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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 15th, 1833 through Saturday, December 21st, 1833

Dec. 15th. Sabbath. Arose very early this morning to return home, but found that our horses had strayed several miles during the night. After a search of about two hours we obtained them and proceeded on our way, and by a rapid ride of about five hours reached our tents before noon. To me the sight of our little tabernacle was truly cheering not only because of hunger and fatigue (having eaten nothing since the day before) but more especially as it was the holy Sabbath, and nothing but an unavoidable detention would have induced me to encroach upon its sacred hours. On our way back the young man pointed out the place to which he designs shortly to remove.

Dec. 16th. Monday. Found the family preparing to decamp this morning but as it was cold and rainy we advised them to wait until tomorrow. To this they cheerfully assented and we have again been making our luggage as snug as possible for another removal. Thus we roam continually "having here no certain abiding place". In selecting a spot for an encampment these natives appear to have regard simply to five things viz. pasture, fuel, water, guanacos, and a screen from the strong and almost perpetual winds which generally blow from the West and South West. They therefore generally encamp in some valley on the eastern side of lofty hills, or in some notch of the mountains.

Dec. 17th. Agreeably to our arrangement yesterday we struck our tent, put our effects on horses, and set out with our Indian family for our new encampment which is only 8 or 10 miles to the Eastward of the station we last occupied. It is situated close by a fine stream of water and in a vast open plain begirt by distant hills which bound our horizon. Here we find nothing to break the force of the winds, which sweep with great strength across the champaign, except a bunch of bushes back of which we have pitched our tent. Our removal occupied most of the day, and before we had time to erect our tent a cold rain came on which wet both our luggage and ourselves and rendered us very uncomfortable. The Indian family in their usual kindness rendered us every assistance in their power. In their removals nearly the whole of the labour is performed by the women, who take down their tents, pack their goods, lade their horses, and, when arrived at the new camp, put up their tents again and arrange their furniture etc. All this they usually do while the men sit upon the ground and look on.

Dec. 18th. The day has been cold and blustering, and we find our new situation not the most comfortable. Our frail tent already begins to give way before the blasts, and we have been obliged to take it down and repair it today.

Dec. 19th. This morning my companion went out with our young friend and his little brother on a hunt for guanacos, while our kind Indian mother and her little daughter returned to the place of our last encampment to bring some stakes and poles which we had left behind because of the greatness of our load, and which we needed for the purpose of drying our meat. Consequently I was left with no other one in the camp except the aged grand Captain who is still much indisposed and is almost blind with inflamed eyes. Thus situated I congratulated myself with the prospect of spending a season of uninterrupted solitude, a privilege of which I had long been deprived. It was but a short time however before two Indians on foot arrived at our quarters and informed me that Captain Lorice with all the party that separated from us two weeks ago were on their way back and would shortly be here. In a few minutes several other Indians came up and presently the whole troop of horses appeared. Their tents were soon erected in a line with ours on the right, and they gathered around me in multitudes, men women and children, with much apparent good nature, and joy at meeting. From this time till night our tent was constantly thronged with these children of nature, filling it and crouching around the door to the number of 30 at a time, all apparently curious to see whether the American Strangers had altered in their appearance since the separation. One of the Indians brought me a fine saddle of young guanaco, another filled my hands with dried meat pulverised, and Captain Lorice presented me the whole of a young guanaco and made me a long and very friendly visit in our tent. As soon as his wife had erected and arranged their tent, she also came with much apparent good nature bringing a drove of children with her and with her usual impudence examining our effects and begging something for her darlings, reminding me at the same time of the present her husband had given, probably to enforce obligation. At evening our little hunting party returned with thirty young guanacos, having had almost unparalleled success. Of these twelve were appointed as our portion. Thus the Lord still furnishes us a liberal table here in the wilderness. It now appears to be the harvest season with these Indians for obtaining a store of provisions as the young guanacos can now be caught with much more ease than the old ones, being tired down and taken by the dogs, while neither dogs nor horses can outstrip the old ones.

Dec. 20th. Visited today as usual by the Indians, who appear so fond of our society as almost to crowd us out of our tent. While dressing our game they crowded around, and begged the liver, lights, kidneys &c which they devoured raw with the greediness of carnivorous animals. This is not occasioned by hunger, as they are remarkably supplied with food at this time, but it is a habit of theirs and they esteem these parts warm from the animal as a luxury. I have sometimes seen the children eating the most offensive parts of the intestines uncooked and uncleansed. They are also very fond of dandelions eating them in large quantities, roots, stems and all, without washing or boiling. Toward evening Captain Lorice made us a long visit and again urgently requested us to leave the family by whose kind care our wants have been supplied and remove back to the north with him tomorrow. This invitation was pressed with much earnestness by some other favorites of his family, who at the same time laboured to prejudice our minds against Captain Louis to whose noble generosity we are indebted for most of the comforts we have enjoyed in this waste wilderness of savages. But we still feel that it would not only be indiscreet, but wrong to abandon our tried friends and place ourselves under the protection of a family whose sole object too evidently appears to be, to obtain the few articles in our possession, and as we do not wish to retire any farther back into the country until the return of the Queen lest we should fail of seeing her, we signified to Lorice that we intended to remain in the vicinity of Gregory's bay for the present. He seemed disappointed at our reply, but at length left us with much apparent good feeling. He is a man of an amiable and affectionate heart, and were he not under the supreme dominance of his Jezebel we should have much pleasure in his society.

Dec. 21st. Instead of removing, Captain Lorice and some of his party have been out on a hunt today. During the day we saw a large smoke at a distance which the young Captain told us was made by the Indians with Santa Maria who he says are on their way to Gregory's bay and tomorrow he proposes to go and meet them. If this is the case it is what we have long been waiting for but it is possible we may again be disappointed.

During the day a young Indian brought a pocket knife wishing us to sharpen it for him. We immediately recognized the knife as one which had been stolen from our tent some time before, my companion and myself having lost each a knife of the same description. We signified to the one who brought it that it was ours, but as we could not determine that he was the aggressor nor find out the culprit we permitted him to keep the knife.

Near sundown we witnessed a scene altogether novel to us. Nearly all the women in the camp collected together and had a game at ball playing, at the close of which an altercation took place between the wife of Lorice and another woman. Something of a squabble ensued, and all the other women with many children arranged themselves in a large circle around the actresses. The scene ended without blood but not without a torrent of angry words which continued till late in the evening. What was the cause of the contention I could not learn, but suspected that it was a revival of the old bitterness between the two parties. I retired late to rest but the noise in the camp and the incessant barking of a troop of dogs prevented my sleeping much during the night.