© 2004-2017

Patagonia Bookshelf

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

 Quick Links:–    Introduction :  Climate :  Zoology :  Indians :  Alaculoof :  Onas

Haush :  Yahgans :  Games :  Yahgan language:–  (1) :  (2) :  Afterword

[Foreword by Thomas Bridges' children]

Our warmest thanks are due to the South American Missionary Society for their kindness in allowing us to look through and largely to quote, many of their magazines. It is our misfortune that we had not the time, on our last visit to England, to take even fuller advantage of their goodness.

The following account of Tierra del Fuego, by the late Rev. T. Bridges, has been collected from a number of sources; old letters, private or to the South American Missionary Magazine, notes for lectures, short articles published at various times, some in English and some in Spanish, and extracts from a diary kept for a number of years, but unfortunately, with no great regularity.

It will be understood that in these original fragments there was necessarily a good deal of repetition, so that to publish them entire would have been unsatisfactory. We have therefore tried to arrange them in an order as continuous as possible, whilst keeping, save in a few cases, to the original wording; and inserting fragments, strictly verbatim, from the diary where these seem to have a bearing on the subject. The footnotes have been added where it was thought they might elucidate some point.

It is impossible to give in English lettering the exact pronunciation of many Yahgan words, but as comparatively few people understand the phonetic system used in the original we have thought best to give what seemed the nearest pronunciation possible. Two things, however, we would bring to notice, viz., the O in the word "Ona", which frequently appears in these writings, is long, as in Chosen and the letter J is always to be pronounced in the Spanish way, like the Ch in Loch.

A Short Account of Tierra del Fuego and its Inhabitants, by T. Bridges.

/p1/ Tierra del Fuego, meaning Land of Fire or Fireland, is an extensive archipelago, measuring approximately three hundred and forty miles from Cape Pillar in the West to Cape San Diego in the East, and two hundred and ten miles from Cape Horn in the South to Point Anegada in the North, and consisting of many large islands and an infinite number of smaller ones.

For the greater part, the country is exceedingly mountainous, and densely covered with forest almost to the limit of perpetual snow. The land rises very abruptly, the valleys between the hills are rather gorges than valleys, being long, narrow and deep. There are numerous deep lakes, but these are generally without fish. The sea, even close to the beach, is also very deep, so that vessels have to anchor closer in shore than is at all comfortable. In parts of the Beagle Channel, not more than two miles across, the water is sixty fathoms.

The South and West, like all mountainous coasts, are much broken up by the sea, very much more so than is shown in the Charts, into numberless peninsulas and islands, presenting an endless diversity of sea surface, in some parts much exposed, in others very sheltered waters surrounded by steep, often precipitous coasts, where the natives (Yahgan and Alaculoof) follow their daily life of fishing and travelling in their canoes.

The surface of the land is as diversified as that of the sea. In one extensive region it forms a continuation of the Southern Patagonian Pampa, in an intermediate region being something between pampa and wooded mountains; in the third forming a continuous chain of bold and closely packed mountains, attaining in the peaks /p2/ of Sarmiento and Darwin a height of nearly seven thousand feet. (foot note. Or more according to some of the charts, which differ considerably.) In these latter parts the glaciers extend in many places from the upper valleys to the sea, breaking off in huge blocks as they are projected into it by the moving mass behind, and the climate, besides being windy, is very wet.

The name of the archipelago was, I think, derived, not from any volcanic fire but from the many fires seen by its early visitors, and made by the natives. Wherever the two tribes of canoe Indians go, whether into the woods to gather fuel and fungus, or on the water fishing, they almost invariably take fire with them; so that when sailing by night in these waters you see fires on all sides, from the wigwams ashore and the canoes afloat.

Then again the natives were given to setting fire to the camps and woods in Spring and Summer, and in very dry weather extensive areas were burnt, thus tracts of originally forest land are covered with grass. By camp fires the native obtained better growth of berries, as well as clearing the country of thorn bushes. Also it is usual when a person dies to burn his wigwam, setting fire to the grass and bushes of the neighbourhood. Thus early visitors may well have called the country Fireland though there is not, and I believe has not been for ages, any volcanic activity.

From letter to S.A.M.S. Magazine vol. 1879, page 155

March 7th. 1879, Ushuaia. On the 1st. Feb. at 8[?] A.M. we had a succession of shocks of earthquake, sufficiently strong to wake almost everybody, and to make walking somewhat difficult. It spilt largely the milk in the pans, and was felt all over the country. Fred (foot note. a Yahgan) /p3/ felt it in Gretton Bay.

Extract from Diary

Port Thome, Feb. 20th. 1883. We are enveloped in smoke from the North. There must be an extensive tract on fire somewhere in that direction, as the whole atmosphere has been warm and smoky for the last two weeks, ever since we left Huniawaia.

Geologically I can only be brief and general; in some parts the country looks decidedly volcanic, especially London Island and its neighbourhood, also the internal parts of Clarence Island. The stone of the country varies considerably but generally is much fractured and seamed and of little value for building. Slatestone of very different qualities is common, as is also granite. Quartz is common but only as seams in other rocks. The strata is very broken, rapidly varying at all angles. Traces of the action of the sea are to be found from elevations of thousands of feet right to sea level, in the form of beach like terraces and wave washed stones. The clay deposit underlying the surface soil is mixed freely with stone, of all kinds and shapes, and often in the form of very hard conglomerate.

In Picton Island and the South Coast of Onisin opposite it, much pumice stone is found, which is of great use to the natives for smoothing their arrows.

In Packsaddle Island there are four remarkable basaltic cliffs, and the lake on this island is well worth visiting. I have nowhere seen iron ore, but a fine specimen of lead ore was once brought me.

In some parts iron pyrites is plentiful, and the natives have always been in the habit of using it to obtain fire. They strike two pieces together and receive the sparks either into some dry down of sea birds, or the dry powder of the puff ball.

Extract of Diary

Mercury Sound, Feb 22nd. 1883. Went in quest of the chief source of /p4/ supply to all Fireland of firestone. We anchored at 1 P.M. in a snug harbour and by our good guide were conducted to the spot. Here we found traces of native labour for centuries past, in large deposits of refuse they had chipped off at various times. There were great rounded masses of iron pyrites, from which with immense labour they obtain supplies. I am told there is none anywhere else in Alaculoof or Yahgaland. Went up to the head of this water, which is separated from Cockburn Channel by a very narrow isthmus.

Transparent flints I have nowhere seen, nor any kind of chalk. Blue, Reddish, Yellow and White clays are found abundantly, and among the conglomerate before mentioned one often meets calcined matter. I have not seen any specimen of coal but have heard reports of coal being found in Sloggett Bay. Bright Black iron sand is plentiful there and also in Valentine Bay, which goes far to prove that gold is also there as the two are always found together. No gold, however, has yet been found in South Fireland, though much has been found in the Northern part, (foot note. Gold was later found in Sloggett Bay, also in Lennox and New Islands, but nowhere in very great quantities.) where considerable numbers of Chileans and others have been at work for some years. (foot note. Written about 1886.) These people are washing for gold in the lower valleys at the foot of the hill range in Useless and Porvenir Bays; since these gold fields were discovered those previously worked in the neighbourhood of Punta Arenas have been abandoned as they do not pay so well. It seems likely from the formation of the land and the definite report of divers persons that gold is plentiful all along the base of the hill range of Onaland which fronts the Magellan Straits and the Atlantic Ocean from Useless Bay to San Sebastian Bay. In all this part water courses are abundant and the pasture good.


In a country so large and of so diversified a surface there are naturally considerable differences of climate, vegetation and animal life. In the excessively humid, cloudy country of Western Fireland frost is almost unknown. (foot note. The inhabitants of these parts were accustomed to make, in the centre of their wigwams, a hole from which they would from time to time bail the water with their bark cups, thus keeping the wigwam more or less drained.) The Central and Eastern parts where the sky is comparatively clear, have four months of sharp frost and in any month one may have frost and snow. (foot note. On the east coast near Rio Grande, we have several times between 1908 and 1930 skated in April and once or twice in October.) I have known at Ushuaia three successive frosts in mid December and a heavy fall of snow with frost following in January, whilst in February frosts generally occur often.

From S.A.M.S. Mag. 1875, page 5

Ushuaia, March 15th. 1874. Ground covered with snow about 6 inches deep. Snow falling all through the day in a succession of squalls; little wind. This evening it is again frosty, with a promise of finer weather. We feel very much for the poor natives, especially for the women and children, when we see them driven by their daily necessities to wade through snow, mud and water, during sharp winds and driving snow, gathering the miserable remnants of mussels now obtainable.

March 17th. Much ice formed on the sea last night. The inlet this morning was in great part covered by a sheet of ice, besides large bodies of it here and there about the bay.

A most glorious day; the splendour is something transcendentally beautiful. Scarcely a cloud all day, and quite calm. Snow still thick on the ground and going away but slowly.

/p5/ The North and Eastern coasts of Onisin have a windy, sunny climate, with far greater extremes of heat and cold in the Southern and Western parts. The lack of Summer heat is the great fault of the Fuegian climate rather than the winter cold, which I have not known at Ushuaia to be lower than +12 Fahr. The highest Summer temperature I have observed at Ushuaia has been +70 Fahr. The mean Summer temperature for four years has been only 50.50 while the mean winter temperature for the same time was 34.06. The climate is most uncertain, one year differing greatly from another and the daily changes being very great. I speak with certainty on these points, having now had experience of 16 years residence.

Extract from Diary

Ushuaia, June 13th. 1884. Today the Allen Gardiner has arrived from Sandy Point after forty six days absence. The one cause of this long passage was calm. The ground is covered with snow and ice, the carriage of stores will prove very difficult. The land has been covered a full month with snow about one foot deep. Our inlet is full of ice and has been so for some weeks.

Cattle and goats thrive well, though both become emaciated during winter and the former do not fatten until mid summer.

We grow with moderate success strawberries, gooseberries, currants, and raspberries; also carrots, parsnips, cabbage, cauliflower, lettuce, turnips and potatoes. In the Southern part of the island wild strawberries of large size and shaped as a raspberry thrive; whilst small black currants, two dwarf arbutus - gush and shanamaim, the sebisa or diddy, two sorts of berberis and in a few parts the Malvina complete the list of edible berries. There is a much larger kind of holly leaved berberis with orange coloured flowers, a very handsome shrub, but its berries, though plentiful, are not good for food. (foot note. It is curious that the Yahgans never ate the berry of the edible berberis until they learned from white people to do so, though to the ordinary taste they are more palatable than gush or shanamaim).

Among the edible plants used by the natives are celery, two cresses, sea pink and auwunim, a plant with thick, whitish roots, and dandelions. The stems of tussac grass are also used as food in localities where it grows. The seed of one species of grass is also used by the natives as an article of food.

