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 example of the forest land in the Port Renfrew and Fairy Creek area of Vancouver Island is shown on May 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jen Osborne
Old-growth logging opponents launch hunger strike as arrests continue at Fairy Creek

Zain Haq says the hunger strikers will gather today at Burrard Street in downtown Vancouver

The City of Victoria is hoping to ring in the summer by celebrating local art and offering some distanced, live music to surprise people in parks, plazas and other public spaces. (Photo courtesy of the City of Victoria)
Live, pop-up concerts and local art being showcased in Victoria this summer

People will see surprise serenades at 16 locations throughout the summer

An example of the forest land in the Port Renfrew and Fairy Creek area of Vancouver Island is shown on May 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jen Osborne
Old-growth logging opponents launch hunger strike as arrests continue at Fairy Creek

Zain Haq says the hunger strikers will gather today at Burrard Street in downtown Vancouver

Jada Benwell and Connor Larkey are the valedictorians of the 2021 graduating class at Parkland Secondary School. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Pandemic taught lessons in perseverance for North Saanich high schoolers

Parkland Secondary School to release 2021 grad ceremony video on June 25

The 14th annual Oak Bay Young Exceptional Star (YES) awards June 3. (Christine van Reeuwyk/News Staff)
Oak Bay celebrates its Young Exceptional Stars with outdoor award ceremony

Nine young people recognized in 14th annual awards

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

Premier John Horgan speaks as provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, right, and health minister Adrian Dix look on during a press conference to update on the province’s fall pandemic preparedness plan during a press conference from the press theatre at Legislature in Victoria, Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. officials to provide details on Step 2 of COVID reopening plan Monday

Step 2 could allow for larger gatherings and a resumption of recreational travel

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller is seen during a news conference, Wednesday May 19, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Indigenous child-welfare battle heads to court despite calls for Ottawa to drop cases

Feds are poised to argue against two Canadian Human Rights Tribunal rulings

The Great Ogopogo Bathtub Race has been held in Summerland as a fundraising event. Do you know which Canadian city introduced this sport? (Black Press file photo)
QUIZ: A summer’s day at the water

How much do you know about boats, lakes and water?

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

“65 years, I’ve carried the stories in my mind and live it every day,” says Jack Kruger. (Athena Bonneau)
‘Maybe this time they will listen’: Survivor shares stories from B.C. residential school

Jack Kruger, living in Syilx territory, wasn’t surprised by news of 215 children’s remains found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School

A logging truck carries its load down the Elaho Valley near in Squamish, B.C. in this file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chuck Stoody
Squamish Nation calls for old-growth logging moratorium in its territory

The nation says 44% of old-growth forests in its 6,900-square kilometre territory are protected while the rest remain at risk

Most Read