GRAND FALLS-WINDSOR, NL – Ten years ago a class of Grade 2 students set out on a mission to have a famous rock in Grand Falls-Windsor named after a Beothuk chief named Nonosabasut.
On Dec. 14, 2017, that mission was accomplished.
Nonosabasut was the husband of Demasduit, better known by her English name, Mary March – the namesake of the local museum.
At the time, Ann Warr’s Grade 2 class was studying the Beothuk people and became devoted to honoring them.
They listened to the story of Demasduit, one of the last Beothuk and aunt to Shawnadithit, who is known to have been the last living Beothuk.
Demasduit and her husband, Chief Nonosabasut, had a newborn baby. In trying to save his wife and child, Nonosabasut was fatally shot.
The baby died just days later.
The students thought of ways to better honor the loss of Beothuk life.
Throughout their school year the small class of Grade 2 students wrote letters to government officials in Scotland, requesting the skulls of Demasduit and her husband Nonosabasut – which have been in a museum in Scotland since the late 1800s – be returned to Newfoundland.
They wrote letters and started a petition requesting that the Mary March Museum in Grand Falls-Windsor be renamed to honor Demasduit’s real name, and not her English name.
They wanted the name to be changed to “Demasduit’s Centre of the Founding Peoples.”
“They thought that nobody has the right to take away somebody’s name,” explained Danika Lewis – who was part of the project as a Grade 2 student 10 years ago – as she made a presentation at Woodland Primary on Dec. 14.
The class also wrote letters to the Town of Grand Falls-Windsor’s mayor and council requesting that a local rock depicting two faces in the Exploits River be dedicated to Nonosabasut.
The idea of renaming the rock came about while the students were watching a documentary called “Stealing Mary.”
One of the students piped up and said the face on the right side of the rock in the Exploits River resembled Nonosabasut.
The Grade 2 students decided the left face looked like a European and the right face was a Beothuk.
The rock in question never had an official name, although locals often referred to it as Head Rock, Skull Rock, Anvil Rock or Indian Rock.
Ten years later, the Town of Grand Falls-Windsor has become the first in the province to recognize Nonosabasut as a person of historical significance. Grand Falls-Windsor will officially give this two-faced rock in the Exploits River a name – Nonosabasut Rock.
The town purchased a plaque to be erected on July 21 at the edge of the river on a walking trail with a view of this rock.
The plaque depicts an image of the rock with two zoomed images showing the faces. The plaque also has a poem on it, written by one of Woodland Primary’s Kindergarten teachers, Cheryl Burt.
The plaque was unveiled at Woodland Primary on Dec. 14, 2017.
Warr, who has since retired, and three of those Grade 2 students – now in their first year of university – put off the event for children in Woodland Primary and invited guests.
By Cheryl Burt
The might Exploits River
Where once the Beothuk roamed
Flows through central Newfoundland
It was part of the Beothuk’s home.
As the river streams along the banks
There rests in its great midst
An impressive rock that has been named
For the Beothuk – Nonosabasut.
He was known as a Beothuk chief
Who struggled to save his wife
Demasduit and their newborn child,
But tragically it cost him his life!
The rock was once named Anvil
Or Indian, they’re both the same.
But with permission some Grade Two students
Had this two-faced rock renamed.
So if you visit Grand Falls-Windsor
And happen upon this place,
Be sure to look closely at this rock.
You’ll see Nonosabasut’s face!