There are also many kinds of tree fungi eaten by the natives; firstly a curiously shaped ahman, yel-lush and koushuf, only found on living or recently dead trees. A variety of ground fungi are also found, but the natives eat none of them. There are a number of other tree fungi, or rather globular parasites, called by the Yahgans amaim. (foot note. The same word they use for berries.) There are ten or more varieties, each produced by one or other of the three kinds of beech tree. These various parasites or fungi ripen at different seasons, according to their kind. They appear to be the fruit of a woody plant which grows round the trunks and branches of trees in large and ever increasing masses. These consist of many plants, having their roots in the substance of the trees. Their surface is very rough and covered with bark, having many eyes or pits, out of which year by year grow the special fruit each kind produces. This woody excrescence does not damage the trees on which it grows; it is very hard and not of a uniform texture when sawn. Some masses of it are found of fully eighty pounds weight, and the whole band is frequently seen covered with these fruits so closely packed as to press each other almost flat. At first they /p6/ are mere whitish specks but they grow rapidly, some kinds attaining the size of Algerian oranges. With maturity they soften, the skin opens, and they become pitted. These pits of a bright orange colour are full of a gluey juice, in which I believe are found the seeds. The Summer kinds, called by the Yahgans oachij, (foot note. in this writing the j in Indian words should be pronounced as in Spanish, or the ch in Loch.) suchipu and meama, are often dried, smoked and strung for future use. (foot note. These three kinds when ripe have a very sweet juice, quite pleasant to the taste.) The Autumn and Winter kinds are asuf, c'turn, ushchinij, keem, uiacu and ushuim. All these are identical in composition, though varying in flavour and appearance. They are of an india-rubberish substance which, by reason of its good quality and abundance, may in years to come prove of great commercial value. When boiled for some hours they soften, but refuse to be dissolved, parting with very little of their substance. In this state, eaten with sugar and spice, they are wholesome and enjoyable; the natives always eat them raw. These varieties appear at mid-summer, attain their full size by winter, remain frozen as hard as stone on the trees until spring when they ripen and, getting infected with maggots, fall, turn black and decay. The Summer kind called oachij is specially plentiful and literally covers the ground when it falls. With its yellow balls distributed through the branches and twigs of the evergreen beech which alone produces this variety it is a worthy and striking ornament of the Fuegian forest; three months suffice to bring it to perfection.

Extract from S.A.M.S. Mag. 1873, page 120

This evening paid George - a Yahgan - a visit ... George had been out all day for oachij. He had good success and brought home a large bag full. As usual here he had made a generous distribution among friends and neighbours.

An immense fire was burning, immediately behind which were some twenty lots of stacked oachij, put there to dry and to kill the maggots. This fungus is very generally thus cured and eaten some months after it is out of season ... I before leaving proposed prayer, when in came four men. One of these, Tispinges, had this afternoon killed a very large fur seal and supplied his friends and neighbours with a large piece of its flesh. I congratulated him on his success, which was very timely, for lately supplies of food have been scarce. We then praised the giver of all Good and sang "Son of My Soul".

In Fireland the forests, which extend for many long miles in unbroken length and depth, contain only five sorts of trees, viz. the evergreen beech (nothofagus betuloides), the deciduous beech (nothofagus pumilio) and the stronger scented deciduous beech (nothofagus antarctica) the winter's bark (or drimys) and the cypress or yew.

Besides these there are tree like bushes of mugoo (or embothrium) whose lovely scarlet flowers appear twice a year; the leush or leñadura, valuable as food for cattle during winter, when it flowers, seeds, and is in full leaf; the holly leaved berberis before mentioned and various others.

The yew is found only in the western Andean district where also one sees thickets of fuchsia almost impenetrable and of considerable height, which flower profusely. In these parts also grows the philesia, a beautiful flowering shrub. These are not found in the dryer and Eastern districts. The wild currant grows everywhere and reaches a good height. Pigs, cattle and sheep are very fond of its tender shoots and foliage.

Extract from Diary

Sept. 27th. 1885. Friday night we spent at Fortescue Bay. Here landed in various places, and went into Port Gallant. Came across a native encampment on Wigwam Island, literally embowered /p7/ in giant fuchsia and currant bushes, winter's bark and leñadura. It is a beautiful position and wonderfully sheltered.

The natives always select prominent places to dwell in, whence they can at once pop out into the open waters. Through Acualisnan (foot note. An Alaculoof) spoke to them as much as I could.

Wednesday, Sept 30th. spent at Port Tamar laying in wood for the furnace and getting water. Found here two bushes new to me, one being allied to the winter's bark, the other to the holly leaved berberis bearing elongated bell-shaped flowers, coloured deep orange. Found remnants of an old wreck, and some red bricks embedded round about but in a fair state of preservation.

The veronica grows on New and Lennox Islands as woods, and as massive bushes on other ocean girt islands; for it prospers best where it can receive the spray of the sea waves. With its rounded masses of foliage and sweet white flowers it is a very handsome bush; its wood is useless save as fuel. The drimys or ushcuta flowers in January and February, and is at this season singularly beautiful. Its abundance of pure white waxlike scented flowers, in contrast with the bright green glossy leaves surprise the beholder. It produces in great abundance its fruit or seeds, very piquant and pleasant smelling. Its soft white bark is, like the whole tree, very peppery; and this tree is singularly free from false growths and the attacks of insects, to all of which the beeches are very liable. Its wood is very sappy and heavy, but dries light and brittle; it is of little value as wood, but its saplings when split serve the Yahgans for lining their canoes, and its aromatic wood for fuel. Neither it nor the evergreen beech grow on the Northern side of Onisin.

From the yew the natives make excellent lances, but with an immense amount of labour. It tapers rapidly and is hard and very knotty, but tough and durable and of straight growth; it is also very heavy. The natives prefer the wood of the shushchi or evergreen beech for lances, as it is heavy and easily worked. Also the bark of the same is exclusively used for canoes and water buckets. They prefer the wood of the c'turn for bows, chelia, or holly leafed berberis for arrows, and the leñadura for clubs; it is very heavy and takes a high polish like ivory. The bark of this tree they used in preference for water cups.

The c'turn comes into leaf a full month later than the hanis (nothofagus pumilio) and loses its foliage a fortnight or more earlier; its autumn colouring is marvellously beautiful. For board I think it better than either hanis or shushchi being less liable to deterioration or distortion in drying.

The principal flowers which abound in the grassy districts, besides those already mentioned among the shrubs are: four or more kinds of taraxacums, buttercups, a species of geum, an anemone, primulas, the lovely sorrel, a beautiful bulbous plant whose pendant flowers are streaked with purplish red, three varieties of calceolarias and in the forest the yellow violets and very beautiful white orchis with green and purple spots, also a lovely ground creeping plant whose white flowers are strongly scented with almond. There are others also, notably the yeeya, a bush with grey green leaves which in January is covered with white flowers like small marguerites and another plant somewhat like a cabbage, growing best in shallow streams, it has showy heads of white flowers with yellow centres; finally the lovely scarlet mimulus, only found where water continually drops upon it, as in clefts of the rocks beside waterfalls, but never in bogs.

/p8/ The troublesome plants of the country are two or three burrs, the auwunim whose black seeds are pointed at both ends, the stinging nettle, the common groundsel, two chickweeds and some cresses.

The climate renders tillage on an extensive scale impossible, save for fodder purposes. Tilled land here, as everywhere else, is greatly improved and yields crops of grass and other green fodder in abundance according to the thoroughness of the tillage. A vast extent of surface is covered with an almost worthless growth of bush, ferns and many other plants. Among forage plants are many varieties of grass and sedges, reeds (very little eaten), the rose-leaved burr, celery, auwunim, wild kale, leeush, currant bush, some species of chicory and vetch; gentian of three varieties is very common, and is we suppose the cause of a strong sting of bitterness in the milk and cream of autumn, when the gentian is in flower. There are many other plants, troublesome and beneficial, whose names I know not. Annuals are remarkably few.

The Deluge Lake at Ushuaia is surrounded by water reeds of whose length fully two thirds is under water, their average height is eight feet and their diameter at the base is about three quarters of an inch.


The animal life of the country comprises: the guanaco, found only in Onisin and Navarin Islands, the ctenomys, or coruro, found only in the North and East, eaten by the Ona; foxes of large size (foot note. The Ona sometimes eat these, the Yahgans only when much pressed by hunger.) Dogs are never eaten, nor are their skins used; to eat a dog would be almost as bad as cannibalism, a custom which does not exist among the Indians of Tierra del Fuego. There is also a small bat, loathed by the natives on account of its compound nature. (foot note. And feared also by the Ona as a bringer of bad luck.)

The land nutria is found in Western Tierra del Fuego and besides this there are two kinds of water otter and four of seals, four classes of porpoises and whales of several kinds, all much valued as food by the natives. Seals and otters supply them with good furs, and oil which they eat with berries, fungus, and salad; from whales and porpoises they procure oil and sinew, as well as meat. The sinew they convert into bowstrings, fishlines, cord for all purposes and nets (these made with the same knot used in Europe). The skins of the hair seal the Ona use for making quivers, the Yahgans and Alaculoof as hut coverings, mats to sleep on and thong for all uses. When the Yahgans will cut up a hide into thong they first deprive it of its hair. This they do in the following manner: they spread it on the floor of the wigwam, hair side up, then cover it with grass and broken moss and thoroughly wet it with urine. They then sit and lie on it to cause fermentation, after which they can easily wipe and scrape off the hair. (foot note. The Ona do not practice this form of tanning). Formerly their only cutting instruments were shells and stones and it must have been a lengthy task to flay and cut up an animal, and convert its hide into thongs. The shell of the mussel mytel chilensis makes a very good knife and chisel, making and keeping a very keen edge; with it they used to crop their hair in mourning, an unpleasant operation.

The birds number at least 90 varieties, among which are four /p9/ kinds of geese, five of duck, five of widgeon and teal, two swans, three snipe, a woodpecker, a woodcock, a partridge, the bandurria or ibis, a lovely kingfisher, the humming bird, and a number of others. The condor is sometimes seen, and there are two large hawks or rather eagles, seven other hawks, four owls and four vultures.

The sea and beach birds are chiefly the following: mollymauks, albatross, eight kinds of gull, four of grebe, four of penguins, a large sea vulture, the sea hawk or Cape hen, various petrels, two black fishing gulls, four kinds of shag, oyster-peckers, curlews, etc.

Insect life is very scarce, comprising two dragon flies, three butterflies, six or seven moths, a wasp, seven flies, a mosquito, gnats and sand flies, also long legged flies, an ant, a number of beetles among which is the beautiful Lady cow and a peculiar tree beetle, a small snail, a slug, and not a few others. The beaches swarm with insect life, and there are many specimens of the vegetating animal forms, including coral, sponge, and sea anemones - red, white and green. The principal fishes are: mullet of large size, the hapaim, yapacama, hama, lasahrr, ushcupatabailapaiaca, which are all choice and large fish.

Extract from Diary

Ushuaia, July 17th. 1877. The weather very cold. This morning the thermometer stood at +14 Fahr. and all day it has not risen higher than +19 in the shade. Today most of the men who left for Yahga in nine canoes returned with a large quantity of the excellent mackerel like fish called ushcupatabailapaiaca - the rough tailed fish. They are found in dense shoals and stabbed with spears.

The hapaim and the lasahrr are particularly rich; the former is marked and shaped like a mackerel, attaining a length of over three feet and often weighing more than twenty pounds. Besides the above are the luj or black cod, the pejerrey or smelt, umushapum, or spine fish, the yamala yahgu, the hasyuna and the ilaimush, all fish of good size and quality. Among the smaller fish are the valuable syuna, the gaiyis, the tulluj and the onoali also much valued for food. The following should also be mentioned: sprats of two kinds, at times very plentiful, shrimps and the uca, a kind of sucker fish much prized by the natives for its gristle-like flesh and rice-like eggs.

