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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 29th, 1833 through Saturday, January 4th, 1834

Dec. 29th. Sabbath. My companion and myself being both unwell we kept our tent closed and received no visitors until afternoon. The old Spaniard came again to see us, but we did not receive him until late in the day, and he tarried with us, talking and begging as usual, and pleading his poverty until dark. He seems supremely indolent, and this is no doubt the reason of his poverty. While others are engaged in procuring food, he is lounging in his tent, or wandering about and begging of others. We gave him some food and thus dismissed him. In the afternoon some of the Indians came to see us and said "pigo, pigo, bark Americanna," pointing at the same time in the direction of the Straits which are about 30 miles distant. On looking out we thought we descried a smoke in that quarter and the savages were very confident that some vessel had arrived at the bay but, as the Captain and active men are all absent, and as there are few horses on the ground they made no preparation to go down. They said however, that they would furnish us a horse, and one of them go with us tomorrow. One of us will, therefore, visit the Straits tomorrow, if the Lord will, in order to ascertain if there be an opportunity to send to our native land.

Monday Dec. 30th. Last night a heavy frost fell around us which blighted the flowers, though yesterday and today have been very hot, the mercury rising to 72º. Arose early to arouse the Indian who had promised to attend Brother Arms to the Straits, but he lingered about bringing up his horses, though he still repeated his promise to go. At length we started him, as we supposed, for his horses, but after being gone a long time he returned without them, and by the actions and conversation of the Indians it appeared evident that they were unwilling that we should go. Probably as their Captain and most of the tribe were absent they feared that we should go on board the vessel and not return, though we assured them to the contrary. At length we gave up all hope of obtaining a horse and a man to accompany my companion and turned to the business of the day. In a little time after this the man brought up his horses and with his brother went off in another direction on a hunt. Thus ended one Indian promise, and thus expired the prospect of seeing some of our fellow countrymen.

During the day a thermometer which Brother Arms had placed without the tent for the purpose of ascertaining the temperature was carried off by some one, but after we had returned for the night our Indian mother, who had been apprised of the loss, came and called to us and handed in the thermometer which by her thorough vigilance, she had found and taken from the culprit who had stolen it. She also handed in a hammer which had either been taken by some one, or had slid out under our tent. When she had done this she went around our tent, to see that all was safe, tightening the cords etc.

Dec. 31st. The Indians returned today from their four days hunt, bringing with them a large quantity of game consisting chiefly of guanacos, with several ostriches. The great Captain brought us six livers according to his promise before he left, and many others presented us with saddles and other large pieces of meat, so that we are actually almost burdened with their liberality. The party crowded around, apparently very happy to see us again, and Captain Congo enquired with much interest about the smoke at Gregory's Bay during his absence, and whether an American vessel were there. He also proposed to go down to the Bay tomorrow, and requested one of us to accompany him, but we told him that the vessel was undoubtedly gone before this time, and he gave up the idea of going. After a very social visit he gave us the parting hand for the night with much apparent affection. Several Indians with little ills such as headache etc. also came to obtain medicine.

1834 Jan. 1st. The Indians have spent this day as they do much of their time, in indolence, and recreation. Ball playing is their principal amusement. Captain Congo visited us and proposed to remove the whole camp down to Gregory's Bay tomorrow. Many of the petty Captains and other Indians are displeased with the idea of removing thither and say they shall not go, and there is much discussion and animated talk among them, so that the Great Captain tells us this evening that the camp will probably not remove.

Jan. 2d. Very early this morning Captain Congo came and informed us that the Indians would remove today and we went about making preparations to decamp. The Indians began to move off about ten A.M. but it was two P.M. before the whole ground was cleared. When about to depart they raised a large smoke as is usual with them on such occasions. Our tried friend Captain Louis took special care of us and furnished horses for our luggage which he packed and attended until it was all safely deposited again in our tent at the new encampment. The appearance of this camp when broken up and on the march is truly grotesque. The men are usually harnessed for the chase with boots and spurs, and bolas and knife, and dogs innumerable; these lead the way while the women and children, with tents, poles, furniture and all, bring up the rear, extending many miles in all directions on the plains. Their horses are sometimes so heavily laden as to fall down under their burdens on the way. I have seen women mounted on a pile 3 or 4 feet above the horse, and extending on each side so as almost to conceal the animal. On their way the Indians caught several guanacos and when we arrived at the camp ground we were presented with a fine portion. One Indian rode up to us, while on the way, and gave my companion and myself each a piece of roasted ostrich which he had taken on the way, and we were afterwards presented with the skin of the bird. At 5 P.M. we came to our new encampment, about 12 miles from Gregory's bay, and erected our tent in season for a night's rest after a laborious and fatiguing day.

