Artists Comments
The Red Arrow

My first conscious memory of the Beothuk people comes from my early school years in Corner Brook, Newfoundland. If I close my eyes I can still see the pen and ink sketches in my grade school history book. That was the moment when I first became aware of their existence – that there had been an unusual tribe inhabiting the island prior to it’s European discovery in 1497, and that they had become extinct less than four centuries later. It was fascinating – and later troubling. It is still so.

Before I moved from Newfoundland to Ontario in 1974, I was given a book by a friend of mine, Randy Gabriel, a man who was sensitive to the current native conditions as well as their past history. The book was entitled The Beothucks, The Red Indians Of Newfoundland. It gave an in depth study of known Beothuk history.

In 1980 I was living in Thornhill, Ontario, with my wife and three children. By this time I had learned much about the Beothuks and was inspired to write a musical story about this unique tribe. The result was a series of compositions telling the story of the plight of the Beothuk Indians, the aboriginal inhabitants of the island of Newfoundland. I called it The Red  Arrow.

The tale traces their lives from the time of the discovery of the island by John Cabot in 1497 until the death of the last known member of the tribe on June 6th, 1829, in the city of  St. John’s. The songs are based on historical documentation and presented in a sensitive and dignified manner. The themes revolve around the captives Shannaditti, Demasduit and John August, as well as the killing of the chief Nonosbasut. They tell the stories of heroes such as  Buchan, Cartwright and Cormack and about the anti-heroes who contributed so greatly to the devestation and extinction of the tribe. The songs sing about spirits that still seem to call to us across the years.

It is my feeling that music makes palatable this story that otherwise many are unwilling or unable to digest. The music carries the historical information to the heart as well as the mind, thereby completing the ‘human experience’ of the historical events.

The Red Arrow was described by Pam Vokey of The Western Star as “…an album that celebrates the beauty of the Beothuk way of life and mourns the loss of it.” Mark Vaughn Jackson of the St. John’s Evening Telegram called it “…an atmospheric composition… highly emotionally charged….A strikingly powerful and emotional recording about a race of people who are no more.”

I have been motivated by compassion and a strong sense of justice in creating this musical tribute honoring the memory of this lost tribe.