Extract from S.A.M.S. Mag. 1877, page 109

From letter dated Ushuaia, Feb. 6th 1877. There has been a remarkable supply of ia-ca-si, a native term including the class of fish represented by sprats and mackerel, inclusive of such birds, and even seals, as prey upon them. Sprats were so plentiful as to be left repeatedly in dense masses on the shores around us, and for some days the air was scarcely fit to breathe through the stench of millions of sprats which literally covered the shores of the inlet. Four kinds, or rather five, of fish are found in company with the sprats which are decidedly larger than those found around the coasts of England. These five kinds of larger fish are excellent in flavour and richness, and their livers supply the natives with abundance of oil during the season. The excitement among the natives when the shoals approached the shore was intense. This was always by night, and the shores were closely watched. The noise made by the approaching myriads of fish was like that of quickly rippling water, we could even hear it though some four hundred yards off. The natives, provided with dips for sprats and spears for the larger fish, obtained large quantities and lived meanwhile on fish only.

/p10/ Another cause for thankfulness is an extraordinary supply of the chief winter fungus, called usuf, but now in its immature state maceenik. This is a great standby for at least five months and much appreciated by the natives.

The onoaki mentioned above is a scaleless fish, marked like a serpent, with a round, long, tapering body. Its flesh is peculiarly white, firm and good. I should have mentioned two classes of conger eel-like fish, which live in pairs in cavernous pools. The natives seek them at low water, wading among the rocks in quest of their retreats, which are betrayed by the refuse of their food found in front of them. The natives thrust in their spears in quest of these fish, which seek to avoid the spears, keeping head on to their enemies. The natives, sure of their presence, repeat the thrusts until they strike them in the head and thus draw them out on the spears. Where they find one they are sure of finding its companion. The fish resort to these abodes early in the spring, apparently to rear their young.

Their flesh is very white and good but apt to be infested with flesh worms. Several sorts of fish, especially the luj, are very liable to the attacks of a parasitic animal, which doubtless kills large numbers of them.

Extract from Diary

Ushuaia, Sept. 3rd. 1882. The natives are wretchedly provided with canoes and thus they find it much more difficult to obtain necessary food. This scarcity of canoes is very deplorable, and criminal on their part, as when they might make them they will not. The whale meat the natives brought from the East gives them a most detestable smell, so that to be much with them is very disagreeable; but under the present circumstances blubber is a great standby and highly valued by them. We have not had a fish brought for sale for some four months and do not expect any for two months more. These people are as a rule six months with and six months almost without fish. The mussel is decidedly the staff of life and sometimes almost the sole food of the people through the Winter. It is very pleasant to hear the cheerful notes of the chumuj (i.e. zonotrichia canicapilla) which have just now returned. Their coming has always been hailed by the natives, who fondly interpret the varied notes of this bird as full of different meanings.

Two edible crabs are found, of which the kind called akeeya is a fine crustacean. The hermit crab is also found, making its abode in the shells of paush and other volutes. There are seven sorts of edible mussels, of which four are very fine; of limpets five sorts are eaten, three of which are of large size. Of whelklike shellfish there are five varieties used by the natives, two of which attain so large a size that one will suffice for a meal. One species of these has a part which must be abstracted before it is eaten, as it is highly poisonous; this species the Yahgans call danawa. There are also two kinds of shellfish allied to the cockle which live in the kelp beds, nipping between their shells the leaves of this plant. They can change their abode at pleasure, darting about with a jerky, wavy motion by alternately thrusting out and closing their shells; these are very choice eating. I must not forget the sea urchin called, on account of its innumerable spines, uppush, the name of the troublesome burrs which are the seeds of the plant known as Austral Rose. These sea urchins are very plentiful in Western Fireland, where they form the most important article of native food. There are a great many small shellfish, some of which are prized by the natives for the making of necklaces and pendants.

/p11/ I do not pretend in any of the above lists of animal or vegetable life to be complete, as I am sure there are other forms not a few which more extensive research will bring to light.

In Fireland there are no pumas, serpents or other noxious animals or reptiles. The fox is the only beast of prey, and the minute lizard of Onaland the only reptile found. There are no deer or hares.


The natives of Tierra del Fuego are of three tribes, Yahgan, Ona and Alaculoof, whose languages point to a perfectly separate origin for each of the three; Yahgan is decidedly the most euphonious.

Extract from S.A.M.S. Mag. 1884, page 223

Dated Ushuaia, June 20th. 1884. I have gathered the names of eighty five Ona men from Aneiki, a young Ona now here. ... There is we hear, great diversity in their language; so much so, that the Western Ona can scarcely understand the Eastern Ona. One of the Ona men has quite a large family of grown-up sons, no less than eight of them. This is quite unique. ... I find it [illegible] much in common with the Tsónaca, or Southern Patagonian. (foot note. The Western look upon the Eastern Ona as quite a different tribe. These latter have been now, 1930, for some years extinct. Living more on shellfish and having a much damper climate than the Western Ona they were usually of smaller stature. Their languages certainly differed much, but as there was a good deal of intercourse, even intermarriage, many doubtless knew both tongues. One imagines the Eastern Ona, called by the Westerns Haush, may have travelled South some centuries earlier than their neighbours, and been driven by the later invasion to the damp and inhospitable Southeastern corner of the island. The young man Aneiki mentioned above was of this tribe.)

The natives having no geographical knowledge but only topographical not only had no name for the whole country, but often not even for the larger islands and sheets of water. Doubtless also the same places were known by different names to the various tribes. Thus while the Yahgans called themselves Yamana, and their neighbours Ona and Alaculoof none of these names were used by the other tribes.

Being better acquainted with the Yahgan tribe than with any of the others it has come to pass that Yahgan terms predominate in this paper. Thus the Yahgan name for their Northern neighbours is Ona, and by this term that interesting tribe of Tehuelche descent is now known to the world, as also their country by its Yahgan name Onisin (land of the Ona) and the Channel South of it, Beagle Channel, Onashaga (or Ona Channel).

But whilst the Yahgans had a name for the main island, they had no one name for Hoste Island, and whilst they have names for every locality, every creek or tiny island, which sufficiently serve their purpose, they often have no name for the larger divisions of land and water. Thus this Port of Harberton has no native name, though its ten localities have their distinctive names, besides those of the headlands. The sixteen mile coast of the Bay of Ushuaia has no less than fifty six names.

The Yahgans occupy both shores of the Beagle Channel from Cape Good Success in the East to Desolation Bay in the West and all the islands to the South as far as Cape Horn (Ushtanush) and sometimes have travelled as far as Ildefonso, which they call Yecapasiyoosha (they call Staten Island Chuanisin.) They are preeminently a fish eating people, and their wigwams are generally within a few yards of high water mark.

/p12/ The Alaculoof live along the coasts West of Onisin, both coasts of the Magellan Straits and those of the islands West of Desolation Bay. Thus theirs is a large land but one of the most dreary in the world, being for the most part a confused mass of high mountains, whose summits are covered with snow and their sides with masses of generally dwarfed, forest trees smothered in mosses.

The Alaculoof live very much like the Yahgans, and of course come into contact with the Southern Patagonians on the North, the Ona on the East and the Yahgans on the South; there are very much greater diversities of speech among them than among the Yahgans. I am much inclined to think the language of the Eastern Alaculoof differs so much from that of the Western as to entitle me to say their languages are two.

Extract from Note Book

date about 1871. The Alaculoof are probably the most numerous of the Firelandic peoples; they number, I should think, about four thousand; their language, which is called by the Yahgans Keenaca, meaning strange, I have heard spoken, and have with me a small vocabulary I gathered six months ago. It is wholly distinctive from Yahgan or Ona and is the most difficult of the three to pronounce. The Alaculoof, like the Yahgans, are a canoe people, and are confined to the coasts, they live not inland like the Ona. They are a superior race, both in appearance and manners, to the Yahgans. A branch of these people make wooden boats of boards fastened together with thong; both men and women are expert swimmers and divers, whereas with the Yahgans only the women can swim.

Among a branch of these people called Apumanusiaula cannibalism is said to be common, how far this is true I know not. (foot note. The writer later found this rumour to be false.) They are much feared by the Yahgans. From what I have heard there seems to be much in common between the Yahgans and Alaculoof as regards their manner of life, superstitions and religious practices; I hope some time to learn much more about them. York Minster and Fuegia Basket, both of this tribe, are said to be still living. They were, together with Jemmy Button and Boat Monday [sic] brought to England by Admiral, then Captain, Fitzroy in the "Beagle".

Extract from S.A.M.S. Mag. 1877, page 32

from letter dated Oct. 3rd. 1876. Concerning a voyage from Punta Arenas to Ushuaia.

Off Indian Cove a canoe put out to us, containing two men and two women, all clad in deer skins. The language of these people was utterly unintelligible to me, but appeared in sound similar to Tsónaca (foot note. Tehuelche) and very different from Alaculoof. No deer exist in Tierra del Fuego, and these natives though they visit the islands live chiefly on the main land, where deer are plentiful.

Ibid. 1881, page 226

from letter dated May 25th. 1881 speaking of voyage in "Allen Gardiner".

We were windbound many days in harbours between Cape Tarn and Barbara Channel. Here we had several days intercourse with a party of natives who know no Yahgan, and whose language seems to me a medley of Alaculoof and Tsónaca. ...Their canoes were of a piece with those the Yahgans make.

Extract from Diary on a roundabout voyage from Ushuaia to Punta Arenas

February 19th. 1883. Today we came at three P.M. to an excellent harbour on the North-east coast of London Island. Here we found some natives and to our sorrow heard that poor Fuegia Basket was in a dying state. I went with two natives to see her, and endeavoured to lead her to hope in God. I told her that many felt a great interest /p13/ in her and would be sorry to hear of her death. She is in a distressing state and very weak; her daughter is with her, so she is well cared for. She is very wrinkled, but has not a single grey hair. Gave the poor women some clothes; these people are very poor.

Ibid., A month later on the way back to Ushuaia

March 19th. 1883. Today reached Ice Cove (Muneoaia). Took on board a young man named Alamulalhorrhcuchis as passenger to Ushuaia. I hope to learn from him and write down much Alaculoof. I find him much more intelligent than my late teacher.

Extract from S.A.M.S. Mag. 1883, page 138

From letter dated Punta Arenas, March 8th. 1883. We reached this place on the 4th inst. after a voyage - not direct - of twenty seven days from Ushuaia. ... We landed the Alaculoof family from Europe among their own people on the East coast of Dawson Island, their home. I learned here that the Dawson Islanders comprise seventeen men, and those we saw were well grown, vigorous fellows. I learn that the natives from Useless Bay Southward, and up Admiralty Sound are rather numerous, and that they are partly Ona and partly Alaculoof. They frequently make canoes, in which they visit the islands, but they live chiefly on the main island, subsisting on guanaco, which they shoot with arrows. They are reported by the natives of Dawson Island as strong, fearless and numerous. The language of the Dawsonians has a large admixture of Ona words. These natives go as far West as Barbara Channel, and frequently visit the Patagonian coast where they kill wild cattle and deer.

