• Fogo Island and Change Islands
    are outport communities.

    "Newfoundlanders call these miniscule villages ‘outports,’ which gives them an aft air of edge-of-the-known."—The New York Times Magazine

    In Newfoundland, small coastal settlements are referred to as “outports.” Fogo Island and Change Islands are among Newfoundland’s oldest outport communities. They are not towns, nor are they hamlets or villages; they are, in the unique language that has developed in this place over the centuries, outports. In the words of Newfoundlander Mr. Coaker: “I’d be a Newfoundlander, outport born, outport bred, of outport strength and tenderness of heart, of outport sincerity, had I my birth to choose.”

    Outports have been under pressure since Newfoundland became a province of Canada in 1949. Soon after joining Canada, the provincial and federal governments announced plans to centralize Newfoundland’s population. Outports were seen as offering few job opportunities, and three major resettlement initiatives were launched in the 1950s and 1960s which ultimately displaced approximately 30,000 people and lead to the demise of 300 small outport communities. Ever the resourceful people, Newfoundlanders often chose not to abandon their houses, instead launching them down to the shoreline and floating them on drums to their new communities.

    Fogo Islanders resisted resettlement by cooperating to secure a resilient future for their island home. In the late 1960s, they were helped along by the Memorial University of Newfoundland’s extension service and the National Film Board, who launched a participatory film initiative on Fogo Island to help facilitate conversations and contribute to positive social change for the Island’s ten distinct communities. NFB filmmaker Colin Low filmed everyday life and people in Fogo Island’s various communities, producing 27 short films which he then publically screened on the Island with the goal of demonstrating that the Island’s people were united in many ways despite divides along religious and community lines. This methodology became known as The Fogo Process and continues to be employed in other communities around the world to this day.

    The efforts of people involved in the Fogo Island Improvement Committee and the Fogo Process in the late 1960’s gave rise to the formation of a fishing Co-op which helped Fogo Islanders hold on to their place, their home. However, outport communities remain under pressure today as the realities of globalization, industrialization, and virtualization continue to bear down on rural places. Continued efforts and vigilance are needed to allow rural and outport communities to thrive as integral parts of our human history and culture.