A Travellerspoint blog

April 2021

Chile Patagonia III

Patagón, Aónikenk pictographs. Horse ride in Bosque de Lenga, Punta Arenas

26th Feb Patagón, Aónikenk pictographs.

Meeting in the room again (with its informative wall panels) we boarded the minibus for our Patagón (3) excursion. This took us to the southeast corner of the park, past Laguna Amarga, to the trek drop off point. This hike was through “puma alley” and was filled with animals. We saw both the Red and Grey Fox out hunting. The Red Fox (Culpeo) Lycalopex culpaeus is the largest fox in Chile, leads a solitary life and hunts at night. It can grow up to 120cm, including the tail, and weigh up to 12kg. The male provides food for the mother and cubs. The Grey fox (Chilla) Lycalopex griseus is smaller than the Red Fox, measuring 80-90cm and up to 4kg. Both parents look after cubs. There were plenty of guanacos, many with young. We watched them make easy work of jumping fences. It was also clear who the sentinels were, watching for puma from a high point. We saw some guanacos running VERY fast, but no obvious puma. Puma Puma concolor patagonico aka cougar, panther or mountain lion, the golden-coated puma lives a solitary life and is rarely seen although numbers are slowly increasing. It generally hunts at night, grows up to 270cm and males weigh up to 90kg while females reach 60kg. As we walked the promised eclipse was a bit of a damp squib, but the fact it was a clear sunny day more than made up for it.
Grey Fox in grass, young Grey Fox, adult male Red Fox
After walking past rust red rocky outcrops, through some open grassland and on past a small marshy lake (Laguna Goic), we began to ascend a rough mountain (or large hill). At the summit was an amazing view of the Cuernos, Cerro Paine mountains and terrain. In an overhang, which would have been good as a shelter, was a set of red ochre petroglyphs created by the the Aónikenk people of Patagonia. Residents for 7,000 years, the Aónikenk were called Patagones (Big Feet) by Spanish settlers, who thought them giants. The petroglyphs were two hands, a man, guanaco, and what “experts” said was an arrow, but was quite obviously a condor! Having enjoyed the view in the sun (highly unusual in the park), spotted some pretty birds, insects and even a large spider. As we drove back to the hotel the clear skies gave the most magnificent views of the Horns and the Towers. We had a small late lunch, some cocktails and a rest, then went for a walk. Steve set his heart of the Ascencio Valley walk (this is most definitely a mis-description as it was basically a mountain path). The view across the lakes and mountains as we ascended was spectacular. We got half way to Chileno, but the light was beginning to go, so we thought we'd better head down.
We could see the base of the Torres (towers) from a viewpoint beside a glacier-fed lagoon with views straight up the rocky peaks. Interestingly, with this walk we had finally experienced all four of the zones of vegetation in Patagonia, and as it was summer we had a great view of them flowering too. From the hotel climb into Ascencio Valley through beautiful lenga forests to stony heights, across ice-cold mountain streams and rocky glacial moraines before reaching Base Las Torres; elevation change: 1000m. When we got back the hotel we were told our transport to Punta Arenas was at 2pm, so we booked a second horse ride for the morning. An early dinner and chill out at the bar completed the day.
4. Andean Desert.
Species in the Andean high desert are tolerant to low temperatures and high precipitation but vegetation is underdeveloped due to harsh weather conditions. growing on rocks are characteristic of the landscape and vegetation decreases with altitude due to the adverse weather conditions. Cushion Plant (Llaretilla) Azorella Trifurcata Herb with dense shrubs and yellow flowers, found in a wide range of habitats including at high altitude. The Devil’s Strawberry Gunnera Magellanica Found on hillsides at over 600m above sea level, with bright red fruit.
Stunted trees and shrubs

27th Feb Horse ride in Bosque de Lenga
Transfer Torres del Paine to Hotel Chapital, Punta Arenas
This was our last day here, so it was nice to get into the saddle again for a ride through the aboriginal forest. The Bosque de Lenga (7) was a trip to learn about Patagonia’s famous lenga forests, a horseback ride or hike follows part of the Paine Circuit trail around the east edge of the massif. The final destination is the ancient lenga forest. One of Patagonia’s iconic trees, Nothofagus pumilio thrives in areas with low temperatures and heavy snow. Lenga woods provide a habitat for many animals; spot Magellanic woodpeckers, Austral parakeets, Chilean flickers and other small birds. Be on the lookout for pumas (Andean Lion) that roam the forest. The trail features great views of Laguna Azul and Cerro Paine on the east side of the massif. This excursion is good for windy days because the trees block the wind. The trip also gave us a chance to see some unusual fungi as we climbed out of the forest to Mirador D’Agostini, and Huella del Puma, with views back across the valley of granite towers, glaciers, and alpine lakes.
Chilean Flicker (Pitio) Colaptes pitius Left - Dark brown and white with distinctive feather pattern. Lives in Nothofagus forests. Magellanic Woodpecker (Carpintero Magellánico) right Campephilus magellanicus. One of the world’s largest woodpeckers. Males and females largely black & males have red crest.
2. Magellanic Deciduous forest
Deciduous forest lining the park’s gorges and hillsides, receiving over 600mm of rain p.a. Found in Grey lake and glacier, Laguna Azul, Laguna Amarga and French Valley. Home to several Southern Beech tree species (nothofagus), namely Lenga (Nothofagus pumilio), Coihue (Nothofagus betuloides) and Ñirre (Nothofagus antártica). The Southern Beech Lenga Nothofagus pumilio can reach up to 30m (though stunted when in Andean desert) to -30oC Grows in abundance only in southern Chile. Wood used for construction due to its strength and durability. Southern Beech Coihue Nothofagus betuloides. Evergreen tree reaching 25m, with glossy leaves. Grows in humid areas. Its wood is used for furniture. Hardy to -20oC. Southern Beech Ñirre Nothofagus antártica. Deciduous tree, growing up to 20m (stunted in Andean desert). Native to southern Chile and Argentina and one of the southernmost trees on earth.
Winter Bark (Canelo) Drimys Winteri
Sacred tree of the Mapuche, Chile’s indigenous population. Reaches up to 20m with shiny green leaves and slender truck. Native to the Magellanic temperate rainforests of Chile, where it is a dominant tree. Found below 1,200 m between latitude 32° and 56° south. In its southernmost range it can tolerate temperatures to -20 °C. The flowers are white with a yellow centre, and have a great number of petals and stamens. The fruit is a bluish berry. When Sir Francis Drake sailed round the world in 1577-80, one of the four ships was the Elizabeth, captained by John Wynter; the ships separated in a storm and Wynter turned back. He sent a boat ashore to find medicinal herbs and returned in 1579 with a supply of Drimys bark. For centuries before vitamin C was isolated, "Winter's Bark" was a preventive and remedy for scurvy, sustaining Captain Cook and his crew. The naturalist, Johann Forster, accompanying his voyage, was the first to officially describe and name D. winteri
Dog Orchid (Palomita) Condonorchis Lessonii pic 1
Herb with erect stems and three white leaves arranged in a whorl with white inner petals dotted with purple.
Old Man’s Beard (Barba de Viejo) Usnea barabata pic 2
A species of Lichen which grows on bark and branches on Southern Beeches. Like other lichens it is a symbiosis of a fungus and an alga. In Usnea, the fungus belongs to the division Ascomycota, while the alga is a member of the division Chlorophyta.
Darwin’s fungus (Pan de Indio) Cyttaria Darwinii pic right
Parasite which appears on Southern Beech branches and can lead to the breaking branches or stems in strong wind. Certain species of Cyttaria are used in gastronomy
Chinese Lantern (Farolito Chino) Misodendrum punctulatum
Grows like mistletoe on various species of Southern Beeches. Colour changes from green to yellow to red brown throughout its life cycle. Aka false mistletoe. It grows as a hemiparasite; partially photosynthetic but also obtains nutrition from its host. The photo below shows it growing off a beech.
Fuchsia (Chilco) Fuchsia magellanica. Shrub with narrow branches and pendant-shaped red flowers with purple petals.
Rainberry (Miñe/Frutilla de Magallanes) Rubus Geoides Small herb plant with white flowers and red Magellanic raspberry fruit hidden by leaves.
When we got back we bought some water and sandwiches from the kiosk before loading our bags onto the minibus. We drove out of the park and stopped for coffee at the picturesque hamlet of Cerro Castillo, before driving to Puerto Natales. This time we drove into the town itself so we got to see it properly. Puerto Natales is the capital of the commune of Natales and the province of Última Esperanza, one of the four provinces that make up the Magallanes and Antartica Chilena Region. Puerto Natales is the only city in the province. It is located at the opening of Última Esperanza Sound and was originally inhabited by the Kawésqar or Alacaluf people and the Aonikenk or Tehuelche people. The first European to discover the area where the city is located was Juan Ladrillero, a Spanish explorer who was looking for the Strait of Magellan's western passage in 1557. The city was formally founded under the government of Ramón Barros in 1911. Nowadays, one of its most important industries is tourism although the cattle and aquaculture industries are also significant.

