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A short Account of Tierra del Fuego and its Inhabitants
by Thomas Bridges (writings compiled by his children, 1930)


Thomas Bridges (1842-1898) spent most of his life in contact with the native peoples of Tierra del Fuego, living no fewer than 16 years at the protestant mission station of Ushuaia, located in the heart of Yamana territory. [short biography] He was fluent in the Yahgan language, compiled the first English-Yahgan dictionary, and contributed articles about his experiences to missionary journals and other publications.

This paper was assembled by his children (perhaps Alice, Will or Lucas) in the year 1930. Written in an easy-to-read style, it forms an excellent introduction to the study of the human presence in the Fuegian archipelago. The core material has been copiously supplemented by first-hand reports extracted from Thomas's letters, diaries and publications. The original typescript is currently held by the Peabody Museum at Harvard University, in the Samuel Lothrop collection. In 2011 it drew the attention of the archaeologist Alfredo Prieto (Instituto de la Patagonia, University of Magallanes, Punta Arenas, Chile), at the time a DRCLAS Luksic visiting scholar. At his request, permission has been obtained from the Museum to present this new transcription on the PatLibros website.

An annotated version of this paper has been published previously in "A Reader in General Anthropology", Carleton S. Coon, 1948, pp. 84-116. At the date of the present transcription (2012) this text is apparently not in the public domain (although Carnegie Mellon University provides limited visibility via The Universal Digital Library).

A Spanish-language text of similar title ("La Tierra del Fuego y sus habitantes"), written by Thomas Bridges, is available on the website of the Museo del Fin del Mundo, Ushuaia, Argentina. Despite substantial differences, the English and Spanish works clearly share a common origin. Bridges's Spanish text had been published in the Boletín del Instituto Geográfico Argentino in 1893.

Source reference: Peabody Museum Archives, Harvard University, Samuel K. Lothrop Papers, Call# 996-20, Series IV, Box 4, item 4.3
Publication courtesy of: Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, Harvard University
Permission granted by: Genevieve Fisher, Registrar, 15-XI-2012
Credit: Alfredo Prieto, Luksic Visiting Scholar Program 2011-2012, David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies, Harvard University, Boston, Mass., USA
Transcription: Duncan S. Campbell, XI-2012