Newfoundland is a rugged island of a province where life revolves around the sea, shaping the people and their culture and giving it a distinct character from the rest of Canada. Locals refer to Newfoundland as the “Rock” and while Labrador on the mainland is officially part of the province, they like to distinguish it from Newfoundland.
People on this rocky island, which only 10,000 years ago was still covered by glaciers, primarily live in tiny fishing villages, some set in mountains and fjords more spectacular than those in Norway. Labrador remains a practically untouched wilderness of mountains and rivers, a land of rocky coasts and wild interiors made perfect for fishing and hunting. Today, the ruggedness of this province’s landscape, its coast regularly lashed by strong Atlantic winds and rain, must have had an effect on its people. Residents of this province, “Newfies” as they are called, are ruggedly independent, and this is reflected as much in their history.
Newfoundland has the designation of being the last province to join the Confederation, which it did in 1949. Considering that Canada was formed in 1867 and the country spanned the continent by 1905, Newfoundland held out pretty long – an indication of this province’s stubbornness and spirit of independence. Newfoundland residents still refer to those in the mainland as “Canadians” and ask visitors whether they come “from Canada”. They have their own dialects, accents, and unique vocabulary. They even have their own time zone; “Newfoundland Time”, by the way, is a half-hour ahead of Atlantic Time. “Newfies” are happy to distinguish themselves from the rest of Canada, which is perhaps justifiable considering the provincial capital, St. John’s is actually closer to Europe than it is to Canada’s midpoint.
This rugged independence has made Newfies an easy target for jokes among other Canadians, much like the Irish are to the English. But Newfies have a good sense of humor. Honestly, they don’t seem to mind all too much and have even made their own island the butt of their own jokes. Visit the province and you’ll come across places with unusual names like Stinking Cove, Blow Me Down, Come By Chance, Useless Bay, Dildo Pond, Heart’s Desire, Cuckold Cove, Joe Batt’s Arm, Witless Bay, Jerry’s Nose, Little Heart’s Ease, and Happy Adventure.
The island of Newfoundland was inhabited by Native Indians and the Inuit long before the arrival of the Vikings thousands of years ago. The Scandinavians founded a settlement near L’Anse aux Meadows at the northern edge of the island but left only a few years later. The next Europeans to arrive were John Cabot and his crew. In 1947, they anchored in the harbor of present-day St. John’s. Cabot reported to Henry VII that he had discovered a new land rich with fish. The next European visit was from Captain John Rut three decades later. He requested that Henry VIII establish a permanent settlement in Newfoundland. A year later, a settlement was founded. However, it was not until 1583 under Queen Elizabeth I that the island was claimed by England. Newfoundland became the first British colony in North America.
The island soon became a military battleground, as the British and French fought over it numerous times, both vying over the island’s rich fishing grounds. Under the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713, Newfoundland was officially recognized as Britain’s. But the French perpetuated hostilities with the British over control of the island for another 50 years before the French were finally defeated at St. John’s in 1762.
The next couple of decades, the population of the colony swelled, reaching 40,000 by 1800. The increase came from British immigrants. In 1832, the colony was granted self-governance in domestic affairs. In 1855, it gained dominion status in the British Commonwealth.
Unfortunately, the Great Depression hit Newfoundland pretty hard. It suffered a bankruptcy and the humiliation of being reverted to a colony. In 1949, it finally voted by a narrow margin to join the confederation after a long holdout and become Canada’s tenth province.
Newfoundland has a population of about 600,000, almost entirely concentrated along 9,650 kilometers or 6,000 miles of coastline. The economy has been based on fishing for five centuries. The glacial lakes and rivers teem with fish, making the annual haul of fish, mostly cod, more than 500,000 tons. Fish, in fact, is used by Newfies to refer to cod. Other types of fish are referred to by their specific name.
Despite abundant fish, Newfoundland’s economy is perennial depressed. High unemployment has been a constant. There is hope this might change soon. In the 1980s, oil was discovered beneath the continental shelf southeast of Newfoundland. In the mid-1990s, a world-class nickel deposit was discovered at Voisey’s Bay in Labrador. Moreover, in 2003 the boundary between Newfoundland and Nova Scotia was amended in favor of Newfoundland, opening up new areas for oil exploration. And with the recent deal signed with the government in 2005, Newfoundland will be allowed to keep 100% of its oil revenues, which will bring the province an estimated $2 billion over the next eight years. The future is looking bright for this province; it appears as though the sea will once again provide the people of Newfoundland with a good living. And it’s nice to know they can always depend on their land for insurance—with its abundant game, enormous forests, beautiful lakes and ponds, rivers and streams.
Carroll, Donald. Insider’s Guide Canada. Edison: Hunter Publishing, Inc, 1996. ISBN: 1556507100.
“Newfoundland and Labrador.” < http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Newfoundland_and_Labrador>
Source: Insider’s Canada Guide, Donald Carroll, 336-337.
Simpkins, Mary Ann. Canada. New York: Prentice Hall Travel, 1994. ISBN: 0671882783.
 Carroll, 336
 Simpkins, 173
 Carroll, 336
 Id. at 336-37
 Id. at 337