Half day 1 Salto Grande 2. Patagon 3 Lake Sarmiento 4 Laguna Inges 5 Lago Nordenskjold 6 Serro Paine 8 Laguna Azul 7 Bosque de Lenga horse
9 Banqueano de la Patagonia
Full day 1A Full Paine + Glacier Grey 2 Las Torres Sendero del Ascencio 3 Huella del Puma 4 Valle Encantado 5 Los Cuernos 6 Valle Bader
7 Valle del Francés 8 Mirador Grey 9 Sendero de los Lagos

Early history (pre-1540)
About 10,000 years ago, migrating groups settled in the fertile valleys and coastal areas of Chile. Pre-Hispanic Chile was home to over a dozen different Amerindian societies. The current theory is that the initial arrival of humans to the continent took place along the Pacific coast southwards in a rapid expansion preceding the Clovis culture, backed by findings in Monte Verde archaeological site, which predates the Clovis site by thousands of years. Settlement sites from very early human habitation in Chile inc the Cueva del Milodon and Pali Aike Crater's lava tube. The history of inhabitants in Torres del Paine dates back to over a thousand years ago, when the first indigenous groups arrived. Europeans had set up camp by the late 19th century and this marked the end of the indigenous era and the start of Chilean ‘Baqueano’ exploration and tourism, with tourists ranging from British aristocrats to scientists and missionaries. In 1959 the National Park was created, and in 1970 named Torres del Paine. Today the park is managed by Chile’s National Forestry Service (CONAF). Other ancient indigenous Patagonian inhabitants include the nomadic hunters Selk’nam (Ona) and Yaghan (Yamana) people, who canoed between islands to collect food. Both the Selk’nam and Yaghan moved further south to Tierra del Fuego, probably pushed out by Telheuche tribes (to which the Selk’nam were related). It is possible to classify the indigenous people in Chile into 3 major cultural groups:
-northern people, influenced by pre-Incan cultures.
-agrarian Araucanian culture, who inhabited the area between river Choapa and Chiloé island
-Patagonian culture of various nomadic tribes, who were mainly fishers and hunters.
-far south groups in the southern tip/ Tierra del Fuego archipelago were in much smaller numbers
1. The Inca Empire briefly extended into northern Chile, where they collected tribute from small groups of fishermen and oasis farmers but were unable to establish a strong presence.
2. The Araucanians, a fragmented society of hunter-gatherers/ farmers, the largest group in Chile.
3. In the latter half of the first millennium the Tehuelche (Aonikenk) people arrived in Patagonia as nomadic hunter- gatherers. As they migrated through Patagonia they saw the silhouette of an incredible rock formation in the distance and called it ‘Paine’, meaning ‘blue’ (the predominant colour). Tehuelche was the name given by the Mapuche to these people inhabiting the Pampa on the northern coast of the Strait of Magellan.
European sailors called them Patagones (bigfeet), endowing an aura of a mythical land of giants. Although the Tehuelche had a common way of life and language, dialects and local customs were different among the subgroups, including the Aonikenk who inhabited the Magallanes region, the Gününa’küna inland in the Aysen region, and Mecharnúek’enk, close to Chiloe Island, who had only indirect contact with other Tehuelche groups. According to archaeological findings, Tehuelche presence can be traced back 4,500 years in sites that display very similar technology, diet and housing patterns. Two distinct stages of Tehuelche cultural development can be distinguished.
1. The pedestrian stage, noted in the reports of early European travellers. Tehuelche numbered c5000, divided into nomadic groups of up to 100. They led a nomadic life, hunting guanaco and ñandús (rhea) using dogs, bows/ arrows, and bolas (spherical stone balls). They had temporary tent-like structures, for an extended family, formed by a wooden frame with waterproof hide, initially of guanaco, and later horse. Guanaco were used for food and the skins for clothing, blankets, dwellings, etc. Before the introduction of the horse, Tehuelche society was the family unit, with a dozen of these forming a band. The multi-family grouping dwelt in villages, with a chief called a Gownok or Yank, whose main task was to choose and organise the camp location. Although Tehuelche society was matrilocal, males held the power within each group.
2. The horse stage. The 18th C acquisition of horses revolutionised their hunting, vastly extending their range. The wild horses they captured were descendants of animals that had escaped or been abandoned by colonists in the 16th century, reproducing and spreading throughout Patagonia. Tehuelche groups swelled to 400 -800 riders, bringing them into contact with neighbouring groups more frequently. Despite the harsh climate (average winter temperature - 2oC and summer highs of 40 oC) the increased contact tended to homogenise the native way of life across Patagonia, with the Mapuche exerting a strong influence. Tehuelche ate horsemeat and drank mare’s blood as well as using horse bones/ skin to make tools and build shelters. Horses enabled them to make contact with neighbouring Mapuche tribes and European settlers, establishing trade. Horses were an important status symbol, and when a tribesman died, his horses and dogs were killed. Northern Tehuelche used the tendons, and skin of horses to produce household items and cover their dwellings, replacing guanaco skins. The horse tack they manufactured became increasingly elaborate, evolving into a major art form. Guanaco remained important for meat bones and skin, used to make clothes and blankets. Tehuelche often painted their bodies for ritual ceremonies. Their guanaco-skin capes (kais/ quillangos) were decorated inside with bright, geometric patterns (points, circles, keys, etc), simple figures or hand prints. They gathered edible and medicinal plants, and seafood from the coast. The women were responsible for domestic tasks (collecting firewood and water), erecting the shelters, raising the children, curing the skins, decorating the blankets, bags, and belts. The men hunted and made tools and weapons, but spent quite a lot of time eating, resting and playing games. They played a card game called berrica/ birk, which they probably learned from sailors on passing ships. They made cards of guanaco skin decorated with their own motifs and dice from the bones of huemul. In the 17/18th C, ethnic Tehuelche groups of the pampas, Puelche, Ranquel and northern Aonikenk, made contact with the Mapuche, trading in Mapuche textiles from Nahuel Huapi. Tehuelche contact with Europeans developed from occasional bartering to regular trade in established locations, such as Dinamarquero. The Tehuelche (or Aónik’enk) language, and its many dialects, dwindled with the Araucanisation of Patagonia, as the Mapuche language (Mapudungan) was adopted by many Tehuelche tribes 1550-1850. Indeed, 'Tehuelche' itself is a Mapudungan word, meaning ‘brave people’. Tehuelche were considered giants by Spaniards during Magellan's voyage of 1520. The name Patagonia comes from the word patagón used by Magellan to describe the native people whom his expedition thought to be giants; the Tehuelche average height of 1.80 m comparing to 1.55 m of an average Spaniard. The advent of Patagonian sheep farming in 1876 had a detrimental impact upon the Tehuelche as new ranches encroached on their territory, and traditional hunting grounds were transformed into pasture. In 1878, the Argentine government began to grant concessions to colonists. By 1884/5 ranches were established in the southern part of Tehuelche territory and large tracts of land were fenced off for sheep ranching. Between 1876-93, the indigenous people saw most of their territory occupied by colonists, as the traditional hunting grounds also happened to be the best pastureland. This forced the Tehuelche to break into smaller units and adapt to this new configuration. They were decimated by new diseases and alcohol and their exclusion from their traditional lands, for which they could not obtain legal title as they were not deemed citizens with rights. The Conquest of the Desert in the 1870s led by General Roca, aimed to assert Argentinian dominance in Patagonia, and resulted in the killing of over 1000 native people, and driving thousands away. Some Tehuelche communities abandoned their traditional nomadic life to collaborate with the settlers, rearing sheep and trading horses, establishing strong links with Welsh settlers. By early 1890 there were 6 autonomous groups, each with 300-400 members. These amalgamated into larger units, and by 1893 there were just 3 Tehuelche communities. Two were forced to abandon their nomadic way of life as the guanaco population was reduced by the expansion of sheep ranching. The Tehuelche established trade relations with the colonists, choosing to breed and trade horses, raise sheep and cattle, or take paid employment in nearby ranches. Though some Patagonian communities still claim Tehuelche heritage today, diseases, alcohol, and the loss of land, contributed to the ultimate extinction of the Tehuelche tribes. The last Gününa’küna (northern Tehuelche) speaker died in 1960, and there are only a few Aónik’enk (southern Tehuelche) speakers today in Patagonia, the last pure-blood dying in 1982.
Aonikenk mythology
The Aonikenk have an almighty creator god called Kooch, who created the stars and the forces of nature. Day and night was explained as the constant pursuit of the Sun-Man and Moon-Woman, each fighting for the right to control the day. The Aonikenk believed in malicious spirits, Gualichu, associated with the night, who were able to adopt the appearance of humans. The evil Azshen could also appear human. He was the owner of Calafate and lived deep in the forest close to the lakes. When in human form he entered human bodies and created disease. Miap invoked panic and brought bad luck. He lived in caves and appeared in the form of a cold wind after sunset, when he would put out fires and kill birds. Miap’s twin, Kelenken could transform into a raptor and spread infection. Noshtex was a principal figure in Aonikenk mythology. He was an evil being who kidnapped and raped Cloud-Woman, bringing floods. Kooch was angered and decreed that if Cloud-Woman had a son he would be powerful enough to complete the creation of the universe. She bore Elal, who created humans, but Elal’s conception so enraged Noshtex that he ripped out Cloud-Woman’s womb in an attempt to destroy the foetus. The Aonikenk saw this event reflected in crimson sunrises. Noshtex’s plan to kill the infant Elal was frustrated by his grandmother who hid him on a secret island in the east where Kooch lived with all the world’s animals. Living with Kooch gave Elal inspiration and when he grew up a swan carried him to the summit of Chalten Mount (Fitz Roy), accompanied by some animals who fed and protected him; Guanaco, Nandu, Condor. He was further helped by Sun and Moon. Elal defeated Noshtex. He met Karro, the morning star, and their union created the human race. Facial and body paints were applied daily as protection from the elements and for special ceremonies as well as tattoos. People wore hidden amulets and talismans for medicinal magic. Tehuelche performed rituals to celebrate birth, death, marriage, and rites of passage for females were especially important. When a Tehuelche man died, the cadaver was placed a blanket with red clay. On the tomb they erected a mound of stones called a chenque and afterwards never again pronounced the deceased person’s name. In some regions, individuals were buried in rocky shelters and covered in red paint.

