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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, December 8th, 1833 through Saturday, December 14th, 1833

Dec. 8th. Sabbath. The day has been one of almost entire stillness around us and we have been permitted to spend it with less interruption than any preceding Sabbath we have spent on pagan ground. The return of every Lords day excites more and more compassion for these poor sons of nature in whose minds we yet discover no notions of the Christian's Sabbath, or the Christian's God. They spend these sacred hours as they do the other days [of] the week. To provide for the wants of their animal natures, and to gratify their appetites and passions of sense, seems to be the ultimate end of all their des[ires?] and labours. The young Captain went out a little while today and retu[rned] with a guanaco.

A heavy frost fell around us last night, and today [the] weather is colder than yesterday. Peevish clouds are sailing across the welkin [sky, Ed.] and frequently discharging their chilling contents of hail and rain.

Monday Dec. 9th. This morning our young friend went out again with his knife and bolas and dogs on a hunt for guanacos. His aged father who has been nearly confined for a long time with inflamed eyes, and the infirmities of old age, also harnessed his steed and followed his son to the chase. The day proved an uncomfortable one for their expedition, the wind being very piercing and the rain falling almost constantly. Notwithstanding this however they returned at evening laden with eleven guanacos, most of which were young ones, Of these they gave Brother Arms and myself three whole ones as our portion. Thus the Lord spreads our table here in the wilderness by the hand of these savage strangers, whose hearts he has moved to receive and support us with a kindness and hospitality truly affecting.

Dec. 10th. Prepared a little spot of ground and planted some garden seeds today, though we shall probably soon remove to some other place and may never see this spot again.We have also planted the seeds of various kinds of fruit trees which we hope may yet spring up and bear fruit, though we do not witness it. The present restless roaming habits of these savages renders it impossible to attend to agriculture among them. Captain Louis went out today and returned with a horse load of long poles and stakes to hang fresh meat upon. The wood resembles the wild cherry and is the first that I have seen in this country that assumed the appearance of trees. He must have brought them from a great distance as he was gone nearly all day. On his return he brought home a guanaco, about half of which he presented to us together with two of his largest stakes for our use.

The weather is still chilly with frequent showers of rain though the day has been milder than several of the last past.

[December 11 and 12 — no entry]

Dec. 13th. Our young friend again proposes a removal to the east, but for what reason we cannot tell as their wants are now better supplied than at any time since we have been with them. However we expect soon to leave as they tell us that this place is malo, bad. The truth seems to be that these savages can content themselves in no place however favourable but a few days at the most. Their inclination is to roam and every stopping place becomes malo to them in a short time. The young man went out alone on a hunt today and returned with 8 or 10 young guanacos of which he gave us two.

Dec. 14th. This morning the young Captain came and told us that "much Indus" (many Indians) at Gregory's Bay, that he was going thither and that mañana (tomorrow) there would be "pigo [sic] grande" (a great fire, or smoke) and that we all should move down there. He intimated that Captain Lorice and his party had gone thither by a circuitous rout[e] which he described on the ground, and that the Queen had also returned with her train and gave us to understand that tomorrow they would send up and carry us down. Feeling anxious to know whether we understood the matter it was proposed that one of us accompany the young man to the bay, and see what was the state of the case. To this proposal he acceded and in a short time two horses were harnessed and I set off at good speed in company with my guide. Our track was a new one to me and led over lofty hills, across extensive plains, and through deep winding ravines. On our way we saw hundreds of guanacos feeding, several droves of which we pursued for a considerable distance; but though our horses skimmed the ground like arrows, yet horses and dogs were soon left far behind by the elastic bounds of these swift animals. The Patagonian horses are trained for the chase and like furious chargers pant for the onset, and when the signal is given they instantaneously dart for the prey, bounding over plains and morasses and bogs and ditches, rising and descending almost perpendicular mountains with little apparent abatement of their speed and suffering nothing to obstruct their progress till they are checked by their riders, or breathless with fatigue. After a rapid ride of about 30 miles we came to the top of the mountain in sight of Gregory's Bay where we made a great smoke and waited for a considerable time for an answer, but perceiving none the young Captain said that there were no Indians in that vicinity, and that we would return home again. How this mistake occurred we are not certain, but it is probable that what we understood him to assert as fact in relation to the Indians being at the bay he advanced only as a probable supposition of his own, and that his object in taking this tour was to ascertain whether this was the fact. We have no idea that he intended to deceive us. It was now toward night when we mounted our horses to return to our tents, and after riding a few miles and finding a very strong and piercing wind directly in our teeth, the Captain abandoned the idea of reaching home until the next day and said that we must stop for the night. Accordingly we sought for a bush to scre[en] us in some measure from the wind. Here we ungirded our horses, and collecting some brush made us a little fire and encamped for the night under the open vault of heaven. On our way we had caught a little animal which the Patagonians call Cochin, and which being interpreted into plain English is Skunk. This the young man dressed and roasted so finely that it made us a very acceptable supper after our long and hungry ride. Soon after we had lain down on the ground to sleep we were aroused by one of our horses whose fore feet were tied together to prevent his straying and which in his struggle to extricate himself from his unwelcome fetters came leaping and bounding within a few feet of our resting place. My guide then arose and relieved the beast from his bonds and we passed the night quietly.