Ibid., Page 150

March 9th. 1883. I acknowledge with much pleasure your kind letter of Nov. 29th. ... Also your press copy of Samson's narrative of his life among the natives. This narrative is a very faithful one as far as I can gauge it. What he says of the native method of smoking tobacco and its effect on them, is perfectly correct. The natives who committed the outrages he mentions are from the West and South of Barbara Channel. They have received dreadful provocation these many years. At the same time it is ruinous for them to attempt retaliation for spears, arrows and stones cannot compete with Winchester rifles. Letahbugootanges, a native of Stewart Island, who is more of an Alaculoof than a Yahgan and who well knows the Barbara Channel and neighbourhood is with us now, has spent some six months at Ushuaia. On our return passage we shall place him with his people, and have charged him to warn them and their neighbours of the direful effects of violence on their part towards seamen or any other strangers. I have no doubt but that he will do much to prevent any similar outrages to that which Mr. Samson suffered. I would I could give you more definite information about the Alaculoof tribe, but I hope soon to know much more about them, their language and customs. The wooden canoes they make are not for domestic purposes, but rather for the men to move more rapidly from place to place, and in order to visit the more exposed and distant islets. The common bark canoe answers for general purposes, and in such the Alaculoof ordinarily move about.

Ibid., page 273

from letter dated Orange Bay, Aug 25th. 1883. It is with very great regret I announce to you the death of my young Alaculoof teacher. He was a very intelligent, pleasing youth, and very playful. My wife and children, who saw much of him, were greatly attached to him. He died of tuberculosis, after rather a short illness. He was much liked by the natives. I had hoped to have learned much from him. /p14/

Extract from Diary

Oct. 1st. 1885. Left Port Tamar at dawn, had a most lovely day, steamed up Smythe Channel on the Western side and came across a small party of natives. They had one wooden canoe and as far as we could see comprised not more than seven persons. We steamed in close to shore, and after some hesitation two men and two women put off and came alongside. Acwalisnan (foot note. an Alaculoof) only half understood them, and it was with great difficulty we could speak to them. We learned there were other natives who had gone sealing, but where they were or how many we could not learn. They were poor specimens of Fuegians and I suppose of a type between the Alaculoof and Chonos.


Oct. 22nd. 1885, Ushuaia. A dozen men from Dawson Island arrived today, having wintered between Admiralty Sound and Lapataia. They came without their families and are a fine set of men, being in language and appearance half Ona and half Alaculoof.

The natives of North and East Tierra del Fuego are the Ona, very similar in language, features, growth and mode of life to the Tehuelches across the Straits. They are, or were, much feared by the Yahgans. They use bows and arrows for killing guanacos and birds, they also use dogs for hunting and are a very muscular, active and well grown people; they live largely on seal, fish, coruros, berries and fungi and are sometimes called the Foot Indians to distinguish them from the Canoe Indians of the South and West. They are not very numerous; Fitzroy reckoned them at six hundred; I have in former times estimated them at two thousand, but lately the epidemic of measles, which has so much reduced the Yahgan tribe, has, as far as we can learn, wholely swept away the numerous Eastern division of Ona. (foot note. or Haush) These appear to have been rapidly decreasing during the last forty years or so. I have heard of repeated seasons of great mortality among them. They appear to live in bodies of about twenty families. They are very poor and apparently live more on shell fish, which they carry sometimes long distances inland, than on guanaco. They do not make capas of the skins of guanaco kids, like the Patagonians, for the simple reason that they cannot get enough of them. (foot note. owing doubtless to the miserable and boggy land of that part of Tierra del Fuego).

They make, like the Yahgans, fish nets of sinew with uniform meshes, the knots of which are identical with those of hemp nets made in England.

The Ona used to bear a good character, and if but a fair chance were given them would prove to be worthy of the name, rights and privileges of man, but no chance is given them. Rather than have any trouble with them they are kept by the rifle as far off as possible. I sincerely hope the Argentine Government may act nobly and successfully in saving and utilising in a Christian manner this undoubtedly fine race of people, and will not allow the riff raff of mankind to act in Onisin as they have done in other gold fields. May the Government effectually exert its parental influence in kindly and wise action for the benefit of the Ona. /p14A/

Account of Eastern Ona (Haush) Taken in part from Diary when shipwrecked with a party of scientists in June 1882 at Sloggett Bay, in part from S.A.M.S. Mag. 1882 pages 224 and 225, part of a letter dated Ushuaia June 16th. 1882.

We saw the Indians' smoke on the East side of the bay, but an unfordable river separated us. On the second day after their arrival they came over to us on the ice in a broad bend of the river. Two came to our camp alone, evidently to allay suspicion and prove their peaceful purpose. An hour after nine or ten more men and lads arrived. These were all kindly treated and a barrel of bread distributed among them, when, seated around the camp fire, we had much conversation with them. They brought bows, and arrows in skin quivers which they speedily were bartering for knives. Bows and arrows are the chief weapons of these natives; though not in the least ornamented they could not be better made, and this is the case with the weapons and implements of the Yahgans, and, I expect, of all primitive races.

Their language is remarkable for its excessive jerkiness and strong gutturals. Happily some of them knew Yahgan, so we could speak with them freely. We find among these Eastern and Southern Ona a large admixture of Yahgan women, who are very apparently shorter than the Ona women. The men struck us as well built, tall and powerful, decidedly Tsónaca in features, manners, appearance and language. We visited their camp and their whole company visited ours, and we had no trouble with them. They did not come to us any day till towards noon, and left while it was still day. Each man had a conical piece of guanaco skin with short close fur (foot note. from the head of the guanaco, an almost bluish grey) tied over their brows, which has a pleasing and imposing effect. All of them were well provided with guanaco skins, two of which - grown animals - formed every adult's covering.

Unlike the Yahgans they live apart, family by family and we found these fifty persons having nine different fires. These hardy people are content in ordinary weather with the shelter of a few guanaco skins to shut off the wind, and nothing over head or to leeward save the foliage of the trees. They also much frequent caves or any shelter afforded by overhanging rocks. Through walking much in snow and thorns their skins were much wounded, and it was evident to us all that they lead a hard life. I made arrangements with them for a young man and woman to come with us to Ushuaia.

Extract from Diary

June 13th. 1884. Have been occupied of late in compiling an Ona vocabulary of about one thousand two hundred words and sentences.

Extract from S.A.M.S. Mag. 1885, page 247

from letter written on board "Allen Gardiner", Punta Arenas, Aug. 10th. 1885.

/p15/ On the 25th. ult. ... we left for Gente Grande Bay ... our object was to see the natives there, gather all the information we could about them, receive some of them for instruction and prepare a way for the settlement of the ever difficult native question. ... On the fourth day ... we went on horseback for a long ride in a vain search for the natives. ... On the sixth day we again went out, and had repeatedly to dismount to warm ourselves by exercise. We came across natives in the afternoon. They had fled and scattered as soon as they spied us, and when we approached their huts we found them deserted. Eventually we ran down two poor terrified men. They had bows and arrows and were dressed in much patched guanaco mantles. They were gaunt, powerfully made and about five feet eight inches in height. We had with us Anaki, an Ona from Keppel Island, who is engaged by Mr. Bartlett as a regular employee. (foot note. This would be the same Aneiki before mentioned, probably the boy brought from Sloggett Bay to Ushuaia in 1882.) On hearing him speak they abstained from shooting, though they several times put their arrows to do so. Through Anaki we soon made them feel assured of safety, and of our friendship, and we talked to them for a full half hour. ... We tried to arrange for a meeting on the morrow, when we promised them every kindness, and gifts of knives and blankets. So great however are their fears that this was even in vain. I had hoped to show some of them our vessel, and to have induced some lads to come with us. After the two poor fellows had been made happy, and we had seen them smile, we left them, but not before we had pressed them to abstain from killing sheep and horses. We found proof, in the refuse of their huts, that they had eaten mutton.

Presently we saw other natives in the distance hurrying away. We pushed on in pursuit and came up with a mother carrying her three children. The youngest could not have been less than two years, and the oldest was about seven. Outside her mantle, a very poor one, she had a band of thongs across her breast, and thus supported she was actually hurrying along for her life with this great burden. When we drew near she halted and, beating her breast, deprecated our wrath with great vehemence, making us to understand that she nourished a child and for its sake wished to live. The poor children were crying dreadfully, being sorely galled by the thongs. When we would liberate them the mother resisted, evidently fearing we would take them from her. She kept up for a long time a loud weeping deprecation, but gradually she calmed down and listened to what we said. We had the pleasure of seeing her happy before we left, and gave her some presents and again repeated our invitation for tomorrow. One of the two men caught up to us and was a deeply interested party at this meeting. What he was to the woman we don't know. It was now too late to force a meeting with others, who were all out of sight. The riding is very bad because of the burrowings of numberless coruros, animals something like rats.

The day following our meeting was very fine, and we kept a look out for the agreed signal smokes; but in vain, so we got under way and went round to Porvenir Harbour.

None of the natives had any knowledge of poisons; their only drink was water, they smoked nothing. The Alaculoof however, in the Magellan Straits, have long liked tobacco and liquor, having learned the use of these things from their neighbours the Patagonians. Some of the Yahgans also have learned to like tobacco and intoxicating liquors. /p15A/


The Yahgan tribe was, with some reason, considered the most wretched race of mankind on earth. Yet the ideas conceived of these natives were in many respects false. Captain Fitzroy, some fifty four years ago, (foot note. Extract from Lecture given in 1886) took some members of this tribe to England with the kind intention of making a beginning in the way of raising them to a better and happier life. He placed them at school in England, caused them to watch carpenters, smiths and other workmen, and in two years brought them back to their country. The Church Missionary Society sent out with them a young man to commence Christian work among these Indians, and a trial was made.

The young man was left to live alone with the natives at Wulaia for some ten days, after which H.M.S. "Beagle" returned there to see how he did. He gave such a doleful account of the wild conduct of the natives, and was so afraid of being killed and eaten by them that Captain Fitzroy saw he must take him away.

Later on Captain Gardiner's attention was drawn to Tierra del Fuego and he started a mission in the same part, intending to carry on the work commenced twenty years before by Fitzroy; but through the inscrutable Providence of God he and his brave party died of starvation at Spaniard Harbour, whither they had fled for refuge from the threatening natives of Picton Island and neighbourhood.

The South American Missionary Society thus formed by Capt. Gardiner did not let the good work fail but profiting by his counsel and experience (foot note. Capt. Gardiner's letters were found, some buried at Banner Cove and some at Spaniard Harbour.) the Rev. G.P. Despard and others resumed the work on a wiser plan. Again was it staggered by the massacre of the crew, eight persons, of their mission vessel; and the ship, though not destroyed, was completely rifled and stripped of every removable thing. The vessel was at great expense recovered and refitted, and the work resumed.