Kaweskar (Kawésqar, Alacalufes, Halakwulup) were nomadic Patagonians in Torres del Paine. They arrived by canoe in the 15th century, setting up and dismantling semi-circular huts, leaving no trace behind. Fewer than 10 pure-blood Kaweskars remain. Kaweskars, which means 'human' in their language, are sometimes called Alacalufes. Halakwulup is Yahgan for “mussel eater”. There are two theories regarding their arrival in Patagonia:
1. south from the islands of Chiloé
2. north from the islands in the Strait of Magellan
They covered a vast area, from the Guaitecas Islands south of Chiloé to Clarence Island in the Strait of Magellan. Families travelled by canoe and constructed igloo-shaped domes from Oak or Winters Bark covered with seal or otter skins. Occasionally families would join together to eat a whale. Tools, bows, arrows, canoes and shelters were made from wood, stone, whalebone, shell and animal skin. Like the Yahgan, the Kawésqar were a nomadic seafaring (canoe) people.

Their canoes, 8m long x 1m wide, held a family and its dog. Their population never exceeded 5,000. Kaweskar communities had no hierarchy and were formed by self-sufficient families who married for love and practiced monogamy. Their first contact with Europeans came in the 16th century (explorers). By 1880 Europeans had settled in Patagonia in their quest for gold, furs and wool, displacing or slaughtering Kaweskars. Coupled with new diseases, they were almost extinct by the 1920’s. In 1884 George Despard, the adoptive father of Thomas Bridges, an Anglican missionary based in Ushuaia compiled a 1200-word vocabulary for the Kawésqar language. Known tribal names: Adwipliin, Aksánas, Alacaluf, Cálen(ches), Caucahue, Enoo, Lecheyel, Taíjataf, Yequinahuere. They continued a nomadic life until the 1930s, when they were moved into settlements on Brunswick Peninsula and Tierra del Fuego (Wellington, Santa Inés, and Desolación Islands), later moving further south to Puerto Natales and Punta Arenas. In the 1930s the few remaining Kaweskars settled on Wellington Island and today a small group still live on the island in a remote, road-less hamlet, Villa Puerto Eden, accessible only by boat. In 2008 the death of the last Kaweskar-speaker brought a lot of media attention.
In Kawesqar West Patagonia is known as wæs and divided into two sections from east to west: Jáutok (inland channels and land to the east) and Málte (coastal channels and Pacific coast). Within this, the Kaweskar had tribal divisions: Kaweskar of the north (Gulf of Penas-Adalberto Channel) were Sælam; immediate south (Adalberto Channel-Nelson Strait) were Kčæwíte; around Ultima Esperanza were Kelælkčes; and in Skyring-Otway Sounds and Magellan Strait were Tawókser. The groups all had the same lifestyle, although they had a different dialects and vocab, eg in the north, mussel is akčáwe, while in the south it’s qápok. Due to the large area, early explorers thought groups they met in one area were different from those previously met elsewhere, so gave them different names. Also, as explorers came from various European countries, different names were used. Robert Fitz-Roy, exploring Tierra del Fuego in the Beagle, was the first to describe a group of indigenous people living west of the Beagle Channel and Strait of Magellan with the name Alikhoolip. From this various spellings evolved: (h)alikulip, halakwulup, alakulof, alikkolif, alakaluf and alacalufe. Maybe Fitz-Roy heard halí ku(o) halíp (down here), as the people shouted from their canoes up to the deck of the ships. Alternatively the English initially adopted the name Alacaluf/ Halakwulup, used by the Yahgan, a competing indigenous tribe whom he met first. In 1881, European anthropologists took 11 Kawéskar to be exhibited in Paris and Berlin. Only 4 returned to Chile. Early in 2010, the remains of the others were repatriated and the president of Chile formally apologised for the state having allowed these indigenous people to be exhibited and treated like animals.
The Kawésqar supreme being is Xolás, the creator of everything, including traditions and morals and directed human lives. There was a natural order in nature, and any rupture was caused by a spirit, the ajajéma/Ayayema. Illness, bad weather, nightmares, etc were of his making. The ajajéma didn’t bring these because he wanted to hurt humans, but his footsteps caused disturbances as he passed, unaware that humans were there. Kaweskars forbade their children from playing once night had fallen, because the noise could attract the ajajéma. He could take away the os (soul), and leave only the aksæmhar (life force). Dreams were seen as the link between this world and “the beyond”. Kawésqar morality was based on the principle that ‘each person is his own neighbour’. The kalakai, a coming of age ceremony for both men and women aimed to provide moral and practical instruction in the skills an adult would need to live an independent life. Initiation candidates, aged 14-18, gathered with their families in a large dwelling. An individual, usually an elder, was selected to conduct the ceremony, teaching the moral codes handed down by Xolás. The event usually took place when a whale had beached on the shore, providing food for all participants for the ceremony, which could last 6-10 weeks. The Kawésqar also had a secret men-only ceremony, similar to the Yaghan’s Kina ceremony. The Kawésqar’s shaman, the Owurkan, was called upon to cure illness, predict the weather and provide spiritual guidance. An individual close to death was taken to a comfortable place to spend his or her final days. The corpse was wrapped in leather, and buried face down near the dwelling in a grave 20cm deep and covered with branches, leaves and rocks. Their belongings were burned and the burial site avoided. On death, the person would be transformed into a jeksólok (spirit), which would go to hótk'a álowe (beyond the horizon). No missionaries went to West Patagonia. The only member of the Roman Catholic church was Father Torres, who made several journeys in the 1940s, baptised some Kawesqar and made them repeat prayers they didn’t understand, but nobody replaced him once he stopped visiting Puerto Eden.

