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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 22th, 1833 through Saturday, December 28th, 1833

Lord's day. Dec. 22d. This morning the Young Captain started to meet the Indians whose smoke we saw yesterday. During his absence Captain Lorice and several of his party paid us frequent visits and urged very strongly to go with them, but we as often rejected their invitations, urging the same reasons we had done on former occasions. He however seemed unwilling to leave us and lingered behind with a few others until near sun-down. His party struck their tents and moved off sometime in the afternoon, and he seemed several times on the point of starting when he would again return and sit in our tent, sometimes urging us to go and sometimes apparently wrapt in a thoughtful, pensive mood. We made him several presents of small articles, as we had done before, with which he seemed pleased. Just at night we discovered our young friend returning from his tour bringing three lads with him of about the ages of 10, 12 and 14 years. He informed us that he had seen many good Indians, and that they would all be here tomorrow, but that the Queen was not with them. On his way he slew a noble Lioness which he brought home and presented us with one of its quarters. He had no weapons with which to attack this powerful animal but his bolas and knife, and it would seem that he had the intrepidity and the dexterity of a young David, to conquer this lord of beasts single handed and unhurt. The flesh of this animal is not remarkably tough and is very palatable. When Captain Lorice saw the young man and his company returning he seemed somewhat cast down, and soon mounted his horse and rode off. One tent and two families friendly to our aged Grand Captain and his son remain behind. After the departure of Lorice our young friend made us a very social visit and appeared much pleased that the other Indians were returning to meet him. He said that the party which would be here tomorrow were "much bono" (good) to him, but that the party which had just left were "much malo" (bad). Thus the sabbath has been a day of constant interruption and trial to us, but it has also brought with it many consolations. The constant movements of these savages is affecting to a benevolent heart.

Monday Dec. 23d. Early this morning our Indian friends were up and making ready to receive the party who were on their way to this place. The young Captain went out to meet them and escort them in. About noon they began to arrive, and continued pouring in around us and erecting their tents on every […] for several hours. This labour was performed by the women while the men [and] children assembled in troops before our tent, gazing upon us with smiling good nature. The party consists of several hundreds, and is headed by a young man by the name of Congo, to whom they give the title of "de Capita le Grande". Soon after his arrival this Grand Captain came and introduced himself to us and spent several hours with us. He is a noble looking man - tall, well-formed, and even graceful in his figure. He has a mild open countenance, stamped with the features of affection and intelligence. In his manner he is easy and natural, and exhibits many traits of civilization. He can speak the Spanish tolerably, and he understands a few English words which he has learned from American and English Seamen. We found that he could count ten. We conversed with him some in the Spanish language and learned that there was a large party of this same nation with Santa Maria, and that they would be here in one moon. He inquired of us about our Country, whether it was a great way off, how we came here, how many moons we were on the water, how long we had been here, how long we would stay, what articles we had with us etc. etc. Besides th[is] he was very curious to know the English name for almost every object around.

After a very pleasant social interview, he invited us to visit him at "da Cassa le Grande" and presenting us the hand in all the cordiality of American Etiquette, he left us and returned to his own tent. Besides the Great Captain, there are also several inferior officers whom they call "poco Capitans," or little Captains, but how either of these offices are filled or what are the distinctive powers of each I have not yet learned. One of these little Captains was introduced to us by the name of Santa Rio. He is a South American Indian, has been a resident at the Falkland Islands, and was sent here four years ago by the Governor of those Islands, Vernet, to trade for horses. Since then he has resided with these Indians and received the title of Captain among them. He exhibits more intelligence and a greater degree of civilization than most of the Indians, and can speak the Spanish with considerable fluency. He is rather inferior in his personal appearance, was dressed in pantaloons and shirt of English style over which he wore a mantle of skin like the other Indians. Of him we made many enquiries about the Country etc. He informed us that the Queen was at Port St. Julian on the Eastern Coast, twelve days ride from us, and that there were about a 1000 Indians in this tribe, or nation. He also told us that the party which separated from us yesterday belonged to another nation which was located at Port Famine, and that they spoke a different language from this tribe. Of this I had been apprehensive, as I found that Captain Lorice gave a different name to an object from what Captain Louis did.