The language of these natives was learned and reduced to writing, the natives were instructed in Christian knowledge and the arts of civilised life with the happiest success by divers employees of the same mission; and being thus prepared by some five years constant intercourse with these people in repeated visits to their country in the mission schooner, and by having taken some sixty of them for a longer or shorter stay to the mission station in the Falklands we considered it safe and wise to begin living among them in their own country, thus aiming to develop the work more rapidly. Our then superintendent, now Bishop Stirling, was the brave man to make this trial; and he made it alone and lived six months with the natives in comparative peace, daily instructing them and organising various employment. It then fell to me to resume the work, from which I had been called home for a space of nine months. Since then, the year 1869, these same natives have been quietly progressing in knowledge and the arts and good manners of civilised life, treating us with respect and conducting themselves exceedingly well. The powerful lever that did this was knowledge brought to their minds by means of their own mother tongue, and also the extensive employment of the people in the varied work of creating a civilised settlement. Houses were built, roads and gardens made, cattle and goats introduced, and a school established; but it grieves me sorely to say that the Yahgan tribe, which thirty six years ago certainly /p16/ numbered at least three thousand persons, as lists of names and families I have made fully prove, now counts no more than four hundred.

Extract from S.A.M.S. Mag. 1884, page 223

from letter dated June 2nd. 1884. I have lately taken an almost perfect census of the Yahgan tribe, which numbers two hundred and seventy three men, all of whose names I have registered under their several clan names. Their wives and other adult females number three hundred and fourteen; at least sixty of these are widows and unmarried, and the actual number of children enumerated is three hundred and fifty eight, making a total of nine hundred and forty five. Of orphan and young children I feel there are not a few oversights, say fifty five, which would bring up the Yahgan tribe to one thousand. The number of adults includes the youths of over seventeen years. The number of boys among the children as greatly exceeds the girls as the women do the men, making the sexes equal. This shows that the females reach maturity considerably earlier than the men, and this is certainly the case. Youths of nineteen or twenty you would frequently mistake for fourteen or fifteen. For instance, I am now sending Tymuran to Keppel Island; I had thought him to be thirteen or fourteen but on looking into my registration of births I find he will be twenty years old in August.

The fearful mortality commenced in 1860, the year following the massacre of the "Allen Gardiner's" crew. Between that year and 1863 there was a great mortality in all parts, owing to a number of diseases, when the population was reduced by nearly one half. At this time in many cases the slightest wound mortified and death resulted. Many fell dead suddenly, others died after short illnesses. The natives wandered about in fear of their lives; but when in 1863 I first visited Tierra del Fuego the natives were still numerous and a few days sufficed to bring together three or four hundred persons, attracted by the news of the vessel's arrival. Other and similar diseases followed, among them a sort of small-pox, and the loss still continued, not only in parts touched by the Mission but all through the Channel.

Finally there have been a fearful increase of pulmonary complaints and an epidemic of measles, which in one year reduced the tribe from over eight hundred to four hundred. From these data it appears that these people at no distant day will cease to exist, unless a great change should take place among them. The mortality is decidedly greater among men than women and there is no doubt that immorality is one of the chief causes of this great decay of a hardy and muscular race. Yet these natives have usually been described as a great deal worse than they were. I well know they were bad enough, as all ignorant lawless people must be, but they were falsely reported to be cannibals, and the sketches of them have been rather caricatures than likenesses. They did neither eat flesh nor fish in a raw state, they never married any blood relation, however distant; to do so was utterly abominable to them. On the other hand they were very immoral and low in their conversation and conduct, and their many offences against the dearest rights of their friends and neighbours kept the community in a chronic state of unrest and fighting. Few were without scars, and many deaths occurred through personal violence.

Extract from Diary

Ushuaia, March 24th. 1872. Hatushwaianges vey ill from the effects of injuries received from Couilij who was jealous of him.

March 28th. This morning at about 2.30 Hatushwaianges died. During his illness he has been most kindly cared for by Pinooinges and his wife. He has been in a very dull state for some days past and complained of pain, principally in the neck and chest. /p.17/ I fear that the violence of Couilij has caused his death.

March 31st. There have been some few demonstrations of anger by one and another for the death of Hatushwaianges, and Couilij has had to give away his blubber (foot note. A large supply of this commodity had just been brought from an immense whale stranded near Pacawaia, some twenty miles to the Eastward.) and other things, and in other ways to suffer.

April 8th. Today a party of sixteen canoes arrived with intent to avenge the death of Hatushwaianges, Couilij made his escape and walked round the shore Eastward. The other natives asked me to help them and to speak to the avengers, I asked them all to be as passive as possible and told them I would be with them and do what I could.

The occupants of the sixteen canoes, having landed, lost no time in meeting the people here. All on both sides, men and women, were armed with sticks, spears or paddles and all who were connected with Hatushwaianges or Couilij indicated the same by the paint on their faces. (foot note. Hatushwaianges' relations having their faces covered with white spots on a black ground, Couilij's with white bands on a red ground.) Before the two parties met I intercepted the avengers and asked them to be reasonable and just and not ignorantly to hurt innocent people. They would not, however, be detained but hastened on and Méacol presented himself as the chief object of their revenge, being the nephew on his mother's side of the manslayer. He was quite alone and the three principal avengers in turn threw large stones at him, but purposely avoided hitting him, as was very evident. There was much shouting and rushing about, great noise and confusion, much threatening and fierceness of manner but very few blows. Méacol, after the affair was over, was obliged to lay down the principal of his possessions to further appease the angry feelings of the dead boy's relatives.

There was much talking thro'out the rest of the day. Four of the canoes left this afternoon. The rest were made welcome to the various wigwams here. We are very thankful to our merciful God who did not suffer this affair to be a very serious one. (foot note. It probably would have been more serious had the writer of the above not been present. Though he always went unarmed among the natives the influence of a perfectly fearless man bent on keeping the peace as much as possible, certainly had good effect. Even when warned that a very bad tempered Yahgan was waiting for an opportunity to brain him with a hatchet he only, when the man came to the gate as though to speak to him, scolded him for his foolishness and pulling aside his skin mantle took the hatchet from him.)

The last mention of the above affair is under date July 11th. 1872. Went to see Couilij who has been hurt by a cousin of the boy Natushwaianges of whose death he was the cause. His head is much hurt and he received several blows about the body but he is not dangerously injured. /p18/

Extract from S.A.M.S. Mag. 1875, page 13

From letter dated Ushuaia, May 2nd. 1874. ... Today seventeen canoes arrived, with people from many places. There was a little commotion made by the new comers on landing, which was feared by some would prove serious. I must describe it. Last night, unknown to any of the people here, the above arrived and put up at Hamacuhr. Some of the people here heard the voices of many at Hamacuhr Shadatoo, i.e. make a loud tremulous shouting, as is the manner of those who have blood to avenge. Not knowing what might have occurred elsewhere, and who might unhappily find themselves deeply concerned, many were anxious, and two men came to me to ask for hoes wherewith to defend themselves; I refused them kindly and besought them to be slow to anger and fight and only to take slender rods. However before the people landed we learned from a fishing canoe which came in before them that there was nothing serious to fear. The canoes kept together, and the men landed at Entrance Point, and were all disguised with paint and charcoal, so that I could not readily recognise many whom we knew well. The women and children remained in the canoes, put out a little from the shore, and moved very slowly forward. The men came along, many armed with clubs. One man, Lasapowloom, a vigorous, active young fellow, acted the champion and challenger, and stood prominently forward to meet the foremost and most excited of the opposite party. Like the man who confronted him, he had a broad band of white from his chin downward, and his head was bound with the skin of a kelp gander with the white down on it, his hair was also whitened. He had a white stone in either hand. His antagonist, who came leaping along making much noise, was armed with a club. He kept on demanding what iacasi (a term for seals, penguins, mollimauks and other sea birds, and deep water fish) would let him kill someone, as though he thirsted for blood. He held his club ready to use it, and they both spoke excitedly and loudly to each other. Presently Lasapa threw one of his stones a full yard behind his opponent's heels, and ran after his stone to pick it up. Presently, looking where I heard much noise, I saw two other highly painted fellows engaged in loud vociferation and earnest gestures, each with an arm round the other's neck, and bobbing their heads each to the other. The rest stood quietly looking on, and presently the people dispersed to the various quarters they had meanwhile been invited to. I was highly amused to learn that Lasapa acting the part he did was according to custom, called Tsworoo or the storm of wind; the man who met him was called Tumootsworoo or the one who invites the storm to rage against him. Now we learn that there has been an accident, but the parties interested have been and still are a little suspicious of foul play. A month or more ago we had news of a canoe upsetting and all being lost. Then we heard a rumour of one of the men in the canoe, with the connivance of his sister, the ill-treated wife of his companion in the canoe, killing him and then sinking him and the canoe in deep water. We now hear that the skeleton of the woman has been found, and nothing yet discovered either of the canoe or the men.

The Yahgans were very quarrelsome and touchy and the weaker were very careful not to offend the stronger and to be courteous in their manners and language, often dissembling with smiles and words of peace their hatred and disapproval.

Having no fixed principles they were utterly unreliable, being solely guided by what was expedient or gratified their passions. Many considerations kept them from coming to blows more often; each person /p19/ represented all his kindred, and by his misdeeds exposed them to the consequences and himself to their displeasure.

Cannibalism was an utter impossibility from the very nature of native society, in which human life is a very sacred thing, and for this reason, all the relations of the murdered person were in honour bound to avenge his death. I have heard of periods of sharp hunger, when continued bad weather prevented their obtaining supplies either from the woods, the sea or the shore. At such times they have eaten their hide shoes and thongs but never has anyone proposed to eat a human being. (foot note. In bad weather the tides in the Beagle Channel ebb very little; owing to the effect of the South and South West winds the falling tide, which runs out in great part through the Murray Narrows, is driven in before the shellfish on the beaches are uncovered.) The lives of the old women who have been reported as the usual victims of cannibalism, were as sacred as those of any other persons, because they had sons and daughters, nephews and nieces, younger brothers and sisters, who felt as such towards them, and none dared to suggest their deaths.

The Yahgans occasionally hastened the end of their relatives by strangulation. This was kindly meant and there were good reasons for it. It was only resorted to in cases of long continued unconsciousness and utter weakness, preceding death, when the dying person neither ate nor drank, spoke nor moved. The act was done openly and with the consent of all except that of the victim, who was too inanimate to do anything. This act was called tabacana and it was done to any class of person in the above hopeless condition, either man or woman.

The Yahgans had great faith in dreams and were consequently often troubled with anticipation of death without reason. They feared death because of the suffering and misery attending it and because it was the end of life. Great consideration was shown to the sick, they were well tended and as far as possible their wishes were fulfilled. The nursing chiefly fell to the lot of the women. At the last closing scene all friends and relations were expected to be present and to make the occasion important by their united lamentations. It was a great gratification to the sick to have their friends around them and so much honour shown them.

Immediately after death the body was enwrapped in skins and branches of trees, and either buried in the shell heaps around the wigwam or publicly burned and the embers scattered about; or it was taken to some almost inaccessible shelf of rock, and there deposited. The wigwam in which the death occurred was burned and the family left the place, not returning for some months. For mourning they cropped their hair close round the crown of the head and painted their faces black with charcoal and oil. Friends painted theirs red, with mixture of black according to the degree of relationship. Also there were regular systems of painting by which the nature of the death of the departed was indicated. Thus for death by drowning the pattern was black bands with white edges, if by violence it was black or red with white spots, if natural a plain black. For marriages and births also special paintings were used. Mourning for the dead was kept up a long time and no one dared mention the dead by name. If anyone did so it gave great offence and begat a disturbance often ending in fatal frays.