The first tourist to Torres del Paine was British aristocrat Lady Florence Dixie, who arrived with her group in 1879. Led by Avelino Arias and other Baqueanos, she explored the park and in 1880 published a book ‘Across Patagonia’, detailing her adventures. Her observations of the native people are fascinating, as is her vivid description of her first sight of Torres del Paine. Florence desired escape and her thoughts still resonate, to switch off everyday routine and be immersed in nature. Following the publication scientists came to explore the region, interested in the geography and geology. Otto Nordenskjold, after whom Lake Nordenskjold is named, and Carl Skottberg, after whom Lake Skottberg is named, visited at the turn of the century and made notable discoveries. This era also saw the arrival of missionaries such as the Italian Alberto Maria de Agostini, a passionate explorer and mountaineer who had a good relationship with the native Fuegians. The area continued to be owned by the various landlords of the ‘estancias’ (cattle ranches) until 1959 when the need for land conservation led to the creation of Grey Lake National Park. In 1961 it was extended and in 1970 the 242,242 hectare park was declared a protected area and named Torres del Paine National Park. In 1975 the park administration was taken over by Chile’s National Forestry Service (CONAF) who manage the park today and run its visitor information centres.

The Chonos occupied the islands of Western Patagonia latitude 43°–48° South. This region includes the Chiloé and Chono archipelagos up to Taitao Peninsula and Penas Gulf. These archipelagos were formed from the peaks of the submerged Coastal Mountain Range and are a veritable labyrinth of islands, canals and fiords. The 1047 islands are covered in dense rainforest that makes travel on land difficult, with few beaches for landing. The zone has consistently high rainfall +2000 mm per year and average temperatures of 7°–9o C. The Chonos belonged to the southern canoeist culture and were nomadic seafarers. Their vessels, called dalcas, were central to their way of life and made of three planks bent with fire and formed into a boat shape, with two side planks fitted alongside a longer central plank to form a long, narrow canoe. The planks were sewn together with twisted string made of crushed bark from the bamboo-like culeu plant. The joints were caulked with leaves from the fiaca or mepoa tree and the vessel then covered with maque bark. Their anchors were made of stone and wood. A dalca could hold loads up to 200 quintal (1 quintal= 100 kgs) and 10 crew members, mostly rowers. Sails were used on the boats when the wind was favourable. Early chroniclers mention these vessels, admiring their design and the prowess of their crews. The Chonos divided tasks by sex, with the men responsible for fishing and hunting sea lions, valued not only for their meat but also their fat and oil, from which the Chonos made a special beverage. The men were also responsible for building the group’s huts on land. The younger males hunted birds at night, blinding them in their nests until they fell into the canoes, where they were knocked sense-less. Chono women collected shellfish, both by hand from the seaside rocks and by diving in the ocean. Women divers began their training early, as young as 3 or 4 years old. They collected shellfish in a basket as they swam, holding the handles in their mouths or around their necks. The women also collected seaweed, fungi, eggs and firewood. In the Guaitecas region, the Chonos grew corn (which they used to make a fermented beverage), potatoes and barley, and raised “woolly dogs” (probably guanacos), whose hair they used to make clothes. The Chonos used dogs to help obtain food: some specially trained to dive for fish and chase them into nets held. When a whale beached, the Chonos made use of the meat, skin and baleen. They manufactured spears, clubs and daggers from bone, axes and knives from stone, hooks from wood and nets from the fibre of the quantu tree, as well as blankets and baskets. Historical records mention the occasional use of bows and arrows. Like many tribes in south Chile, the Chonos painted their bodies: They painted their faces red, white and/or black, but used only white paint on their bodies. Chroniclers wrote of woollen or plant fibre tunics, leather or wool capes (probably guanaco) that covered their backs and shoulders; and loincloths of dried seaweed. Sources mention that the women wore skirts of bird feathers tied around their waists. The family was the Chono’s basic social unit within this monogamous and patriarchal culture. The men had great authority over the women. The extended family gathered at coastal camps. Historical accounts mention chiefs or caciques, as elders of the group. As seafaring nomads, the Chonos moved from island to island without having a home base. They spent most of their lives on board their dalcas, moving the entire family to where resources were most plentiful and taking all of their belongings with them. The vessels were dismantled and dragged over land when required. They erected dwellings in the shape of a flattened cone at their temporary camps. These elliptical shaped structures consisted of a series of long, straight branches set into the ground and leaning inward. The branches were tied together at the apex with plant fibres. The Chonos covered the floor of their dwellings with dry branches to keep out the cold, while the structure itself was covered with leaves, skins and bark to keep out the wind. As covering materials were not plant easily obtained, the people took them along in the dalca when they moved. The huts had a single, small entrance, and their size depended on the number of people they housed. The hearth was in the middle to provide heat for warmth and cooking. The huts had no smoke holes, which made them uncomfortable to live in. When a Chono group left a camp, they left the frame in place for future occupants. These temporary camps seem to have been located close to one or more key resources, such as freshwater, and the Chonos used them as a base from which they hunted and gathered resources. Middens have been found at these camp sites due to their frequent consumption of shellfish. Some of these piles of waste shells are up to 100m wide and 4m deep. It is not even known whether the Chono were a single indigenous group or several. Early writers, sailors and missionaries referred to them and left short descriptions of their lifestyle and the vessels they used to navigate the coastal waters. The Chonos are thought to have interacted with the Huilliche people of Chiloé and the Kawashkar further south; some authors suggest that the Chonos were actually a branch of the latter. The first recorded contact between the Chonos and Spanish occurred in 1553. In 1557/8 they were observed and described by the expedition led by Juan Ladrillero and Francisco Cortés Ojeda. Their population was estimated at c1700, more than a few of whom were enslaved to work in the mines of the north by Spanish expeditions that sailed their coastal settlements. This led the Chonos to avoid the more travelled coastal sea routes. Some moved further south into Kawashkar territory, while others found refuge in the Jesuit missions of Chiloé, where a few were baptised in 1608. After he was shipwrecked in the Guaitecas islands in 1741, the English sailor John Byron wrote about the Chonos he encountered and eventually lived with. The last mention of the Chono people was in 1805.

27th Feb Return to Punta Arenas
We left Torres del Paine after lunch and stopped briefly for coffee at Cerro Castillo before dropping a guest off in Puerto Natales. Having driven for a few hours we arrived at a small town called Villa Tehuelches, and stopped for a second drink. Then on for an hour of crossing small rivers and lagunae, before arriving on the shore of the large Laguna Cabeza de Mar. The last stretch took us back to Punta Arenas, where we were dropped off at our hotel. It was a good time for an early dinner at La Luna again, Merluza (hake) followed by a trip to the ocean, where the beautiful sunset gave us a good view of the Tierra del Fuego island.

Posted by PetersF 13:43 Archived in Chile Comments (0)

Chile Punta Arenas and Nao Victoria Museum

Nao Victoria Museum, Goleta Ancud, Salesian Museum

28th Feb Nao Victoria Museum

We asked the hotel to get us a taxi to Museo Nao Victoria, which looked interesting museum. Although a bit of a drive it was very impressive. The Nao Victoria Museum has been open to since 2011. The museum is private, the owner has received the Medal of the President of Chile for his work in promoting national identity during the celebrations for the bicentenary of independence. The museum's goal is to offer the experience of inter-acting with replicas of ships that have contributed to the discovery of the area, its colonisation, or have an historic significance for the Magallanes Region. The replicas were built using traditional shipbuilding techniques. The main collection is the full-size replicas of historic ships on display along the Straits of Magellan. Replicas of weapons and ancient navigation tools are also exhibited as well as copies of documents and books relating to the historic ships and an outdoor shipbuilding workshop. Today the museum has three ship replicas and a lifeboat:
Nao Victoria was a carrack (nau in Portuguese), 27 metres long, 7 metres wide, that was part of the fleet commanded by Ferdinand Magellan that discovered the waterway around southern tip of the South American continent. Later, commanded by Juan Sebastian Elcano, she was the only ship of the five to complete the first-time circumnavigation of the globe. Commanded by Duarte Barbosa, Nao Victoria participated in the Discovery of Chile, being the first to explore the region in 1520, and discovering or naming Patagonia, Cape Virgenes, the Straits of Magellan, Tierra del Fuego, the Pacific Ocean and other milestones. She is one of the most famous ships in history of navigation. Carracks were a revolution in 15th century Western Europe, greatly extending the range of voyages possible, allowing the early exploration of distant lands.
Pablo, the first native baptised in Chile; Magellan in his cabin; cook
James Caird was a lifeboat of the Endurance, adapted by Harry McNish, and sailed from Elephant Island to South Georgia during Sir Ernest Shackleton's 1916 Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition. Many historians consider the feat of the crew of James Caird to be the most impressive of all global navigation.
Schooner Ancud was the ship that, under an 1843 mandate of the President of Chile, Manuel Bulnes, claimed sovereignty over the Strait of Magellan on behalf of Chile's newly independent government, building Fort Bulnes. Commander of the schooner was Captain John Williams Wilson (British-born Chilean). It was built for the purpose in the city of San Carlos de Ancud.
HMS Beagle, a British Navy brig-sloop converted into an exploration vessel. The most famous of her three trips was the second one under the command of Captain FitzRoy. On board was a young Darwin. HMS Beagle remained in the Magellan region for almost 3 years. She is famous for being the ship where Darwin started developing his theory of evolution. The construction of the full-size HMS Beagle replica started in November 2012 and is nearly complete, although as Steve pointed out you would not take it to sea yet!
Antique weapons – The replicas of historic ships are equipped with replicas of ancient firearms such as bombards, cannons, and muskets as well as hand weapons like halberds, crossbows, and swords.
Ancient sailing instruments – In the different areas of the boats there are replicas of Astrolabes, Nocturnals, Quadrants, Jacob's staffs, Ship logs, and Hourglasses.
Copies of original documents – The capitulation and instructions given by Emperor Charles V to Magellan and Ruy Faleiro, the accounts of the Atarazanas Reales de Sevilla on the expenditures and revenues of the expedition, the log of Francisco Albo, copy of Ginés de Mafra book, de Moluccis Insular of Maximilianus Transylvanus, drawings from Antonio Pigafetta’s book, map of Juan de la Cosa, and book Primaleon of Francisco Vasquez of Palmerin.
On 2011, the museum announced the construction of two new replicas in its shipbuilding workshop; the Schooner Ancud, which was completed on 5 September 2012, and the Beagle, still under construction. During 2013 the shipbuilding workshop of the Museum built a one third size scale replica of an 18th-century galleon.
HMS Beagle, Nao Victoria, Schooner Ancud, tiller of Victoria, (left) James Caird

