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Historical Materials from Southern Patagonia
Narrative of Four Voyages (extract), 1823
a North American adventurer meets the canoe people of the Strait of Magellan
Journal -- May 1823:    10  11  12  13  14  15  16  17  18 

May 8th. — On Thursday, the eighth, we continued our course towards the Pacific, nearly in a west-north-west direction, passing York Road and some very picturesque scenery on the northern shore, resembling the Highlands of the Hudson. At eleven o'clock, P. M., we came to anchor at the mouth of Indian Sound, where a vast number of the natives were fishing by torch-light. From attendant circumstances I concluded that we were now near the location of an extensive tribe. In order that we might not alarm them, I had the vessel moored with as little noise as possible, while the binnacle-lights were promptly extinguished. We had anchored in four fathoms of water, with clay bottom, and with such precaution that the natives continued their vocation, totally unconscious of our proximity, until after midnight. Our watch on deck consisted of one-half the crew at a time, every man well armed and prepared for any contingency; but with orders never to act, except on the defensive.

At four o'clock, A. M., I ordered the boats to be lowered, manned, and armed. In a few minutes afterward we started for the Indian village within the sound. After pulling round the point which covers its entrance, and opening a beautiful valley, we discovered the village within one hundred and fifty yards of the boats. In a moment after, we saw about four hundred dogs rushing towards us, while the natives were seen flying from their huts, men, women, and children, apparently in a paroxysm of alarm.

As my object was to conciliate this inoffensive people, we paused in our progress, and lay off on our oars; making amicable signs for the natives to lay down their weapons, bows and arrows, which they did without hesitation. I then pulled in to the shore, and landed a short distance from the Indians; and by signs invited six of them to meet me. This they also did, with evident willingness. After giving them a friendly and even cordial reception, which inspired them with renewed confidence, I invited them to enter one of my boats, while I advanced and saluted their friends. This request they complied with, but with some reluctance; when I ordered the boats to haul off, and lay about the fourth of a mile from the shore.

Having thus secured a sufficient number of hostages for my personal safety, I advanced along the beach to have an interview with the whole tribe, consisting of about two thousand, of both sexes and all ages, by whom I was received in the most amicable manner. They took me to their wigwams, and showed me every mark of hospitality in their power. I remained on shore with them about two hours; a part of which time I spent in examining their habitations and mode of living, and the remainder in shooting birds at some distance in the woods.

At length the natives began to evince some symptoms of uneasiness respecting the fate of their friends and countrymen in my boat. On perceiving this, I promptly repaired to the shore, and ordered the boat to pull in. The moment she reached the beach the six Indians leaped on shore, apparently rejoicing at their safe deliverance. I then entered the boat, and invited the one whom I supposed to be the chief of the tribe to accompany me to the vessel. To this proposition, however, he would not accede, until I ordered one of my men to jump on shore, and run up to the village, to show them how much we relied on their fidelity. On seeing this, the chief instantly appreciated the motive, and stepped into the boat, with a confidence that bespoke intellect and feeling. In a few minutes we were on board the Wasp, where we found a warm breakfast prepared, awaiting the return of the boats.

This chief appeared to be a man of amiable disposition, and considerable mind, the evidences of which were legibly written in his countenance. As soon as he found himself on the deck of the schooner, he looked around him with an expression of strong curiosity, not un-mingled with surprise, and in some instances astonishment. These sentiments were still more forcibly expressed when I conducted him to the cabin, and invited him to take a seat at the breakfast table. He examined every thing as if he wished to become acquainted with its nature, principles, causes, and effects ; so that I set him down for an Indian philosopher. He seemed to combine the spirit of deep investigation with the childish simplicity of the untutored Indian.

At table he evinced a degree of diffidence, and even delicacy, which is not common in the savage character. He seemed to relish our food, however, and showed a particular partiality for molasses and sugar. After breakfast we took him on shore, and restored him to his anxious family and subjects, who received him with the loudest demonstrations of pleasure.

Source: "Narrative of Four Voyages", Capt. Benjamin Morrell Jr., New York, 1832
Transcribed: April 2007