Thus we see the finger of God's good providence in so ordering it that we are first brought under the care of our young friend rather than Lorice, and that we have been prevented from separating from him though so often urged by the greater party, and though left with only one family for a season. The events of this day have developed the reason why Lorice seemed cast down at the announcement of the approach of this company while they have cheered and animated the oppressed family which has protected us. Toward evening the two daughters of our aged friends who had joined the party of Lorice and who we supposed to have been married to some of the young Indians with him, came smiling to our tent door to let us know that they had returned again to their father's house. They were probably sent for during the day. During the afternoon several of the little Captains either introduced themselves or were introduced to us and appeared very pleasant and friendly. At twilight after all the other Indians had retired, Captain Louis came to advise us to gather much wood into our tent on the morrow because, said he, "much Ingus" i.e. many Indians, and as there is but little wood here, he feared we should be robbed of our supply. Thus his anxious and provident care is constantly exercised toward us.

Dec. 24th. On awaking this morning my ears were saluted by the crowing of the cock and the music excited such a thrill of delightful sensation and awakened such pleasing associations that for the moment I seemed transported back to the rural scenes of my native land, and I could hardly realize that I was surrounded by Savages. On going out among the tents of the Indians I find many hens in their possession which inhabit the tents and appear as tame as their dogs. Many of them have other articles of civilization which they obtained from vessels which have passed along this way. The Indians in this band appear like a noble race. They are generally large and well formed, and in their manners thus far they have, for the most part, appeared very civil. They occupy between 30 and 40 tents and I am informed that there are ten Captains among them. There are many hoary headed men some of whom appear venerable. During the day a very aged man came to the door of our tent and observing us writing our journals began to clamor loudly and rapidly about it, as something very bad. Our good old mother, who was in the tent next us, hearing his complaint immediately began to defend us with much earnestness and resolution, and our young friend Captain Louis came and bent down by the old man and in a very mild and […ing?] tone reasoned with him in order to pacify and convince him that our writing w[as?] good. But the zealous man still continued to storm more vehemently and the Captain, finding his efforts to still him fruitless, came into our tent and seated himself by us as if determined to stand between us and all harm. Under such circumstances we thought it best to lay by our writing which having done and taken a little notice of the old man, giving him some water to drink etc., he became quiet and soon retired, to our no little satisfaction. The cause of the old man's perturbation we learned from Captain Louis, as we could not understand him ourselves though he spoke with much fluency and eloquence. After the old man had left us, our young friend asked how many hatchets we had, and advised us to present the old man with one, telling us that he was one of the "Capitans" and a good man. We immediately perceived that the young man's advise was wise, and well corresponded with the injunction of Him who spake as never man spake, viz. "Do good to them that hate you": we therefore told him that the old Captain should have a hatchet tomorrow. During the day a sick man was brought to our tent to whom my companion administered some medicine, and promised to visit and attend upon him.

Dec. 25. This morning our young friend brought the old Captain to our tent to receive the hatchet we had promised him. He appeared much pleased with his present and after showing him some of our things and conversing with him in a kind manner for some time he became very cheerful and apparently perfectly reconciled. I could not but admire the conduct of the young Captain in the whole affair. He exhibited so much mildness and gentleness, mingled with so much respect for the feelings of the aged Captain that, though a heathen, I perceived he was not entirely ignorant of the practical application of the maxim "A soft answer turneth away wrath", nor of his obligation to "rise up before the hoary head, and honour the face of the old man". [Leviticus 19:32, Ed.] During the old man's turmoil on yesterday the Great Captain was present, but he seemed not to interfere except to say a few words now and then. It is a very happy providential circumstance for us, that our young friend and the Great Captain are on such terms of intimate friendship. They speak highly of each other and appear like affectionate brothers. It is also very evident that the young man has given a general impression in our favour throughout the camp. Captain Congo has been with us much today, and conversed in his usual pleasant and cheerful manner. He tells us that he and many of his men are going to set out on a four day's hunt tomorrow, and invites us to accompany him. Another Captain, an aged man by the name of Chen, visits us every day and converses with much good cheer. He speaks the Spanish tolerably and he seems truly happy in spending his time with us. He is normally the first man to visit us in the morning.