Life-size replica of Magellan’s ship http://naovictoria.cl/?lang=en On the outskirts of Chile’s and the world’s southernmost city, Punta Arenas, lies the Nao Victoria, a museum like no other. A life-size replica of the first ship to successfully circumnavigate the globe, Nao Victoria is Ferdinand Magellan’s historic ship. From Punta Arenas’ downtown, passing massive ship repair yards where actual cruise ships are propped up on stilts for repairs, the Nao Victoria perches by the waterfront peering out across the expansive bay. Designed according to historical records of the ship and using construction techniques of the era, visitors to the Nao Victoria can scramble around the main deck, descend into the shadowy underbelly of the ship, and peer into the captain’s quarters to imagine what it would have been like to inhabit such a ship nearly five centuries ago. The Magellan fleet (5 ships and 260 crewmembers) performed the most extreme adventure. Their voyage took more than 3 years sailing over unknown oceans and uncharted territories. Only 18 of the original crew lived to tell the tale and just one ship finally made its triumphant way back to Europe. This ship, now recreated in Punta Arenas, is historically significant to the world, but even more so to Chilean Patagonia. The Nao Victoria gave birth to Chile and the Strait of Magellan and is one of the four ships that entered the strait. Chile is said to have been discovered by Diego del Mago in the north, but really Magellan had discovered Chile years before from the south. The Nao Victoria named many of the important geographical landmarks in this area: Tierra del Fuego, Bahía Inútil, Isla Magdalena, Cabo de las Once Mil Vírgenes.
Beagle’s wheel james-caird-lifeboat-museo-nao-victoria-punta-arenas-chile_35812278475_o.jpg270_nao-victoria-museo-nao-victoria-punta-arenas-chile_34972082874_o.jpgA second smaller ship, the Ancud was built in Ancud, Chiloé, and was responsible for the first exploration and colonisation of the Chiloé archipelago. Matazi’s biggest project is the construction of the HMS Beagle, the ship on which Charles Darwin sailed through Patagonia as he began forming his theory of evolution. The Beagle is a tremendous piece of work; it’s a higher level of construction due to British carpentry, with extreme detail. Manco says “The Nao Victoria was built in one year and a half; this boat will take two and a half years.” HMS Beagle is under construction in the same shipyard, and available for viewing. The museum is open daily from 9-19, about a 15-minute drive from the city centre. Taxis cost CLP5,000, and drivers are familiar with its location.
We had to walk back to the main road to hail a taxi, but Punta Arenas has loads of taxis, so it didn't take long. We passed back by the black ship, which we learnt was the Torpedero Fresia, a Chilean Navy torpedo boat dating to 1884. Back in the main plaza we wandered down to view the statue that commemorates the arrival of the schooner (goleta) Ancud, whose replica we saw in the museum. The Ancud sailed from Ancud for the estimated seven months journey, to establish Chilean presence and a colony in the Strait of Magellan. On board were 23 crew (20 men, 2 women, 1 child), of which about half would stay in the Magallanes region with the mission of establish a permanent settlement. On the way they met 2 American sealing boats involved in smuggling and reported them to the authorities, saying if they were met them again in Chilean territory without formal permission of local authorities they would confiscate their boats. Continued south, they named any landforms not already on their maps. When they reach Punta Santa Ana, in the Strait, all the crew of the schooner went ashore and took formal possession of the surrounding territory on behalf of Chile and started building Fuerte Bulnes. Before leaving to scout eastward a week later they left in Santa Ana a sign engraved with the words "Republic of Chile" and "Viva Chile!" After scouting the area, and having met a tribe of Tehuelches, they left the strait on 4 Dec. Heading back towards town up the Av Cristobal Colon (Columbus), was a wide park (and the tsunami evacuation route) along the road centre filled with trees, statues and monuments, which was being systematically restored. We ended up on the main shopping street, Gobernador Carlos Bories, and stopped at La Chocolatta http://www.chocolatta.cl for a drink. We’d gone in because of its attractive front, but it turned out to be an historic building, founded by one of the first Swiss immigrants and the first chocolate shop in southern Chile (1905). The formal sepia photo of a stern looking turn-of-the century Swiss family was reproduced in the Salesian Museum later.
Monument to Goleta Ancud (seafront), Inscription to Columbus, monument to Arturo Prat, ancient trees- Av Cristobal Colon
Agustín Arturo Prat Chacón (1848–1879) was a Chilean lawyer and navy officer killed shortly after boarding the Peruvian armoured monitor Huáscar at the naval Battle of Iquique after the Esmeralda, under his command, was rammed by Huascar. Prat, was the first to board the Huáscar. Following his death, his name became a rallying cry for Chilean forces, and Arturo Prat has become a national hero. Prat's name is commemorated on numerous plazas (squares), streets, buildings and other structures in Chile.
The hot chocolate was really rich and I'm glad I passed on Steve’s cake. We headed back towards the Plaza, past the Intendecia Región de Magallanes y La Antártica Chilena, a rather nice 19th century neo-classical building by Antonio Allende housing government offices, next to the cathedral (a yellow brick building erected by the Salesians in the 1900s). As we passed we admired three plaques, one in French to the French Antarctic explorer Jules Sebastien Cesar Dumont d’Urville who visited in 1837. One of the other two was dedicated to the Belgian Antarctic Expedition of 1897-99 headed by Gerlache and including Roald Amundsen. Gerlache was the first expedition to winter in the Antarctic Circle as his ship Belgica was icebound. The last was to explorers who passed through Punta Arenas between 1897-1947, including Scott, Charcot, Shackleton, Pardo, Ellsworth, Wilkins, Byrd and Ronne.
Around the corner one found one of the ubiquitous cafes, Fuente Hamburg, for a pizza (me) and hamburger (Steve). It started to drizzle, so we went back to the hotel to grab a brolly before walking to the Salesian Museum. I had not expected much of this museum, but it was in fact very good. The ground floor on the left showcased all the local flora and fauna (mainly stuffed), including sea creatures such as enormous King crabs. On the right was local prehistory, including an excellent recreation of the Cave of Hands with its ancient petroglyphs. The first floor was dedicated to the ancient people of the area and the mezzanine upper section to European immigrants; all with well selected artefacts and information in both English and Spanish. The Magellanes area, especially Punta Arenas, was heavily settled by Croatian, Swiss and German families, to the point that 1 in 4 inhabitants are of Croatian ancestry and the Bachelet family (Michelle Bachelet is a recent president) are of Swiss extraction. Other, smaller, groups included Italians and Welsh c1890-1920. Then it was Chilean Antarctica and a nice history of Punta Arenas through photographs. The last floor, confusingly called the 2nd but actually below the first was only in Spanish and all about rock, so a bit dull.
The Maggiorino Borgatello Museum has a complete ethnological, historical and biological collection about the strait. The Salesian order missionaries, who had arrived in the region in 1887, had a lot of interaction with local people. In 1893, in Punta Arenas, Father José Fagnano, resolved to create a museum about the valuable cultural and ecological richness of the region. The museum was named after its first curator Father Maggiorino Borgatello. Located on the corner of Bulnes Avenue and Bories Street, next to the María Auxiliadora Sanctuary, the two-storey building opens its gates for visitors to learn about this far southern region. Until 1984, the museum occupied 700 m2, when it was enlarged to 1,700 to include the entire heritage collection. The exhibition is distributed into 4 levels: ethnology, archaeology, history and wildlife. The objects and documents from the Salesian days, native handicrafts and tools, along with the fossils and petrified animals from the area are part of the display. One of the most visited rooms, devoted to Southern Patagonia, displays a faithful recreation of the Cave of the Hands.
The museum planned from the start to show the lifestyle of the native peoples, their environment and the colonisation process. The rooms cover the Ona, Tehuelche, Yámana and Alacalufe cultures, as well as the impact on them of European colonists and pioneers. The museum has several areas devoted to the pioneers themselves, including the times of the gold rush that marked the region in the late 19th century. The museum also houses a collection of personal belongings of Father Alberto De Agostini, great explorer of the area, and the instruments from the first meteorological observatory in Punta Arenas. Photographer, artist and tireless explorer, Salesian priest Alberto De Agostini landed on Punta Arenas in 1910. He toured the entire Patagonian territory until there was not mountain or valley left for him to visit and record, becoming the first cartographer in Patagonia. He was also the first to film the last Onas and Yámanas who dwelled the Magallanes region. He created a collection of images of incalculable anthropological and cultural value. Far from the gold rush and the ambitions of the adventurers who reached the strait, De Agostini was an inspiring example for mountaineers all over the world. Open 10am–12:30pm, 3–5:30pm www.salesianos.cl/Obras/museo-maggiorino-borgatello.html
Having enjoyed the museum more than expected, it had stopped raining by the time we left, so we just wandered the town, had a rest in the hotel and finally headed out for a later dinner at the French restaurant of La Cuisine, which was deliciously French rather than Chilean. Then bed, as we were leaving early the next morning.