The Yahgans formerly had the vaguest and most ridiculous notions of the rest of the world. They looked upon ships as moving countries or compound animals rather than the work of mens' hands. Their knowledge [did not extend?] /p20/ beyond the limits of their travels, and they in their ignorance considered themselves stronger, wiser and more cunning than their foreign visitors, and I think they were, in the sense of wrestlers, not wrong the first instance, i.e. in their own way of wrestling, which was a fair trial of personal strength. Capt. Fitzroy discouraged wrestling between the sailors and the natives because the latter proved the stronger, and it was a revelation to them of the weakness of the sailors which the wise commander thoughtfully avoided.

The Yahgans have no tradition of their origin; for them the world was always what it is, and ever will be the same. For them it had no maker or master and they had not the least idea of pleasing or displeasing anyone beyond themselves. They had no future, and expected nothing after death. Anyway this was true for the most part; they had a word expressive of death "cagagulu", the meaning of which is "to go up and fly" which seems to convey an idea of an after spiritual state, and again shooting stars were spoken of as the dead wizards of their people.

The Yahgans believed in ghosts and in a number of supernatural beings and in wild men of the woods. The ghosts were supposed to live in lonely caves in the forest and were much feared. Persons from time to time believed they had seen these spirits and gave account of the apparition. The Hanush, beings shaped as men, lived, alone or in groups, in the woods but with no women or children; they were constantly watching to surprise and kill any man, woman or child possible.

The Cushpij were spirits which at night could make themselves visible but not tangible. They were malign, and the Yahgans associated them with sickness and death, to call a person Cushpij was a great insult.

The Asasyu or Apunanusiaula, people of the West, were much feared.

Extract from Diary

Ushuaia, January 1st. 1872. During the afternoon Sisoianges' wife was sleeping and awoke hearing a strange noise in the next room. (foot note. A two roomed house put up by the Mission.) She got up but could see nothing. She was in a great fright and spread a report that an Asasyu had come into the house.

They were believed to be assassins of wonderful power and wickedness, travelling all night in their large wooden canoes and hiding so well by day that they could never be seen, but stories were told of one and another who had seen them by night yet managed to escape.

Extract from Diary

July 2nd. 1876. We are now at anchor in a place called Chupateel' amaca on the North side of Londonderry Island. Today a canoe came off to us, the people in which were very pleasing specimens of the Fireland natives. They are Yahgans and do not associate with Alaculoof. In appearance they differ nothing from those further East save that they were better clad with skins and had better countenances. Their canoe was a counterpart of those seen further East. The males - four - came aboard, were lively, communicative and very well behaved. We questioned them about the sad affair at the Fury Islets, where the natives killed and wounded several of a ship's company and some of them were killed by the survivors in revenge. These natives had not heard of the affray. I asked them where the Apunanusiaula lived, they pointed to the Northwest. These Apunanusi people are reputed to be cannibals but I do not believe the report, which is so like others we have proved to be false. Last night and today it has rained almost incessantly.

Saturday, July 22nd. We have had much intercourse with the natives of these parts, who have come off to us in seven canoes. The vessel was brought to at different times to give them the opportunity of coming alongside. /p21/ Two or three of them have visited Ushuaia once. They are all Yahgans.

From another M.S.

The natives travelled long distances in their canoes and were venturesome in trusting themselves with comparative strangers. Thus I know several natives of Cuchawulaf who come to Ushuaia in the East and in the opposite direction as far as Port Gallant and Mercury Sound; this distance is considerably over two hundred miles.

We have had a prosperous day with light fair wind and are now at anchor off Smoke Island in Thieves' Sound. A native of these parts is on board whose name is Hahmteculunges, who by report is a maker of wooden canoes. It is very desirable for the sake of the Eastern natives to clear up the matter about these "Luputuj-anan", wooden canoes, which have been for ages a source of continual fear to the Easterns.

These "Luputuj-anan" were supposed to be manned by murderers who moved about in them by night in order to kill any natives they might meet. They drew up their canoes by day and secreted themselves and never lit a fire for fear of detection. We want, by spreading definite knowledge, to root out such fears from the native mind. So hearing Hahmteculunges had a Luputuj-anan we asked him to show it to us; but it is a long way to the Westward and not in use. We have not been able to reach the spot today.

Tuesday, July 25th. 1876. Weather much the same as yesterday, a wet day throughout, wind West-Norwest and strong. Pulled up to the head of Ulipisisuaia - Courtney Bay - where we found the Luputuj-anan, a hollowed tree twenty nine feet long, two feet through in widest part and three feet high. It is well hollowed out, but being so narrow is very crank and was left by its maker as of no use. It was half full of water. There was a pair of paddles roughly made and larger than canoe paddles. Hahmteculunges, the maker, was duly encouraged for his energy. The stem of this Luputuj-anan runs up to a point four feet above the ground.

Extract from Diary

Yendagaia, February 2nd. 1878. The wooden canoe of which we have heard so much came alongside this morning. It is a most ungainly object. It is very large and contains twenty persons easily. It was an immense piece of work and there is great inconvenience in the use of so large a craft.

Somewhere near Stewart Island, February 16th. 1883. We have had much intercourse with some four or five native families, who in part are Alaculoof, in part Yahgan. A party of men crossed over yesterday from Stewart Island, one of them having spied our vessel from a hill. They crossed over - men only - in a long wooden canoe, the first proper Luputuj-anan I have seen. It is made of five long boards, one broad strong one serving for the bottom, its ends projecting up, forming the bow and stern. Attached to this are two boards on either side, shaped to meet the curve of the bottom board. These are sewn together with stout lines of wood fibre, having very substantial wadding of the fibrous seed stalks of celery tightly sewn into the seams making them almost watertight. The sides are strengthened by stoutish wetaca (foot note. wooden supports) similarly to a bark canoe, only doubly stout. It needs constant repair, as the wood fibre is always breaking, especially in the bottom seams.

oarlock For rowing they have two pieces of a double forked branch, thus: securely bound down on the rail in the bow half of canoe. The oars are well made stout round poles, at one end of which a well-shaped blade is securely bound with uri. The bottom has pieces of native board in it, under which the water can flow. As in the ordinary canoes they have a turf turned roots uppermost and fire thereon.

/p22/ The canoe is shaped like the common ones, only the ends instead of being pointed run up to a ridge. It required constant baling. It was made by a native from the neighbourhood of Barbara Channel.


The Yahgans were very fond of wrestling, of which they had several kinds. Out of their wrestling matches many quarrels arose. The manner of wrestling was this: a wrapt up otter skin served as the gauntlet, which the challenger would place at the feet of him he sought as an antagonist from the circle of players and witnesses. Never more than one pair wrestled at a time. They were encouraged by their highly excited witnesses and partisans. The object of the wrestlers was to floor one another. They fairly grasped each other under the arms and never used the legs to wrest the opponent's feet from the ground. They lifted and then would toss aside and bring the opponent down with all possible weight on one leg and thus try to force him down. They never tried more than twice when those matched proved equal.

Another game was with a ball made of the large webbed foot of the mollimauk, stuffed with down. The players formed in a ring and tossed the ball from one to another, keeping it thus flying about as long as possible. Another game was the following: the players squatted on the ground on their feet, holding each other under the arms and between the knees, thus forming a compact row. They would then sing or chant and would begin rolling simultaneously from right to left, to the measure of the tune. Sooner or later the row of rolling and slowly advancing players would upset, when there would be much laughter.

They had other diversions which were of a semi-religious, dramatic nature. To carry on these they constructed elongated log wigwams with openings at either end. The dwelling wigwams were always round, whether made of logs or branches. Women and children were denied entrance to these special huts. In them the lads were disciplined and initiated into their status as men. These wigwams were called keena; boys uninitiated were called tamum, those in the course of initiation Ushwoala. The initiation of the boys and girls took place when they were between fourteen and sixteen years old. The lads were taken in hand by their uncles and elder brothers or other male relatives, the lasses by their aunts or elder sisters. The lads were initiated and trained in the keena, the lasses in the common dwellings but always in the absence of any men and boys. Abstinence from food was exacted from both; and the fasting of the lads was often severe, resulting in many instances in leanness and debility. Also for several years the youths were expected to abstain from the use of certain kinds of fish and shell fish and of certain parts of whales, etc. Both sexes received, after a longer or shorter season of abstinence, good moral precepts with reasons for observing them, whereby their friends honestly thought to fit them for their future life. For example, stealing and lying were forbidden because they brought suffering and trouble, diligence, generosity and faithfulness in marriage were enjoined because they ensured peace and happiness. Adultery was condemned as a crime, an adulterous person was likened to a rotten tree, which has only to be touched to fall. But, as elsewhere all the world over, though their precepts /p23/ were right their lives were wrong and in consequence the precepts had little or no effect. Vice was forbidden because it was hurtful, righteousness enjoined because it was beneficial; the la[ds?] were enjoined to be faithful to their clannish duties of vengeance and fortitude was strongly required. No boy could marry until he [had] undergone this discipline. Neither sex received any cruel treatment while it was in progress, though the fasting of the lads was sometimes over severe.

One piece of worldly advice given to the younger men was to take as a first wife an old woman, because such would give them little trouble and much help. This was often followed, though never, I am sure, from inclination, but only from necessity, because marriageable girls were scarce and always bespoken by men already married. Widows did not long continue so, in fact a single adult man or woman was a rarity. But with the march of civilised life marriage becomes less necessary and more difficult and the number of single men and women increases. All the rites connected with the keena were reserved for times when considerable numbers were gathered together to observe them, and give due éclat to the various performances. The Ushwoala or lads under training, besides gathering wood for the keena fires, where it was wastefully used, were obliged to make many fires on the eminences around and when abroad were accompanied by a guard to see that they did not break the ru[le] as regards fasting, and visit the dwelling wigwams to get a meal. The lads behaved very meekly and did not gaze about them but kept their eyes steadily downwards.

The men meanwhile would be occupied in the keena, painting and variously disguising themselves with bark hats and smearing themselves with blood, procured by pricking the inside of their noses, to represent various characters. Some would appear as an evil being called Chinugoo, others as another evil spirit known as Tanoowa, others again represented Ushoomeena and others Laiacakeep, a female demon. When all was ready, the women and children being seated outside their wigwams, these variously disguised men, unrecognisable even to their nearest relatives, would rush forth with club, spear or bow in hand; dancing and leaping about frantically, threatening the women with their weapons and often speaking most offensively but in no case harming anybody. They would then, having thoroughly wearied themselves with their wild antics, rush back to the keena in the same manner as they had rushed out of it, chanting vociferously. In the keena they would rest and, amidst roars of laughter, discuss the merits of the different actors. Secrecy was strictly enjoined upon the newly initiated ones, at the peril of their lives, on the secrets and cheatery they had been made privy to. The natives had not the least idea of propitiating by their performance any being whatsoever. These rites sometimes occupied many days, and they were times of great disorder and license.

All dances and amusements were accompanied with singing or chanting, for the varieties of which they had special names, derived from birds and plants. None of their chantings had any meaning though the words were diversified. The tunes were very monotonous, yet when men, women and children united they sounded well enough. The natives keep in time together: the men without exception have tenor voices of very good compass.

