Tehuelche, Yaghan and Selknam Peoples will be the Key of ISLAM in Tierra del Fuego, Patagonia and the Falklands (Malvinas) Argentina and Chile
Tehuelche is a Mapuche language word meaning “Fierce People”. They were also called Patagones by Spanish explorers, who found large footprints made by the tribes on the Patagonian beaches. These large footprints were actually made by the guanaco leather boots that the Tehuelche used to cover their feet.
It is possible that the stories of the early European explorers about the Patagones, a race of giants in South America, are based on the Tehuelche, because the Tehuelche were typically tall, taller than the average European of the time. According to the 2001 census [INDEC], 4,300 Tehuelche lived in the provinces of Chubut and Santa Cruz, and an additional 1,637 in other parts of Argentina. There are now no Tehuelche tribes living in Chile, though some Tehuelche were assimilated into Mapuche groups over the years.
Patagonia (Spanish pronunciation: [pa.ta.ˈɣo.ni̯a]) is a sparsely populated region located at the southern end of South America, shared by Argentina and Chile. The region comprises the southern section of the Andes mountains as well as the deserts, steppes and grasslands east of this southern portion of the Andes. Patagonia has two coasts; a western one towards the Pacific Ocean and an eastern one towards the Atlantic Ocean.
The Colorado and Barrancas rivers, which run from the Andes to the Atlantic, are commonly considered the northern limit of Argentine Patagonia. The archipelago of Tierra del Fuego is sometimes included as part of Patagonia. Most geographers and historians locate the northern limit of Chilean Patagonia at Reloncaví Estuary.
Tierra del Fuego (/tiˈɛərə dɛl ˈfweɪɡoʊ/, Spanish: [ˈtjera ðel ˈfweɣo]; Spanish for “Land of Fire“) is an archipelago off the southernmost tip of the South American mainland, across the Strait of Magellan. The archipelago consists of the main island, Isla Grande de Tierra del Fuego, with an area of 48,100 km2 (18,572 sq mi), and a group of many islands, including Cape Horn and Diego Ramírez Islands. Tierra del Fuego is divided between Chile and Argentina, with the latter controlling the eastern half of the main island and the former the western half plus the islands south of Beagle Channel. The southernmost extent of the archipelago is at about latitude 55 S.
The earliest known human settlement in Tierra del Fuego dates to around 8,000 B.C. Europeans first explored the islands during Ferdinand Magellan‘s expedition of 1520; Tierra del Fuego and similar namings stem from sightings of the many bonfires that the natives built. Settlement by those of European descent and the great displacement of the native populations did not begin until the second half of the 19th century, at the height of the Patagonian sheep farming boom and of the local gold rush. Today, petroleum extraction dominates economic activity in the north of Tierra del Fuego, while tourism, manufacturing, and Antarctic logistics are important in the south.
Colonization and extinction of Native Americans (1860–1910)
During the second half of the 19th century, the archipelago began to come under Chilean and Argentine influence. Both countries sought to claim the whole archipelago based on de jure Spanish colonial titles. Salesian Catholic missions were established in Río Grande and Dawson Island.
Anglican missions were established by British colonists at Keppel Island in the Falklands in 1855 and in 1870 at Ushuaia on the main island, which continued to operate through the 19th century. Thomas Bridges (1842–1898) learned the language and compiled a 30,000-word Yaghan grammar and dictionary while he worked at Ushuaia. It was published in the 20th century and considered an important ethnological work.
An 1879 Chilean expedition led by Ramón Serrano Montaner reported large amounts of placer gold in the streams and river beds of Tierra del Fuego. This prompted massive immigration to the main island between 1883 and 1909. Numerous Argentines, Chileans and Croatians settled in the main island, leading to increased conflicts with native Selk’nam.
Julius Popper, a Romanian explorer, was one of the most successful entrepreneurs in the region. Granted rights by the Argentine government to exploit any gold deposits he found in Tierra del Fuego, Popper has been identified as a central figure in the Selk’nam Genocide.
Following contact with Europeans, the native Selk’nam and Yaghan populations were greatly reduced by unequal conflict and persecution by settlers, by infectious diseases to which the indigenous people had no immunity, and by mass transfer to the Salesian mission of Dawson Island. Despite the missionaries’ efforts, many natives died. Today, only a few Selk’nam remain. Some of the few remaining Yaghan have settled in Villa Ukika in Navarino Island; others have scattered across Chile and Argentina.
Following the signing of the Boundary Treaty of 1881, Tierra del Fuego was divided between Argentina and Chile; previously, it had been claimed in its entirety by both countries.
The gold rushes of the late 19th century led to the founding of numerous small settlements by immigrants such as the Argentine settlements of Ushuaia and Río Grande and the Chilean settlements of Porvenir and Puerto Toro.
According to the Chilean census of 2002, there were 1,685 Yahgan in Chile.
Two Christian missions were established to save the Selk’nam. They were intended to provide housing and food for the natives, but closed due to the small number of Selk’nam remaining; they had numbered in the thousands before Western colonization, but by the early twentieth century only a few hundred remained. The last ethnic Selk’nam died in the mid-twentieth century.
Alejandro Cañas estimated that in 1896 there was a population of 3,000 Selk’nam. Martín Gusinde, an Austrian priest and ethnologist who studied them in the early 20th century, wrote in 1919 that only 279 Selk’nam remained. In 1945 the Salesian missionary, Lorenzo Massa, counted 25. In May 1974 Ángela Loij, the last full-blood Selk’nam, died. There are probably surviving descendants of partial Selk’nam ancestry. According to the Argentine census of 2001, there were 391 Selk’nam (Ona) living in the island of Tierra del Fuego, and an additional 114 in other parts of Argentina.