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Two American missionaries visit the Tehuelche Indians at Gregory's Bay, 1833-1834
The Daily Journal of Rev. Titus Coan [extract]

Sunday, November 24th, 1833 through Saturday, November 30th, 1833

Lord's day. Nov. 24th. Nothing special has occurred today. Spent the time chiefly in our tent where we have been visited by many of the na[tives] who have been very civil. The seem to look upon us as of a super[ior] race of beings and are more and more careful not to do things with which we appear displeased, often asking for liberty to come into out tent and not attempting to meddle with our articles without leave. The effect of checking them in their depredations appears decidedly favourable. Several of the Indians had a long game at ball in the foren[oon]. With the exception of this they have been very quiet during the day. I have never seen Captain Louis engage in any of their diversions. Whether these savages have any notions of God or a future state we are not yet able to learn. We have seen nothing that appeared like a relig[ious] rite among them. O that the Day Star may soon rise upon them.

Nov. 25th. The day has been cold and uncomfortable, and we have been engaged in our tent in making a flannel shirt for Captain Louis who requested one of us. The Indians have crowded around us as usual watching all our operations with a curious eye. A large party have been out on a hunt, and returned this evening with ten guanacos. A young calf which Captain Louis brought home undressed he presented to us. Hitherto we have received our food cooked from the Indians who do not prepare it with all the neatness and delicacy to which we have been accustomed among our fair friends at home.

Nov. 26th. After we retired last evening we listened for a long time to som[ething] which we supposed to be a speech, or harangue in the tent of the Chief Cap[tain]. The tones of the voice expressed much energy and animation, and were finely modulated for a public speaker. What the nature or occasion of this harangue was we are unable to determine. Our ears were also saluted by unmelodious singing in some of the more distant tents for the greater part of the night.

We have been permitted to cook for ourselves today from the young guanaco (Auchenia Huanacu) which the Captain presented us. During our culinary operation the natives crowd around us with much curiosity apparently wondering at our strange manoeuvres. A party have been out to hunt guanacos today but have not been very successful. The guanaco is the chief animal on which these Indians depend for sustenance. It is a species of the llama, of a red or sandy colour on the back and sides, and white on the belly and legs. It is about the size of a goat, has a head like a sheep, and lives by grazing. It is cloven footed, has a very long neck and legs, and will outrun the fleetest horse, consequently it cannot be taken without stratagem. This is practised by [a] troop of Indians surrounding them on some plain and then cutting off [their] retreat, and then rushing suddenly upon them from all sides and throwing their bolas by which they entangle their legs. The flesh of the guanaco is very fine, equal in flavour to young beef. These savages cultivate no ground and make use of no vegetables in their diet. They are entirely carnivorous. Spent the day in reading, writing, conversation etc., endeavouring as much as possible of the knowledge and condition of these rude sons of nature.

Nov. 27th. This day has passed much in the same manner as most of the days since we came here. The poor wretched savages are lounging around us from morning to night, and both exciting our sympathy and testing our patience. Most of them are still quiet and civil when they visit us; but one woman is more troublesome than all the rest of the tribe, indeed we both agree that she is the most vexatious creature we have ever seen in human shape. She seems to be made up of pure impudence. Her visits are frequent and lengthy, and she is continually handling every article of ours which she can get hold of, and perpetually begging something for herself or her children, a squad of whom she usually brings with her. She rarely fails to be present at our meals, peeping into every dish and begging every thing we eat. Today she had the insolence to dash her fingers into our soup to try its taste. This is not occasioned by hunger as there is now an unusual supply of food in her tent. We treat her with as much inattention as possible, and have resolved to give her nothing she asks for, persuaded that the gratification of her wishes would only make her visits more frequent and her demands more intolerable. She sometimes seems vexed with our inattention, and leaves us evidently in a pet and we indulge the momentary hope that we shall have less of her company: but she soon returns to the attack with renewed vigor, and we have only to entrench ourselves again and stand in the defensive until the storm is over. But such things only show us our need of Divine help and lead us to seek that "wisdom which is from above". It also shows us how much these degraded beings need the blessings of civilization and christianity.

Nov. 28th. The weather has been cold, and we have spent most of the day in our tent in reading, writing and conversing with the Indians, who still visit us in crowds during the day. Many of them are very pleasant and often bring us pieces of meat, though we depend chiefly on the Captain to supply our wants. Our mode of cooking and eating seem to afford much amusement to these savages and they always gather in crowds around us at our meals. We endeavour to do them all the good we can, but we are very anxious for the return of the Queen and the rest of the Tribe, hoping then to learn much more of the condition of this people and also to get information of other tribes with facilities for visiting them. As it now is we are evidently shut up in this place by Providence and we can only wait for a way to open for us to pursue our researches further or return to our native land according to providential indications. These savages, like all others, are very fond of ornaments, and instead of applying the brass thimbles we have given them to the purposes we intended , they drill a hole through them and hang them on strings about their necks or in their bosoms. The troublesome woman mentioned in my journal of yesterday is, we learn, the wife of Captain Lorice, and her husband who appears naturally mild and amiable seems to be altogether under her dictatorial influence. She not only begs herself intolerably, [and] teaches her children to beg, but I believe sets her husband on to do the same; and when her insolent demands are not gratified, exhibits the most disgusting insolence, and the most […] contempt. We have lately learned that there is not the most perfect harmony between the families of the two Captains, probably there is a contention to know who shall rule. Today Captain Lorice and his wife Jezebel - as I think she may well be called - came to our tent and told us that they should remove tomorrow, and wished us to abandon the young man Captain Louis who has hitherto taken the most kind and faithful care of us, and supplied us almost enti[rely] with food, and to put ourselves and our effects into his hands; at the same time pointing to the other Captain's tent with an indignant frown and saying, "malo, malo, mañana"! […] bad or evil tomorrow! We fear there is a storm fermenting, and though our young friend Louis has said nothing to us, yet a settled thoughtfulness on his countenance has for some days indicated that something rested heavily upon his heart. But we can commit ourselves calmly into the hands of Him who has all hearts in his hands and can turn them as the rivers[?] of water are turned.