The Selk'nam (as the Tehuelche called them) or Onawo/ Ona (as the Yaghan called them), are an indigenous people in Patagonia and the Tierra del Fuego islands. They were one of the last native groups in South America to be encountered by ethnic Europeans in the late 19th century. With the discovery of gold and expansion of sheep farming, the Argentine and Chilean governments began to explore, colonise and integrate the indigenous peoples of Tierra del Fuego. They are considered extinct as a tribe. Juan Gomez/ Keyuk, a Chilean mestizo of part Selk'nam ancestry, has taught himself the language and is now the only speaker. The Selk'nam migrated by canoe as nomadic hunter- gatherers from the mainland to the northeast of Tierra del Fuego, thousands of years ago. Their ancestors were Tehuelches, who lived in Patagonia. Tierra del Fuego was also home to the Yaghan and other canoe people who travelled through the Fuegan Canals, but had very different customs, language, appearance. The Selk'nam were the only ones in the island’s interior and did not depend on the coast for survival. The guanaco was an important resource, hunted for its meat and skin (footwear, clothing and huts). Even though it was very cold, the Selk'nam did not wear a lot of clothing. They hunted with bow, arrow and bolas. They also relied on birds for food and fox fur for capes. For shelter they made cone shaped huts by burying wood poles and covering them with animal skins. The Ona had particularly striking body paint, with different designs for different activities. They attached special importance to the colour red, covering themselves with red akel clay. Activities that determined paint style included rituals, travelling, hunting (camouflage), fighting, skin protection or aesthetics. Their territory in the early Holocene probably ranged as far as the Cerro Toro mountain range in Chile. Traditionally, the Selk'nam were nomads. They dressed sparingly despite the cold climate of Patagonia. They shared Tierra del Fuego with the Haush (Manek'enk), another nomadic culture in the south-east part of the island and the Yámana/ Yahgan. Selk'nam had little contact with ethnic Europeans until settlers arrived in the 1880s.The Argentine government granted parcels of ranching land from the territory and the new-comers turned much of Tierra del Fuego into large estancias (sheep ranches), depriving the natives of their ancestral hunting areas. Selk’nam, who considered the sheep herds to be game rather than private property (a concept they did not understand) hunted the sheep, calling them ‘white guanacos”. The ranch owners considered this poaching, and paid armed militia to hunt and kill the Selk'nam, in what is now called the Selk'nam Genocide. To receive their bounty, they had to bring back the ears of victims. Other Europeans arrived to mine gold, killing the men and raping the women. Salesian missionaries worked to protect and preserve Selk'nam culture. Father José María Beauvoir studied native Patagonian cultures 1881-1924 and compiled a list of 4,000 Selk'nam words. He included a comparative list of 150 Ona-Tehuelche words, as he correctly believed there was a connection to to the Tehuelche people/ language to the north (both Chon languages). By 1885, the Selk'nam, pushed south, entered into conflict with other tribes over territory. Religious missions purposed to convert and "civilise" the natives, but instead brought disease. They were intended to provide housing and food, but closed due to the small number of Selk'nam remaining; they had numbered in the thousands, but by the early 20th c only a few hundred remained. The Selk'nam were displaced and almost fully eradicated, taken to zoos and treated as sub- human. In 1974 Ángela Loij, the last full-blood Selk'nam, died, leaving only descendants of partial Selk'nam ancestry. There are still some people in Tierra del Fuego whose grandparents were Selk'nam, all that remains of a group estimated c3,500-4,000 in 1880. The Selk'nam were assassinated, died of sickness or were deported. Some even died during a combat among Selk'nam themselves at the beginning of the 20th century.
Selk'nam with Fuegian dogs (now extinct)
The Hain was the Selk'nam male initiation to adulthood. Nearby indigenous peoples, the Yahgan and Haush, had similar initiation ceremonies. Young males were called to a dark hut where they were attacked by "spirits" (people dressed as supernatural beings). Their task was to unmask the spirits; then they were told the story of creation (below). Men showed their strength in front of women by fighting spirits in theatrical fights. Each spirit was played with traditional actions, words and gestures, so everyone could identify it. Apart from the re-enactments of mythic events, the Hain involved tests for courage, resourcefulness, resisting temptation, resisting pain and fear. The Hain could last up to a year, ending with a fight against the "worst" spirit. Hains were started when there was enough food (eg a washed up whale), so all the Selk'nam bands could gather at one place, in male and female camps. "Spirits" sometimes went to female encampments to scare them, acting as their characters. The last Hain was held early 20th c, and was photographed by Martin Gusinde.
Shoort, an important male spirit is most feared by women. He is the husband of Xalpen. During the Hain, he shows up everyday. He has 7 attributes, personified by the same person with a different name, body paint pattern and mask. Since the Shoort spirit was made of stone, whoever represents him can’t show his breathing. He has clenched fists and stiff movements. When he calls that he is going outside the hut, women run to their houses and hide beneath guanaco covers. He is always accompanied by a shaman who covers his footprints in the snow. If a wife is not behaving, he shakes or topples the hut. When he goes back to the Hain hut, the women sing, he flexes his biceps and disappears by jumping inside.
Sate (South) was most commonly represented. He is painted white, to represent the snow in the south. From the top of the mask down is a thick red line, with white dots inside. He exercises universal power and has existed since before time. No one created him and he has never come to Earth. He has no body and Selk'nam are not allowed to talk of him. If his commands (with Kenos as proxy) are not followed, he brings disease and death.
Top line 1.Kayalls/Keyaisl (North) 2. Yoisik (South) 3. Wakus (East) 4. Talen (North) 5. Pawus (North) 6. Sanu (West)
Bottom line 1. Tanu 2. Kataix 3. Matan 4. Kosmenk 5. Ulem 6. Keternen

Xalpen, the most important female spirit, dominates both men and women. She is half rock, half flesh and represented by a 20 ft structure rarely shown to the public. The man inside the Hain hut shake the walls, scream and fans the fire so it shoots out the top. She is dangerous, cannibalistic, and capricious. During the era of hoowin and the feminine Hain, Xalpen emerged from her subterranean abode, through fire, into the ceremonial hut. She demanded guanaco meat and hoowin men brought it so she would not demand human flesh. She would stuff the food into a large guanaco bag, painted with red bands. In human time, women were told the kloketens (initiates) had been ordered to hunt guanaco for her, but she had thrown herself on a kloketen and split him open, neck to abdomen, with the long nail of her index finger. Men shouted from inside, saying their sons were dead.
Kotaix (male). When Xalpen appears, Kotaix hides in the deep Earth and men chant for him to return to scare her away. Men are scared of him and prepare snowballs when they call him. Kotaix can be humorous if in a good mood. Hoshtan (female). Some males come out from the Hain hut and start walking like penguins. The younger women try to knock them down. The males try to resist, and when a woman pushes a man down she goes to the next man. The game ends when all males have been "killed". Keteren (male or female) Child of Xalpen and a kloketen. This spirit is covered with plumes, and is the nicest of the spirits. Women hear the welcoming chants of the men and call for him to come out of the hut. Acting as a newborn s/he can barely walk and appears at the end of the Hain.
Kulan (female) hides in the forest and seduces people. She is always accompanied by emperor penguins, and, after having sex, gives away penguin eggs. She visits the Hain at night where she is personified by a kloketen, because she is young and skinny. Koshmenk (male) is Kulan's cuckolded husband. Usually personified by 4 men, he is an object of ridicule, especially by women. At the hain, he stands unmoving for up to 4 hours. He leaves the hut, looking for his wife. If he returns and does not find his ‘wife’ inside, he pushes men around, tossing them into trees, hanging them from posts and yelling.