Jan. 3d. We are again peacefully located in a very pleasant situation, with a range of mountains on our left overlooking a vast extent of country in all directions, together with the Strait of Magellan and the distant shores of Terra del Fuego, with a hill in our rear to break the force of the wind, and with an open Champaign before us, we have no lack of natural scenery to render us happy. In the afternoon I rambled out with Captain Louis and ascended the mountain, to obtain the prospect which it affords and to gather some wild plums which grow on its sides, and which the Indians call "yamker".

While on the mountain I saw three large smokes on the South side of the Strait. These smokes were made by a race of canoe Indians who have no horses, and who subsist on mussels, limpets and fishes. The natives on this side say they are "much malo," and will have no intercourse with them. On descending from the mountain I descried a smoke in the direction of Gregory's Bay, and was told that some other Indians had arrived there. Just at dark one Indian on horseback came to the camp from that direction and on his approach the Indians rushed out to meet him in great numbers. It is reported that Queen Maria is approaching with a large retinue.

Jan. 4th. Many of the Indians set off this morning to meet the other party who they said were coming from the north. About 11 A.M. a division of the party approached on a hill in sight of our camp and made a signal. Immediately there was a great rushing and hallowing of the Indians towards the right of the camp. On enquiring the cause I was informed that two Americans were coming, and in a few minutes I was saluted in the language of my own country. The Americans proved to be two young men by the names of Henry Boruck and Harry Hassel. The former says he belongs to the city of New York, and landed here from the sealing vessel Tally, Captain Allen of New London, Connecticut, May 20th 1833, and the latter says he hails from Washington D. C. and left the Schooner Elizabeth Jane, Captain Albertson, May 12th 1833. They are wild, thoughtless youths, and becoming discontented with their situation on board the vessels resolved to abandon themselves to the savage life. But the poor fellows have learned their folly at a dear price and they now rue the day when they left the society of the [civilized?] and planted their wayward feet on these pagan shores. They say that though they have been for the most part treated with kindness, yet they have suffered much, and have sometimes desired death rather than life. Their clothes are either worn out or taken from them, and Henry now wears a mantle of skins like the Indians, while poor Harry, still less fortunate, has not been able to obtain even that garment, and vainly endeavours to cover his nakedness with the shadow of an old monkey jacket and the remnant of a pair of duck[?] trousers which he took from the vessel. These are his only garments by day and by night, and he has suffered much with the cold. These men have been with the Indians about 8 months and have been constantly roaming since the winter broke up, stopping only a few days in one place. They have been, as they say, a great distance to the north, sometimes camping on the sea coast, and sometimes advancing far into the interior. They have been with the division accompanying Santa Maria who is now on her way back to Greg[ory's] Bay. Yesterday an Indian of our party went to meet them, and these young men learning from him that two of their countrymen were here, left their company by stealth in the evening and traveling most of the night arrived at our camp before noon today. It seems that the condition of the natives is far preferable to theirs, for while the Indians travel on horseback they are obliged to make all their excursions on foot, and are often reproached with the name of servants or slaves. But though they see their folly, still they do not reform their lives, but are constantly exerting a most deleterious influence on this debased people. They are awfully profane, and have taught the Indians to take that sacred Name in vain of whom they have no knowledge, and to trifle with that awful Jehovah of whose attributes they have never heard. These poor sailors appear very glad to see us and wish to remain with us, hoping that we may help them onboard of some vessel, that they may leave this land of exile. They truly excite our sympathy, but we dread their influence which is in deadly opposition to that which we are endeavouring to exert. In the afternoon another American youth of only 16 years old by the name of Nicholas Drury of Westerloo New York came from the same party on horseback in company with an Indian with whom he lives. This young man belonged to the Schooner Transport, Captain Bray of Bristol R. I., who was wrecked on Terra del Fuego in March 1833. The hands were all saved and taken off by the Unicorn, Captain Low, from which Nicholas landed at Gregory's Bay and has been with the Indians ever since. Besides these there is a man by the name of Daniel Smith of New York and an Englishman and a Portuguese who left these young men some time ago, to search for some vessel in which they might get off. At evening Nicholas returned to the Queen's party which he said had pitched their camp about 12 miles from us while Henry and Harry remain here.