/p24/ All the singing of the Yahgans whether jovial, religious, vengeful or for mourning are accompanied with swayings of the body. The Doctors when seeking inspiration sang, or rather chanted, mourners made loud and long continued lamentations, chiefly left to the women; persons seeking revenge for murder of relatives loudly chanted, with violent motions of the body, thus seeking to excite themselves to violence and all when gathered round the wigwam fire were glad to amuse themselves by singing divers chants and relating and hearing traditions of the past.

Extract from S.A.M.S. Magazine 1875, page 10

Ushuaia, April 15th. 1874. Meecungaez made an angry oration about the stealing of his garden produce, and acted as though he was possessed and fighting a ghost, dancing about and throwing out his arms and speaking very vociferously, but to no one especially were his angry words directed. (foot note. This sort of thing was still common in the early nineties, perhaps later.)

The men when they passed thirty or forty years of age sought for excitement and importance by entering the ranks of the Doctors or yecamush. These were wont every morning to daub their heads with white clay, to give themselves the appearance of venerable age. They were prepared by fasting and much incantation to some indefinable but apparently evil spirit called yapachal, to act as medicine men and exorcists. They were favoured with dreams, had power to procure good weather and drive away bad. They prescribed cures of this or that bark and also were credited with powers to exorcise the cause of sickness, or by witchcraft to cause sickness and death. When under the influence of the yapachal they pretended to be insensible to outward things, the burning of the fire and the presence of their friends. They at such times acted as though really possessed. I have seen one yacamush rush up on the fire, scatter the burning embers among the assembled people and dance on the hot ashes; one must suppose he burned even his tough skin considerably.

They oftentimes handled the sick very roughly, when in this wrought up state, excited through much chanting and violent contortions, they exorcised the pain and its cause from the body of the sufferer, pretending to do this by the hands and suction and to swallow the malady and its cause, which was supposed to be an arrow or spear pointed flint called yecush, of which the doctors always professed to have a supply in their stomachs. The cause of sickness they could present at their pleasure and could pass it off again in an invisible form into the air and thence again receive it in visible form and swallow it.

The natives, strange as it may seem, had great faith in these doctors' alleged powers and entertained some fear of them; but this state of things has long since passed away. There are no more doctors, the keena drama is no longer performed and mourning for the dead is more reasonable.

Extract from Diary

Ushuaia, Saturday, April 22nd, 1871. All things go on very happily. This morning after prayers I spoke to the people about stealing and how hurtful it was to all, how confidence was forfeited and mistrust begotten.

April 26th. 1871. This evening made a batch of bread. While I was doing this Oosiagoo came to the door saying he had a dreadful pain in his stomach. /p25/ I let him in and immediately he began to retch most dreadfully. Before I could pass him to get a light he gave me my knife which he stole last Friday evening. He pretended to have vomited it up, which, of course, I would not credit. However, when he came into the kitchen, I saw that the violent retching had brought great abundance of tears to his eyes, which had run profusely down his cheeks. The history of the stolen knife is as follows: on Friday evening, immediately after tea, having locked the kitchen door, I went down to visit the different natives living on the shore, who are known by the term Paiaca aula - beach indians. Jacob (foot note. another missionary) went out shortly after. I went into Oosiahgoo's wigwam last of all. One of his three wives had some fish for me which I asked Oosiahgoo to bring to the house. So after some very friendly conversation we came up together at 8.30 p.m. to Stirling House. (foot note. then in process of construction.) I left him in the kitchen until I could bring a light. I came to him as soon as I could, gave him some biscuit for his fish and sent him away. I had occasion to use the knife shortly after and could not find it. He had, in the dark, felt over the table and seized the knife. (foot note. The idea, also prevalent among the Ona, that a Doctor can cause arrow heads etc. to enter into a person without his knowledge, had probably suggested this way of returning the knife.)

Extract from Diary

July 27th. 1872. On Tuesday afternoon we had a most interesting season. During the morning the sewing party (foot note. Men who were learning to make clothes for themselves) had much conversation concerning the power of Yecamush in regard to yecush etc. and a clear trial was proposed to decide the important question. At two p.m. a large party assembled in the chapel which was warmed and comfortable. Two oldish men and renowned doctors performed, Meecungaez and Usiahgulum. The former first performed, being placed on a table at the end of the room. He would make us believe, if he could, that we saw the yecush in his hand, asserting it was there; but we asserted the contrary and after many vain attempts and acknowledgements of want of power he gave up, vanquished.

Usiahgulum, after being searched, was then seated on the table with a like result. These two men acknowledged that in our presence they could not perform and that the power to do such things was leaving them. ... I think almost all were glad to see for themselves the exposure of imposture. The two actors were not angered at all and the whole thing went off very happily. When it was over we spent the rest of the afternoon playing games in the field, which were very much enjoyed.

To lessen pain in the limbs or body bleeding was often resorted to by means of light but numerous cuttings near the affected part. Headache was relieved by making the nose to bleed by cutting it within the nostrils, as also by clipping the hair. The men often practice abstinence from food from early morning until night, thinking it manly so to do and tending to good health and efficiency in hunting. To delay, when out hunting, to gather berries or other food, or to take with them food from wigwam to eat by the way would be looked upon with disfavour as unworthy of a man and as tending to laziness and inefficiency.

In their personal habits, whilst there was much room for increased decency and cleanliness, yet there were many good points that did them honour as men. Incest is a crime unknown and utterly /p26/ abhorrent to the native mind. Although too often in other respects most immoral, as regards this hateful offence the native is quite pure.

With the women there is a great sense of decorum and a man, unless he seek it, will seldom see anything to shock his moralities in their conduct. - To the pure all things are pure, but to the evil minded is nothing pure.

The Yahgans differ much among themselves in features, stature and mode of life. In the Western parts, owing to the broken nature of the ground, the rank growth of vegetation in the preeminently wet climate, the abundance of thorny shrubs and the absence of open spaces and beaches, walking is very little practised and the canoe is not only a conveyance but to a very large extent the home of the native, where not a few births occur and many a night is spent. In consequence the natives' limbs are distorted, their legs crooked and ill developed and their stature small. But in parts further East where the land is more open and there are guanaco to hunt and distant lakes to visit for catching birds and gathering eggs, the natives are taller and better grown than the others by virtue of their different modes of life. We have had many proofs through the space of twenty five years experience that you have only to alter the manner of life of a people to completely change their physical development and that in one generation. But apart from the Mission influences, amongst the natives of Tierra del Fuego, even among the Yahgan tribe the variations are immense. Some have lank hair while others have theirs crisp and curly, some have flattened noses with the bridge very much depressed, some are remarkably stout, others are of very fair stature and bulk; the shortest among the women measured four feet six inches and the tallest among the men five feet nine inches.

Extract from Diary

Ushuaia, March 6th. 1871. This morning I measured some fifteen of the men here. The tallest was Pinoinges five feet five inches, the shortest four feet seven and seven eighths inches. The average height is five feet two and ½ in. I afterwards measured 8, whose several heights when put with the others make the average height to be five feet two and ¾ inches. The individuals were from parts widely scattered and of the canoe indians I think this is a very fair average.


March 27th. 1871. Some of the old trousers given me for the natives are much too large for them in every way. The sight of such gigantic garments created much merriment among the natives; they greatly wondered there could be men sufficiently large to fill them.

Manners and customs also vary considerably. In some parts one wife was the rule, in other parts many had two wives, some three and a few as many as four. Girls were given in marriage from fourteen years onward. Not infrequently before they became settled in life they had had many husbands, for the marriage relationship was not secure unless children were born to unite the parents in a common care for them. In no case has a woman been known to have more than one husband at a time, but successively some have had ten or even more.

Whilst children belonged to the clan of their father yet their mother's relations were equally dear to them as their father's and were equally bound to befriend and defend them and to avenge /p27/ their wrongs.

Ucuhr, wigwam or house, is also the term for relatives or kindred, answering exactly to our word house or household. Marriage with very distant clans was infrequent from the natural unwillingness of women to separate themselves so entirely from their own people. When a man married more wives than one they were generally sisters, which fact tended greatly to strengthen the family party. A wife was by no mean wholly in her husband's power and she had quite as much liberty as was good for her; not a few men are domineered over by their wives. But on the whole the family life was happy and correct; what the wife caught or obtained was her own, the husband only used of it what his wife gave him, and she did not ask his permission when she would make presents to her friends.

Children were generally born in the open air, and this of necessity and from proper feeling, the wigwams occupied jointly by several families, offered no privacy. The expectant mother with her nearest female friends withdrew. Shortly after the birth the party returned, a friend carrying the young child. Within a few days after birth the child was dipped in the sea, with the idea of strengthening it.

Unnatural births were always destroyed and wisely so. For unimportant defects, or such as proved themselves later as for instance deafness, no one was destroyed but only for enormities. Though deaf or dumb men never married, unless it were an old woman, a deaf woman would be a wife and have children, the men remained single because usually no woman would marry such.

The children are decidedly small at birth and to this fact may be chiefly attributed the mother's immunity from danger.

More pleasure was expressed at the birth of a son than of a daughter and mothers were always proud to tell how many children they had. Infanticide was rare and when it occurred was generally the mother's act, on account of being deserted by her husband or annoyance at the complaints of her neighbours over the child's crying. Generally the children were tenderly cared for by their parents and friends and encomiums of every kind were expressed in order to please the parents as also to express the honest affection of loving friends. In the absence of the mother any other woman would feed the child rather than let it suffer. Mothers of young children tend them most carefully and give themselves up to their maternal duties much more entirely than is the case with most civilised people, scarcely ever putting them out of their arms, and nourishing then amply to a very late age.

Children did much as they pleased, like everybody else; there were no schools to attend, no lessons to learn. They early, for pastime, prepared themselves for their future life; spending their time, if boys, in practicing throwing or slinging stones, spearing or shooting arrows at a mark, or in attempting to make the various articles of native property; the girls in threading berries as necklaces, paddling in the canoes, making reed baskets, or in attempts at painting faces etc. The children's help was required in all the duties of native life.

Girls and boys were, by their proud parents, often laden with a profusion of native necklaces of bone or shells and their faces painted as attractively as possible.

The division of labour was, I consider, very fair, the women were not imposed upon. The men gathered the fuel and the fungus, the /p28/ women cooked, fetched water, paddled the canoe and fished. In journeys the men paddled as well as the women. The men tended the fires, made and mended the canoes and prepared material for them. The men hunted otters, seals, guanacos, foxes, birds and fish of every description. The women had charge of the canoes and could invariably swim well but it was a very rare thing for a man to be able to swim. The reason was that it was absolutely necessary for the women to swim but not at all so for the men. The Yahgans, like the Alaculoof, often live in districts where there are no beaches for many miles on which it is possible to haul up their canoes. They must therefore anchor them off the steep shore. In such cases on coming to shore the husband and family land. The husband goes up into the forest to collect fuel for the wigwam and starts the fire. The others bring up the supply from the canoe. The mother, meanwhile, paddles the canoe a few fathoms off into the kelp and taking some of its long branches secures them to a paddle, which she passes under the thwarts. Having done this she steps overboard and swims ashore. In the wigwam she finds a good fire, whereby she warms and dries herself. When the canoe is to be used she swims off to it, gets in and brings it ashore. She goes then to the wigwam fire. The husband or elder children make a fire in the canoe, (foot note. On a turf put upside down and usually with some shingle or sand on top, the canoes always leaked more or less so the fire did no harm.) they also take down the things that will be wanted and when all is ready the party embark with their dogs and all their worldly possessions and would be very happy if they were only good. It is not because they are poor, life short and the struggle for life often hard but rather because they are foolish and selfish that they are often unhappy and wretched. But for the blots on their social life and their offences against that law of right and wrong which has been enjoined upon them by their friends, as also by their own judgement, they, amid their rugged mountains, shut out from the world, would spend their years in health and peace.

