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Peoples of Southern Patagonia

  • MC0012590


Between the island of Chiloe and Cape Horn many indigenous peoples inhabited an enormous ritual and cultural wealth. In the nineteenth century they were disappearing until its total extinction in contact with Western civilization.

The prehistory of this part of Patagonia, was characterized by two major currents of settlement: terrestrial hunters in the eastern steppe areas and maritime canoeists, inhabitants of the forest environment and humid western archipelagos.

These two great cultural units, although they lived in different ecological niches, made contact in various buffer zones and exchanged experiences, evolving over time to lead to four main ethnic groups:

Terrestrial hunters

Terrestrial hunters occupied the southern Patagonian steppe and the northern and eastern south of the island of Tierra del Fuego areas. These nomadic groups were followed for about 11,000 years, to be in historical centuries two separate ethnic groups.The Southern Tehuelche ethnic, called by his own people as Aonikenk, based in the continental pampa, roughly between Santa Cruz River in Argentina and the Strait of Magellan; or Selknam and Onas in Tierra del Fuego.

Sea hunters

For their part, canoeists nomadic groups, were fishermen, shellfish and marine hunters, whose age in the region dates back to 6000 years.These populations evolved to form in recent centuries ethnic Alakaluf or Kaweskar, inhabitant of the islands, fjords and channels between the Gulf of Penas and Brecknock Peninsula; Yagana and Yamana or ethnicity, preferably located on the shores of the Beagle Channel and southern islands until Cape Horn.
Terrestrial hunters and maritime canoeists, were affected from the second half of the nineteenth century, rapid extinction, caused by direct or indirect action of modern colonization of these lands, being displaced from their original territories or die contagious diseases carried by European and unknown in America.

  • MC0012588