For thousands of years (until 1933 when the last Hain was performed), young Selk'nam or Haush men were initiated in the Hain hut where the secret was revealed that the Hain spirits were only men disguised to deceive the women. During the long months of the ceremony, the adolescent initiates (kloketens) became adults. In order to achieve this, they submitted to physical and moral ordeals, and the elders instructed them in the traditions of hoowin, the origins of the universe. They were taught how to behave, comply with their family and community obligations, and confess any error against the moral code during their adolescence, though they were not punished for past wrongdoings. They were taken on hunting expeditions by their elders, and later forced to go alone. 15-20 men were selected to act as the Hain spirits, although a few spirits were not represented.
Xo'on were the shamans of Selk'nam society. They would perform rituals such as Chowh-toxen (water-dry) to stop bad weather. A group of men undressed and put grass crowns on their heads, then made a circle by putting their arms around their shoulders. They encircled a pond of water and spun one way, increasing in speed, then the other way. Young women threw water at their backs and older women sang. If there was no water, the women threw snowballs. When the women tired, the men went back into the hut. The ritual was repeated until the weather improved. The shaman knew when the Moon would eclipse and called the people of their haruwin. The women painted their bodies with red clay, their faces with bands of white clay from nose to ears, and beat the ground with rolled guanacos skins and chanted to appease the Moon. The xo'on painted a red circle on each cheek, put a crown of feathers on his head, and dressed in a long guanaco cape. The shaman chanted to send his spirit (waiuwin) to visit the Moon like an eagle (kex). When his waiuwin arrived, the Moon sat in the south corner of the universe (South Sky), in a space with 4 tree trunks representing the outer space of the universe, the four skies of the heavens. The Moon told him if he could sit. Those allowed to sit took their place in the corner which corresponded to their sky affiliation on earth, and would live, being given a round object: a stone, piece of wood or even guanaco skin in his mouth. But xo'on denied permission to sit were in her shadow, and condemned. On earth the shaman who saw his headdress in shadow, or its feathers soaked with blood, realised he would soon die.
Creation myth
The Selk’nam, like the related Haush, derived their beliefs from their Patagonian ancestors, the Tehuelches (so Aonikenk Patagonian myths are similar). According to Selk'nam mythology, all nature, atmospheric phenomena, elements in the sky and animals were once humans, transformed into mountains, rivers, animals, etc. Temaukel is the Supreme Being, who existed before Earth. Temaukel sent Kenos/Quenos (ancestor) to build the world. Kenos created the earth, mountains, waterways, skies. Since there wasn't much light, Kenos created Kreeh and Kreen, the Moon and Sun, and asked Sun to brighten the sky at noon and leave in the afternoon to be replaced by Moon. The sky was very close to the Earth so Kenos pushed it up. Kenos grabbed a haruwenthos (patch of grass mixed with soil), squeezed out the water and planted it back to form a Sees (male genital). Then he grabbed a lump of soil and formed Asken (female genital) and left it there. At every sunset, Sees and Asken joined and a human was born. The humans grew and created new humans. Kenos taught these first Selk'nam their language. When Kenos got old he tried to start a dream of metamorphosis, a "sleep-death" where you woke up young again. When this failed, Kenos and three others went north. When they got tired they stopped and asked others to wrap them inside their capes and bury them. They stayed buried for a long time and when they awoke, were young again. When the rest of the Selk'nam saw this, they did the same. However, not everyone woke from their dream and instead transformed into hills, animals, waterways. When it was Kenos' time, everyone who had stayed with him populated the sky as stars. Moon-woman (Kreeh) myth saw her transformed from supernatural woman (on earth) into a celestial being, justifying Selk’nam patriarchal society. Woman-power was expressed in this myth with such strength that men felt a reinstallation of matriarchy as an ever-present threat. Sun was the ideal patriarchal symbol: luminous and reliable. Moon was seen as unreliable because she appeared in different forms, places and times in the celestial dome, or not at all. She was a danger especially in an eclipse or became red with anger against men, and particularly to shamans. When the gods inhabited the earth. The universe was encircled by immense cordilleras, the 4 "skies" or cardinals, abodes of the most powerful supernatural beings, and invisible to all but shaman. At first the world was a matriarchy and powerful female shaman and women dominated men. The great male shamans: Sun, Wind, Rain and Snow, and all the other hoowin men were assigned humble chores: carrying burdens when families moved camp site, cooking, childcare, fetching water, etc, besides hunting and providing the necessities of life. The young hoowin women were initiated into their social position by means of the Hain ceremony. Older women disguised themselves as spirits, using tall masks which reached their shoulders or knees and painting their bodies with red, white and black lines and circles of different sizes to symbolise their identity. The disguises and their movements represented so exactly the "real" spirits that men had never doubted that spirits had come to partake in the ceremony. Each time the ceremony was performed the men saw the spirits in solidarity with the women, giving approval to the matriarchy. However, one day three hoowin men crept into the Hain hut to spy on the women. They were shocked to see a woman painting herself as Matan spirit. They realised the truth and whistled to alert other men waiting outside. At that moment the ‘Matan’ woman was transformed into the black-necked swan (the same as the body and mask of Matan; half white/ half black). When the women heard the whistle they extinguished the sacred fire in the centre of the Hain hut, fearing the men were about to attack. The hoowin men who had whistled transformed into the oyster- catcher (sit), ibis (kehke) and crown sparrow (chechu). As all 3 were spies, as birds they move in silence, looking in all directions and the oyster-catcher still whistles as a sign of alert. The men were outraged by the revelation that women had held them in servitude through a hoax. The bravest (later Sun) attacked the women in the Hain hut, striking his shaman wife (later Moon) with a burning log and the entire firmament trembled. He ceased before the third strike, fearing that if he killed her, the heavens would collapse. Other men attacked, killing their wives and daughters. One man, who became the flightless steamer-duck (tari), tried in vain to save his daughter. Another, who transformed into a cormorant (keyáishk), fought against the hoowin man who became a hawk (caracara Spanish, karskai Selk’nam) to save his daughter. Only girls and babies survived because they were innocent. Tamtam, the daughter of Moon and Sun, was killed by her father and became a canary. The great matriarch shaman escaped with her face badly burnt. She fled from the earth, transforming herself into the Moon. Her husband pursued her through the heavens and became the Sun. Every month Moon re-lives the event. She appears full, disfigured by scars (moon spots). The great matriarch was the only the woman of the female Hain who retained her personality. All the other hoowins (women and men) were transformed into different animals, especially birds. After the massacre, the men and children departed beyond the seas to the East, weeping. They journeyed for centuries, passing by the cordilleras beyond the seas; to the North Sky, West Sky and finally returned to earth through South Sky. Sho'on-tam, the daughter (tam) of the sky (sho’on) fled to South Sky with her brother Hosh (Snow). West Sky became the residence of Sun and his brother, Shénu (Wind) and North Sky was claimed by Chálu (Rain), Kox (Ocean), and their sister O'oké (Storm). Others became the Pleiades, Orion and Venus. East Sky was the centre of the celestial universe, where Pémaulk (Word) lived, whose cordillera was the greatest of all, the ultimate challenge to shaman attempting to ascend it during a trance. Each of the hoowins was associated with a cardinal point or sky (shó'on) and had his/her own territory, haruwin. (Later, the Selk'nam classed themselves according to the skies too, through their father's side). The haruwin of Moon, for example, was Apen, located in central-southern part of the island, at the foot of a cordillera. The hoowin men founded their own Hain and Selk'nam men guarded the secret of the Hain in order to subjugate the women. Thus the patriarchal society originated. In human society Selk'nam women took the place of the hoowin men. In theory the secret of the Hain was kept from the female population. If a woman discovered the truth, she would be ‘killed’ by the power of a shaman, but did not die.