This evening he returned from a hunt and rode up to our tent door calling out "ha Americanas." On going out he presented us with two fine hams of guanaco of a large size, together with a liver. Soon after the old Captain who raised such a storm yesterday, rode up and presented us with more. Besides this Captain Louis made us a liberal present of meat, so that we are almost burdened with their generosity.

Several men complaining of bodily indisposition have been here today to whom Brother Arms has administered medicine. The Indians also crowd around us to get their knives, spurs etc. sharpened, and to obtain needles fitted in handles like awls for sewing their mantles etc.

Dec. 26th. The day has been filled up with our usual round of duties, making little articles of use to the Indians, attending to the sick, distributing little presents, conversing etc. Our good friend, Captain Chen came in at evening and took a supper of meat and broth with us in American style; and while we were at our repast the aged Captain Ben - (the man who was so boisterous the other day) - also came in and partook with us. They seemed highly delighted with the attention we showed them, and said that our supper was "much bono." About this time there was a sudden rushing of the Indians from the tents to the plain at some little distance from the camp, and our Indian mother came immediately to tell us the cause, as she always does when all things are not regular. By expressive gestures she made us understand that two of the Indians were fighting and beating one another with clubs; but, as the crowd which gathered around them was so great, I could not see the combatants, not being able to leave the tent at that time to go among them. Just before sundown a young man whom we did not know, but who, as we were afterwards informed, is one of the petty Captains, while sitting in the crowd before our door, began a long harangue which he conducted with much earnestness and by which we perceived that he was displeased with something, though we know not what. We suspected, however, that it was something in relation to us, probably because we had not shown him sufficient attention. Several of our aged friends were in the tent with us, and they occasionally said a few words to the young declaimer, apparently to pacify him. They would then turn to us and say "you no malo, you bono. me bono. Ingus bono" etc. At length the young man retired and the day closed upon us in calmness and peace. During this time the Great Captain came to see us, as he does often in the course of the day, and before he left his father also came in, who is indeed a venerable looking old man, with a countenance as mild and cheering as the morning sun.

Dec. 27th. The aged Captain Ben came and made us an early visit this morning, bringing, as a present, a little bundle of rock salt in his mantle. The old gentleman appeared so smiling and pleasant, that we have rarely received a gift with more pleasure than the salt. Whether this mineral is a production of the country, or whether the Indians procure it from vessels I have not yet definitely learned. I had supposed that there was no salt among them until I saw that this morning. On enquiry of Captain Conger he said, that there was much salt in the camp. Today the Indians have started for a grand hunt of four days. Towards noon the company moved off under the direction of the great Captain and his subalterns, taking with them what the Captain calls their "poco cassas," or little tents, made for a temporary purpose, and nearly all the sound men, together with many women, to carry the tents and other necessary apparatus, while few remain behind except the aged and infirm, the sick, the women and children, and a few lazy drones, so that we find ourselves almost in the stillness of a deserted camp. We do not, however, regret this, as it affords us a little relief from the fatigue and confinement occasioned by an incessant crowd of visitors from the time we rise in the morning till late in the evening. We were invited to attend the hunt but our situation was such as to render it impracticable.

Dec. 28th. The morning passed away without interruption; but at noon many of the more lazy and impudent of the Indians gathered around, among whom was a man whom I should judge to be a Spaniard from his appearance and from the knowledge he has of the Castilian language. On the day of his arrival at this place he came and squatted before our tent and listened to our conversation with Captain Santureo relative to the country, its inhabitants etc., with eager attention and evident suspicion, after which he had a long talk with Santureo which we judged to be about our conversation etc. He was quite social today for a long time; but at length he began to enquire what things we had, and commenced begging one thing after another with intolerable rapidity. We thought not best to gratify his cupidity and only gave him two needles fitted in handles, the manner in which these natives use them for what they call "hodling" i.e. sewing. We at length ceased to talk with the old man, as his conversation often turned on impure subjects, which is painfully common with this people and he remained mute in our tent until night. Some rude young men, finding our ax at the door took it and went off a little distance to amuse themselves by cutting bushes, but our good Indian mother, ever careful of our interests, went and took it from them and brought it into the tent to us.