Since 1991 Exploring The "Uttermost Parts Of The Earth": Antarctica, Cape Horn & Tierra Del Fuego
Felipe, the "Survivor",
was the last Male Yagan Indian
(The town plaza of Puerto Williams is named after "Grandfather
Left to right: Sister Rosa, sister Emalinda and sister Ursula.
Rosa, a pure Yagan, died in 1993.
Ursula died cerca 2003. Her younger sister, Cristina (not in photo) is
the last living Yagan Indian!
(Emalinda, an Alakaluf Indian
died in 2005. Her mixed Yagan grand children below)
Some Yagan words:
Abailakin: "The strong and Powerful one" or supreme being
amera: guanaco (an animal like the Alpaca which lives in Patagonia)
ayusueker: house for various families
hanis: Beech tree o nothofagus pumilio
Hau imun: "My Father" or Supreme Being
hupuxkémaks y hatus: Shell Necklaces
keterna: ñire plant or nothofagus Antárctica
kina: Secret Society of the Yagans or Yámanas
lakuma: Water Spirits
lus: Red paint
merana: cone shaped house
shushchi: guindo plant or nothofagus betuloides
tauwela, cefkaalax y keijims: the braids of a basket
Tanuwa: "dear old man" or Supreme Being. Also bad spirit of the
Tekenika: from teke unika which means "I do not understand what you
tuwéaki: seal skin to make coat.
uskutta: canelo plant or Drimys winteri
Ushuaia: "inner bay looking to the west"
Watauineiwa: "The old man" or Supreme being (used for God)
Welapatuxsef: "the murderer above in heaven" or supreme being
xumarapu: white coloring.
yámana aona: "people of the north" or Selk'nam Indians
yámana: human being
yahgashagalumola: canal people of the valley montains.
yékamus: witch doctor
yekus: arrow head
yoalox: the teachers of the yagan culture
Synopsis of Darwin in TDF with the Yagans:
I will describe our first arrival in Tierra del Fuego. A little after noon
we doubled Cape St. Diego, and entered the famous strait of Le Maire. We
kept close to the Fuegian
shore, but the outline of the rugged, inhospitable Statenland was DECEMBER
17th, 1832. -- Having now finished with visible amidst the clouds. In the
afternoon we anchored in the Bay of Good Success. While entering we were
saluted in a manner becoming the inhabitants of
this savage land. A group of Fuegians partly concealed by the entangled
forest, were perched on a wild point overhanging the sea; and as we passed
by, they sprang up and waving their tattered cloaks sent forth a loud and
The British survey ship H.M.S. Beagle with Captain Fitz Roy at command,
circled the globe in 1831-1836. Aboard the Beagle was Charles Darwin as
naturalist. He was a young man in his mid- to late twenties. During this
voyage, Darwin began to formulate the theories later published in The Origin
of Species (1859).
One of the Beagle's most important stops was at Tierra del Fuego, where
Captain Fitz Roy was returning to their homeland three natives of the Yagan
tribe he had taken to England a few years previously: a boy named Jemmy
Button, a girl named Fuegia Basket, and a man named York Minster.
Darwin's commentary, taken from Chapter 10 of his book "Voyage of the
Beagle" talks about the beautiful wilderness of Tierra del Fuego, the
ways of the native Fuegians, and his reflections on the differences between
"December 17th, 1832. - ... A little after noon we doubled Cape St.
Diego, and entered the famous strait of Le Maire. We kept close to the Fuegian
shore, but the outline of the rugged, inhospitable Staten-land was visible
amidst the clouds. In the afternoon we anchored in the Bay of Good Success.
...While entering we were saluted in a manner becoming the inhabitants of
this savage and forbidding land. A group of Fuegians partly concealed by
the entangled forest, were perched on a wild point overhanging the sea;
and as we passed by, they sprang up and waving their tattered cloaks sent
forth a loud and sonorous shout. In the morning the captain sent a party
to communicate with the Fuegians. . . . It was without exception the most
curious and interesting spectacle I ever beheld:
I could not believe how wide was the difference difference between a savage
and civilized man: it is greater than between a domesticated and wild animal,
inasmuch as in man there is a greater power of improvement.
The chief spokesman was old - and appeared to be the head of the family;
the three others were powerful young men about six feet high.. .The old
man had a fillet of white feathers tied round his head, which partly confined
his black, coarse, and entangled hair. His face was crossed by two broad
transverse bars; one, painted bright red, reached from ear to ear and included
the upper lip; the other, white like chalk, extended above and parallel
to the first, so that even his eyelids were thus coloured. The other two
men were ornamented by streaks of black powder, made of charcoal.
"Their very attitudes were abject, and the expression of their countenances
distrustful, surprised, and startled. After we had presented them with some
scarlet cloth, which they immediately tied round their necks, they became
good friends. This was shown by the old man patting our breasts, and making
a chuckling kind of noise, as people do when feeding chickens.. I walked
with the old man, and this demonstration of friendship was repeated several
times; it was concluded by three hard slaps, which were given me in the
breast and back at the same time. He then bared his bosom for me to return
the compliment, which being done, he seemed highly pleased.....Few if any
of these natives could ever have seen a white man; certainly nothing could
exceed their astonishment at the apparition of the four boats. Fires were
lighted on every point (hence the name of Tierra del Fuego, or the land
of fire), both to attract our attention and to spread far and wide the
news. Some of the men ran for miles along the shore. I shall never forget
how wild and savage one group appeared: suddenly four or five men came to
the edge of an overhanging cliff; they were absolutely naked, and their
long hair streamed about their faces; they held rugged staffs in their hands,
and, springing from the ground, they waved their arms round their heads,
and sent forth the most hideous yells."
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