Owl-woman: During the era of hoowin, K’uumits’ husband hunted guanacos but his wife did not like guanaco meat. One day she killed her brother-in-law with a harpoon, cut up his body, roasted it and began to eat it. When she heard her husband returning she hid it under the guanaco skin bed covers. He searched for his brother, finding his hip bones. Instantly K'uumits was transformed into the owl (sank'on) and flew out into the night laughing. Owl belongs to South Sky, like Moon and inhabits her territory, Apen. K’uumits husband transformed into a sparrow (cheip) who belonged to West sky, like Sun. The owl laughs today, pleased at taking vengeance on her husband by eating his brother. The Selk’nam regarded the owl as sacred and were prohibited from eating or hunting it, believing that a soul, on death, would become an owl.
Murdered for being like Owl-Woman: The Selk'nam of the territory of Apen (south Río Grande in Lake Deseado) were called kreeh-unka (inka- of the haruwin- place -Kreeh the Moon). In the 19th century, before Europeans, a woman, Waa-an adored the Moon. Waa-an's husband beat her, so she armed herself with a harpoon, but her brother-in-law arrived and snatched the harpoon from her saying, "You were going to attack my brother, like K'uumits" and killed her.
The man seized by Moon-woman: One of the last "victims" of Moon-woman was Kauopr, the Kamshkinu-xo'on of the haruwin (village) Kamshkin (a hill on the border of Argentina/ Chile). In the 1880s 8-10 families lived in Kamshkin. Kauopr had inherited shamanistic power from his father. During a lunar eclipse, his spirit made the trip to Moon- woman. She showed him a bunch of blood soaked grass, and he felt he had been kreeh-chinen (seized by the Moon), convinced that Moon was going to "eat" him. Soon after a group of men arrived on horseback intending to take the families to the Salesian mission on Dawson Island. Somehow several Selk'nam men, including Kauopr were killed.
The Selk'nam depended on hunting/ gathering and made tools from stone, bone and wood. Given the climate and nature of the soil agriculture was impossible in Tierra del Fuego. The guanaco was their main game along with various little burrowing animals such as the rodent, Ctenomys fueguinus/ tucutuco. Guanaco skin was used to make tents and clothing as was rodent fur, or less frequently fox fur. They gathered mussels, eggs, berries, roots, seeds and mushrooms. They hunted birds and seals, fished in the lagoons and along the coast and took advantage of beached whales. They were monogamous, living in extended family groups. As they moved from one campsite to another, the man in the lead carried his bow and arrows, his wife followed with the domestic utensils and often a baby attached to her back in a cradle of wood boards. As they went, they stopped where they expected to find game or fish. They were familiar with the landscape and gave names to all its topographical features. Extended patrilineal/ patrilocal families and lineages (of 3-4 generations) inhabited a specific terrain, or haruwin, whose limits were (generally) respected by the neighbours. Even people from distant territories knew one another, because they had many opportunities to meet. When a whale beached the first to arrived lit fires to signal everyone to come and partake. When they met they had races, wrestling matches or proved their dexterity with the bow and arrow by shooting at a volunteer who demonstrated his ability to dodge the blunted arrows. When a famous person died, people from far away were notified by fires and flocked to his haruwin. Barter attracted people from distant haruwins; a date was set through a messenger from the host and people came to exchange stones used to ignite fire (pyrite), for tools, wood for bows and arrows, supports for tents, feathers for headdresses, large shells to scoop up water, tiny shells for making necklaces, etc. They met for ritual combat lasting from a few hours to several days. The battles were in earnest; men might be killed or wounded and the victors often captured women who however usually escaped home. The shamans, xo'on, from different haruwins, met in public to participate in competitions of spiritual power, chanting their mystical traditions in a state of trance. The most prestigious ordeal of a xo'on consisted in pushing an arrow with a wooden point, under the skin, just below the shoulder blade, dragging it slowly across his chest and out at the waist, without losing blood.
The Haush/ Manek'enk were an indigenous people, considered the oldest inhabitants of Tierra del Fuego. They spoke the Haush language and their name for themselves was Manek'enk. At the time of European encounter, they inhabited the far east tip of the island on Mitre Peninsula. Land to their west was occupied by the Selk'nam, a related linguistic and cultural group (both from Patagonian Tehuelches). Unlike the Selk’nam, the Haush were a mainly peaceful. They made regular hunting trips to Isla de los Estados. The Haush were nomadic hunters, mainly of guanaco. They used every part of it, making clothing out of the skin. They shared many customs with their neighbours the Selk'nam, including small bows and stone-tipped arrows, clothing from the skins of animals, and the initiation ritual called hain. Their languages, part of the Chonan family, were similar. Their version of the Hain myth relates that Sun discovered the "spirits" were only women in disguise when at the beginning of the ceremony he found a young woman pasting tiny feathers on her body to represent the spirit K'térrnen. When she realised that Sun had seen her she plunged into a waterfall and transformed into a little duck (ko'oklol) who lives near waterfalls. The Haush appear to have only ever been a small group, never numbering more than 500. They were pushed out by the arrival of the Selk’nam (who came from the same ethnic group as themselves in Patagonia). It’s unclear how much earlier the Haush arrived than the Selk’nam. Physically, the Haush were tall and striking, similar to the Selk’nam, and quite different to the shorter Yamana to the west. They probably migrated down the east side of the continent, unlike the Yamana canoe people of the western side of the continent. Although from the same language group, Haush and Selk’nam were not mutually intelligible. Much of what we know about the Haush has been extrapolated from the Selk’nam as many traditions overlapped. However, it is clear that the Haush were a distinct people, probably representing a remnant population who preceded Selk’nam settlement of Tierra del Fuego. Selk’nam and Haush society was divided into categories: tribe (“skies,” sho’on), kindred (sóker), local territorial lineage (haruwin), and extended family (aksa) that lived together in 1 or 2 huts. There were 11 Haush lineages. The Haush were apparently not sea- going, unlike their neighbours to the west. It is not clear if they were the people who ventured over to Isla de los Estados, just to the east of their territory. Their most important ritual was the hain, a coming-of-age celebration. Other celebrations included a ritual gift exchange called peshere. An unusual form of redistribution took place during this ceremony, which was undoubtedly specifically Haush (as it was recorded by a researcher). The shamans met to compete in performing various ordeals in a state of trance, chanting with intense concentration. One ordeal consisted in walking barefoot over burning coals, which Selk’nam never practiced. The entire community, including women and children, participated in the ceremony, particularly the finale. Various belongings had been brought to the ritual enclosure; guanaco capes, baskets, etc. At a given moment the adults, including the shamans, began throwing goods at one another, probably aiming at certain men or their wives, in a cheerful atmosphere. A “gift” received could be thrown on to someone else. Some kept the “gifts”, others were not picked up by anyone and left in the enclosure to rot. This is an unusual form of redistribution, as the objects were not destined to benefit anyone in particular.
“The most important member of the Haush after Kaushel, was the healer/shaman Teninisk. He passed through Estancia Haberton several times, in the company of Haush, as he was half Haush. He was athletic and broad shouldered although small, about 1.2m.... The woman Leluwhachin was well educated and friendly. She was the only one woman I know to whom magical powers were attributed, although many Yaganes women were considered witches. She originally belonged to an elusive clan wandering between the mountain ranges behind Haberton and Ushuaia.” Lucas Bridges. He found the Haush feared their Selk’nam and Yamana neighbours, and concluded the Haush had been driven to their inhospitable corner of the island recently, living in forests and swamps. He discovered that the Selk’nam and Haush languages were quite different. The details of the Selk’nam genocide are well known, and graphic photographs exist of hunting parties led by Romanian engineer Julius Popper. The atrocities became an international scandal, but hunting continued in secret into the 20th century. The more remote Haush population were extinct by the 1920s, probably also hunted. After the genocide, Haush and Selk’nam survivors congregated around Lake Fagnano, in the south of Grand Island Tierra del Fuego; the two groups effectively merged, making distinguishing between the two cultures and languages difficult. The final blow was the 1920s measles epidemic, killing the remaining populations. The last hain ceremony was held in 1923, and filmed by Gusinde.

Posted by PetersF 14:25 Archived in Chile Comments (0)

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