Friday, 8 February 2013

The first inhabitants.

The History of the inhabitants in the area of Magellan Strait, according to archaeologists started 12 years ago when group of hunters after crossing the Bering Strait arrived to American territory.
Archaeologists date the human occupations in southern region about 12.900 years ago, traces were found in Chile and Argentina.
In Land of Fire discoveries show occupations of 12.280 to 11.880 years ago where hunters and extinct animals, milodon and pygmy horses, lived together.
In XVI century when Ferdinand Magellan's expedition arrived to the Strait there were 4 groups of aborigines that lived harmoniously with the environment and between themselves:

Aonikenks, which means <<people from the south>>. They also are known as Tehuelches, inhabited the territories between Santa Cruz river and Magellan Strait.
They were skillful hunters and used to walk long distances in search of guanaco and ├▒andu (ostrich). Their population counted more than 4.000 individuals.

Selk'Nam, <<sons of the land>>, also known as Onas. They dwelt in the Great Island of Land of Fire. Like the Tehuelches they were skillful hunters and their population reached no more than 5.000 people.

Yamanas, <<people from mountain-valley-channel>>. Also named Yahgashaga. The English missionary Thomas Bridges abbreviated the word to Yagan, but they were known by English-speaking world as Fuegians.
They were skillful canoe makers and lived in the coastline, most of the time in their canoes. They navigate mainly south of Strait of Magellan, Beagle Canal and Horn Cape hunting sea lions. Their population was about 3.000 individuals.

Kawesqar, <<rational of skin and bones>>. Also known as Alacalufe.They also were seafaring people and used to stay along the day sailing through the canals and fjords of Patagonia and camped in the beaches during the night. In 1880 T Bridge calculated their population no more than 3.000.

The European navigation through the Strait and eventually the colonisation of the region caused many troubles to the natives. They suffered the cruel effects of human greed.

The Land of Fire territory for thousands of years had been a free zone for hunting, but Europeans immigrants fenced it in and replace guanacos for sheeps. In consequence many Onas were killed under the excuse of being stolen sheeps from the farms. Others died after contracting virus unknown in the region before the colonisation.

The Tehuelches had no better luck. Middle 1800 the population of Punta Arenas began to grow quickly because the exploitation of wood and gold in the region. Also the government of Chile conceded large hectares of land for the called colonisers of the region whom incurred in abusive treat toward the Indians, as a result the Aonikenks abandon the Chilean territory. Also they caught contagious diseases. The last time they were seen in Chile was about 1927.

In 1850 an Anglican mission established in the Beagle Canal area built a hospital, houses, a school and a church to educate and evangelise the Yagans in order to help them to adapt themselves to the new society, which was very difficult to them to assimilate.
Although the mission attracted many of them it was a failure, they had to leave in huts, wear Europeans cloth and work in jobs they were not interested at all. As a result many of them suffered from depression. Also an outbreak of rubella decreased their number significantly. After that the survivors leaved in different missions that, little by little, debilitated their culture and the capacity to communicate in their own language.

In Last Hope Province the pioneers received large extensions of land to set sheep farmers which ended in numerous conflicts between them and the Kawesqar. According Joseph Emperaire, Kawesqar population started to decrease in number since the foreigners occupied their lands. They were victims of violence. They were introduced to alcoholism. They were infected with STD and contagious diseases like tuberculosis and flu, which deteriorated their health and strength.

Today the descendants of the Yamanas leave in Navarino Island, Antarctica Province, in Ukika Village.
In 1992, they pleaded for justice. They asked to Chilean government to repair the damage caused which led their community near extinction.

In response the Yamana and Kawesqar descendants were included in the Indigenan Law which means they now receive governmental protection and support. Also the land in Mejillones Bay was returned to the Yamanas.

The last descendants of the Kawescar leave in Eden Port, their population is only 250 individuals.
In 2008 one of the last pure Yagans died, although he believed he was the last one Historians believe there are 3 of them still alive, however no pure Kawescar women which means the extinction of the race is imminent.

In 1881 eleven aborigines (4 men, 4 women, 3 young children) were kidnapped by a German sealer, Karl Hagenbeck, taken to Paris and put on show as cannibals in the Jardin D'Aclimatation, it was actually the first stop. Then they were taken to Berlin and put on show at the Zoo, Leipzia, Munich, Stuttgart, Nuremberg and Zurich.

Jardin D'Acclamatation, Paris

Jadin D'Acclamatation, Paris
                                                   Peter in the Jardin D'Acclamatation, Paris

129 years after that unfortunate event the skeletons of Henry, Luse, Greth, Piskouna and Captain (names given to them in Europe) were found in the drawers of the department of Anthropology of University of Zurich. Being aware of that, the Chilean government initiated the proceedings to repatriate them.
At the beginning of 2010 the rest of 5 Alacalufes were received by the president Michelle Bachelet and transferred to Karukinka Island where they were placed in a cave according their tradition.

Also a group of Selk'Nam were kidnapped by a Belgian whaler who took them to Europe in chain "like Bengalese tigers" then the business man Maurice Maitre put them on show in Paris and London.

Maurice Maitre and Selk'nam in Europe

The Maggiorino Borgatello Museum, Punta Arenas, exhibits an interesting ethmographical collection.
The museum has 4 levels where you can explore in areas like culture, History, religion, fauna, flora and trade in Region of Magellan. Also a valuable library and an extensive photographic and audio-visual material about ethnias and History of Patagonia.

Recommendation: Book: Patagonia Fire Shadows
                                      Author:  Carlos Vega Delgado.