public hearing goes Tuesday

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price (31) is scored on by Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Alec Martinez, not pictured, during the second period in Game 1 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup semifinal playoff series Monday, June 14, 2021, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Habs fall 4-1 to Vegas Golden Knights in Game 1 of NHL semifinal series

Match was Montreal’s first game outside of Canada in 2021

Kelowna-Lake Country MLA Norm Letnick, assistant deputy speaker at the B.C. legislature, presides over committee discussions. The legislature is completing its delayed spring session this week, with most MLAs participating by video conference. (Hansard TV)
B.C.’s daily COVID-19 infections dip below 100 over weekend

Only 68 new cases recorded Monday, four additional deaths

A 30x40 ft boat/car shop in the Little River area near Wilkinson Road was fully involved by the time firefighters arrived on scene. Photo by Comox Fire Rescue
Comox firefighters battle ‘showy’ shop fire Saturday night

Smoke could be seen throughout the Comox Valley

Port Hardy council has agreed to cancel Canada Day celebrations in wake of the discovery of the remains of 215 children being found on the grounds of a former residential school. (North Island Gazette file photo)
Port Hardy cancels Canada Day celebrations in wake of Kamloops mass grave site revelation

Coun. Treena Smith made the motion for the chamber to not host Canada Day celebrations this year

Gabriola Island artist Sheila Norgate is promoting the Digital Innovation Group’s art impact survey. (File photo)
Vancouver Island artists get behind regional arts impact study

Artists urged to use their stature to help put arts and culture super-region on the map

Darren Campbell’s truck (pictured) was stolen when he stopped to check on a car in a ditch on Cowichan Bay Road on Monday morning. (Facebook photo)
Vancouver Island Good Samaritan’s truck stolen in nasty trick

‘Try to be a Good Samaritan and my $20,000 truck gets stolen right under my nose’

The Kamloops Indian Residential School is photographed using a drone in Kamloops, B.C., Monday, June, 14, 2021. The remains of 215 children were discovered buried near the former school earlier this month. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Communities grapple with what to do with former residential and day schools

Some tear them down as a tool to help healing, others repurpose them as tools for moving forward

Creative handmade signs abound at the June 13 Tofino rally for old growth trees. (Nora O’Malley photo)
VIDEO: Tofino stands in solidarity for Fairy Creek Blockades

Over 150 supporters attend rally hosted by Friends of Clayoquot Sound

Most Read