[November 29 — no entry]

Nov. 30th. Yesterday morning Lorice and his wife came again to see us and wished us to strike our tent and prepare to go with them. Perceiving that the Indians were taking up their houses and preparing to decamp we also made ready our effects for removal. We soon found however a contention arising between the two parties which all appeared to originate from the woman before named. She began to utter loud and angry words against young Captain Louis as soon as he offered to assist us in taking charge of our luggage. What the cause of this altercation was we could not determine with certainty but we suspected it to arise from envy and cupidity, as the family of Lorice seemed to fear that they should not secure all our attention and all our presents. After a time of bitter and angry dispute in which the wife of Lorice was preeminently clamorous, while he remained silent, matters appeared to come to a compromise, and part of our effects were taken by one family and part by the other and our horses also for riding were ass[igned?] us by the respective parties, and all things were ready for proceeding when young Louis mounted his horse and set forward with many others who had already commenced their march. At this moment our trunk of medicines and some other things which were on the horse of our modern Jezebel were violently dashed to the ground by her hand, breaking phials and destroying many things. The hag now poured forth a torrent of rage against the young Captain and in a few minutes they came to close personal combat. This gathered the friends of the parties to defend their respective favourites; and now came on the tug of contest between some dozen or more of Indians, men and women, in angry strife, rending each other's hair and faces and tearing out earrings etc. while blood began to gush from their dark visages. The party of Lorice were the most numerous and powerful, and the young Captain and his family especially his aged and noble mother, were severely handled. After a little intermission the struggle was again resumed with the same fury, and continued for some time. Some of our luggage became matter of contention in the affray, the party of Lorice endeavouring to drag it off while the young Captain endeavoured to defend it. At length personal conflict ceased, and after a protracted shower of vituperous [sic] words the parties sat down to rest in sullen silence. While the contest was in its height we did not deem it judicious to interfere, as it was impossible to be heard, but when the rage was a little subsided we endeavoured to convince them that such conduct was bad, and that it exceedingly grieved and distressed us to witness it. This appeared to have somewhat of a softening influence on them. On my making a motion to load and all go on peacefully together the young Captain intimated that they should separate and wished us to remain and go in another direction with him, while Captain Lorice kept beckoning me to adhere to him. It was truly a time of trial, and never did I more feel the need of heavenly guidance than at this critical moment. To show a preference to one party would expose us to the jealousy and resentment of the other, and in case they separated to show no preference to either might leave us only the wretched alternative to be abandoned by both. All our prepossesions[?] were on the side of Captain Louis whose generous hospitality had supplied us with subsistence and whose tried fidelity had secured our confidence; while the other man seemed anxious to expunge all he could from us without giving us anything in return. But the Lord in mercy opened a way for us and at length delivered us from this painful emergency: for while we determined to treat both parties with kindness, and and endeavoured to conciliate their feelings, they at last as by a kind of silent assent began to reload their horses, and the woman who had thrown off our trunks so spitefully called for them again and slung them upon her horse. During all this time the young Captain took the most vigilant care of our luggage distributing his sisters to remain with some packages while he and his mother took charge of others. I will not forbear to mention in this place the harangue of an Indian who has always appeared pleasant and friendly to us though I know not to which party he belongs. During an interval of silence after the affray he broke out in strains of profound native eloquence, and spoke for about fifteen minutes in such a manner as to claim attention. He displayed energy, animation and pathos, with varied and melodious intonations of voice and appropriate gestures, and I exceedingly regretted that I could not understand his language.

At half past three P.M. we were again ready to proceed, and we all took our way over the mountains to the north, and after traveling about 10 miles without any special occurrence we arrived at our new camp ground in the notch of the mountains at ½ past 6. Here we erected our tent, kindled our fire and prepared our supper. The young man came to help us arrange our tent etc. and also brought us the head and neck of a guanaco which he killed on the way. Thus after a day of fatigue and solicitude we were permitted to lie down in peace under the guardian care of Him who has delivered us in six troubles, and in seven has suffered no evil to befall us. During the whole night the Indians were very noisy, apparently singing and haranguing, so that our sleep was much interrupted, though we heard nothing that appeared like contention among them.

Early this morning a large party took up their horses and went on a hunt for guanacos, and we have been permitted to spend the day in our tent with more than usual quietude and peace.