Native property consists of the canoe and its furniture of paddles, spears, bark or wooden buckets, balers, slings, fishlines of plaited whale sinew, clubs, bows and arrows, drinking bowls, shells or bark cups, (the wing bone of an albatross is much used for drinking from the deep, narrow buckets) reed ropes, two kinds of baskets and a sort of hand net also of reeds, round wooden boxes fitted with covers, bags of divers kinds of skin and gullets for oil, paints, tinder and firestone, spear and arrow heads, thongs for various purposes, bone awls, chisels, smoothing and sharpening stones; wedges of bone for splitting bones on wood, wood shavings, scraped by shells in the making of spear shafts etc. and used as towels and pocket handkerchiefs and other odds and ends.

Necklaces made of different kinds of small shells, also of shag's bones (the smaller bones of the wings only are used) cut into small pieces about one eighth of an inch in length are threaded on a strong string of plaited whale sinew. Fine plaited cords of whale sinew are also worn coiled round the neck. Wreaths neatly made from the fine feathers of handsome birds are used as head bands; they also used the skin of the kelp gander, the down of which is of a snowy white, as a sort of cap.

The canoes are made of the bark of the evergreen beech, /p29 missing from photocopy of original document - this text per Coon, 1948/ they are formed of five or more pieces; the bottom piece which is very thick, the tumagaia which are joined to the end of the bottom piece, and rise to a point at either end of the canoe and the unchapai, or two side pieces shaped like a bow, each made of one or more pieces of bark. The seams are sewn with whale bone or if that can not be had with wood fibre and wadded with the stringy seed stems of the wild celery. They are then wadded with grass, moss and mud and lined closely with split stems of sapling Winter's Bark. They are kept in shape and are strengthened by shafts of wood sewn down firmly on the inner rim of the canoe, meeting and crossing at the point of the tumugaia. Cross pieces or thwarts of leña dura are notched and sewn firmly down to the rim at proper distances, dividing the canoe into compartments called Apun, the fireplace, Keepacuchin, the women's seat, Muaskemana, the bow and Ushtaca, the stern. Outside of the bark forms the outside of the canoe; as it is very rough it is necessary to chip off to a smooth surface all the rough parts which would impede the canoe. The canoes vary very much in size, some can carry three quarters of a ton, others scarcely half a ton. They are old and worn out after six months service and are made twice a year, in Spring and Autumn. The former are called Hacua, the latter Een-anan, i.e., Winter canoe. The natives are specially careful to make the latter well. (Ushuaia, January 29th, 1874. Today Wanigulashan and his son, with their wives and daughters, left in order to make a canoe before the bark becomes fast to the trees, which it does towards the end of February and loosens in October, leaving five months for canoe making.)

The Yahgans' chief weapons are their spears of three kinds, slings (these with no hole in seat, they are very dextrously used, the stone is invariably sent forth in the second twirl round the head) and clubs. These weapons are also and chiefly used in getting their food. The spear heads are usually of bone; of whale, seal, guanaco or man, but never of their friends, and are of all lengths from 9 inches to 3 feet, the shafts from 5 to 20 or more feet. The large single or double notched spear is called Oain and is used in fighting and killing large game as guanacos, seals, porpoises and whales. The shaft is called Kushooma, and varies in length from 16 to 20 or more feet. A thong is attached to the shaft some five or more feet from the butt and the other end is secured to the bone head; the head is then hitched into a groove and is kept there by the tightness of the fit and the aid of the thong, which is on stretch, when the animal is struck the head is soon disengaged from the shaft, which now impedes the animal's escape.

The many notched spear is called Shooshoaia, from Shoosha, a penguin and ooia, a spear, it is used in spearing birds and fish; its shaft is securely bound to the head. The smallest spear, Eenij, is also used for fish and birds, its slender shaft is Ahgamoosh and it is simply a small Kushooma.

A three pronged spear called Seeta is also used for catching crabs and another called Umba of three or more prongs for fish.

They used three kinds of clubs, the largest of which, called Yoj, is pointed at one end. The second is called Wosin and /p30/ the third Kueea; this is the smallest and is also used as a missile.

The Yahgan devices for obtaining food were many and ingenious, I can but mention a few; they varied greatly according to the nature of the locality. Wild geese were caught in considerable numbers by the following simple device: across narrow valleys leading to lakes frequented by birds little sticks were thrust in long rows, into the ground, with openings here and there. In these openings were secured whalebone nooses. The geese on landing from the lake would walk along this fence seeking openings to pass through; they did not think of flying over. On finding openings they attempted to pass and were caught securely by the neck. They catch steamer ducks thus: at the edge of the woods, on the shore a man builds a little bower or simply secretes himself in the bushes there. A captive bird is in his possession. This, hearing its fellows without calls to them or if the man has no captive he cleverly imitates the call of the drake when he sees any of these birds near. Hearing it, the other birds draw nearer and nearer; the man holds a long slender rod with a fine noose attached to it; this he uses discreetly. Before very long one or other of the ducks puts its big foot in the noose, is tripped and disappears into the bower. The others, not seeing any enemy, are very excited but do not go away, still hearing the decoy bird within and the noosed rod is carefully thrust out again to catch another bird. In open situations nooses of fine whalebone secured to a small stick are placed on points frequented by birds, which are thus caught.

Among other ways the following is practised for catching cormorants: a strip of wood is formed into a hoop; to this are attached short lines with bait on their ends; inserted and securely bound at their lower end in the bait are two or three finely pointed bits of hard wood, of about 1½ inches length, the upper ends slightly opening outwards. These points draw inward on being swallowed with the bait, and present no difficulty; but the shag, finding the bait attached to something, tries to disgorge it; this is, however, impossible as now the upper points open and stick into the gullet of the bird.

Another way of catching these birds is to approach the cliffs on which they roost in the darkness of night. The natives cover over the fire in the canoes and have prepared flambeaux of bark beforehand. Suddenly these are united and the cover of the fire thrown off when the astonished birds, startled out of sound sleep, drop down in a semi conscious state into the sea, where the occupants of the canoes kill all they can.

A third and very successful way of catching these birds is this: before they return to some islet where they are accustomed to spend the night in large numbers two or more native men secrete themselves there under the stones and seaweed so that the birds cannot see them. In due time the canoe leaves, the men not forgetting to keep some fresh water for their use in case bad weather prevents the return of the canoe on the morrow. Evening draws on and with it the birds assemble. When it is quite dark the hidden men creep forth to do their work. Their art is to seize the birds singly over their wings, so as to prevent a flutter or cry. They kill each bird by biting its head, and hold it firmly until it is quite dead; they then deposit it on the stones and treat another /p31/ and another in the same way, until by some mishap the alarm is given and the startled birds make off into the sea. These birds sleep soundly with their heads under their wings.

Extract from S.A.M.S. Magazine 1875, page 9

Ushuaia, April 10th. 1874. Now is the penguin and loggerhead duck season. The latter are now in the height of moulting and many are chased and taken. It is wonderful that any should be still in these waters. Hunters of elephants, lions and tigers in the tropics would not be more alive to the excitement of these hunts and the recital and hearing accounts of such than these natives are in speaking of the capture of these birds in their canoes.

April 11th. A cloudy, dull day and very calm. Some natives went out to spear penguins and loggerhead ducks.

Ibid., page 12

April 25th. A very fine day. Almost every man and woman in the place is away after a whale, which they have been attempting to kill yesterday and today. They are a long way Eastward and are still out on the water.

April 26th. This evening some ten or more canoes came, each having a share of the poor whale, which literally was killed by inches, having received into its body about a hundred spears and from first to last was being followed and wounded from Friday 4 p.m. to last evening at 10 p.m. The meat looks very good and has not the least smell. It was a young female about 18 feet long. This is the first instance since we have been here (about 4 years) of the natives killing a whale when free in its own element. They, the natives, were thoroughly fagged out.

Ibid., page 13

April 30th. The natives have suffered much temporary pain from eating the whale and I hear that this is usual at first, but passes off with the continual use of whale meat.

Extract from S.A.M.S. Magazine 1878, page 79

Ushuaia, November 17th. 1877. We have lately heard of a sad canoe accident. Three or more canoes were out by night in Ponsonby Sound spearing sea gulls by torch light, when a heavy South-west gale sprang up and six persons were lost; all were nearly so but the others were resuscitated by the kind offices of other natives. The persons lost were Amiananges, his two wives and three children. We well remember the particular night this sad accident happened; it blew fearfully, was excessively dark and there was a strange luminosity over the sea which looked like silver.

From S.A.M.S. Magazine 1881, page 251

Several accidents have happened to canoes, one of which was broken by an infuriated wounded sea elephant and the five persons it held were drowned.

The natives catch fish without hooks. They bait their lines with the tail of a small fish. Some luckless fish swallows the bait and is then quickly, yet without any jerk, drawn near to the surface. Unaware of danger and reluctant to lose its food, it retains it. No sooner is it within a few inches of the surface than the skilled hand of the fisher grasps it and it is deposited in the basket with its fellows, the bait is drawn out of its mouth and the line thrown over to catch another. (foot note. This sort of fishing was always done in the kelp where the woman's brown hand, lying among the leaves, was not easily seen.) Of course there were times, regulated rather by the weather than anything else, of plenty and of want; but the natives had no idea of a feast as such, or of commemorating any event or day /p32/ by feasting or mourning.

Having no numbers beyond 3 and no terms for definite divisions of time, as e.g. weeks, months, years, they could not distinguish one time from another. Again, they had no idea of the length of a month as measured by the moon for the same reason. Yet they used the terms for different states of the moon to indicate the time when they had done or intended to do this or that. Again, they had a variety of terms for different seasons of the year but none of these of definite length. They were loosely used as suitable for the time of year. In this loose manner Arina, Keesi, Hanislush, Eena, meant Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter. Hanislush means red leaves, referring to the prevailing tints of the woods in Autumn. Besides the above they have terms such as the following: the season for canoe making, the egg season, the hatching time etc. No one knew how old he was, and the knowledge of none extended backwards more than three or four generations. They universally used their fingers for counting which for them served very well.

Each grown person had his or her place in the wigwam and the several wives of a man had each her appointed place as respected the seat of her husband, from which she derived her title. Thus the first or rather principal wife, for sometimes the first in respect of time became second or third in respect of rank, was spoken of as Wahyusín i.e. The one on the door side, because her place was invariably on that side of her husband. The second was called Ushushpai because she sat next her husband on the inner side, and the third Cuchiellahco, i.e. Next beyond on the inner side of. Thus each knew her place when they went into any fresh dwelling, but usually a man had not more than one or two wives at a time.

Extract from S.A.M.S. Magazine 1875, page 218

The natives are always buying and selling, exchanging canoes and everything and their manner of doing so is very unsatisfactory. Here is a sample that occurred a few days ago. Palahlaian, a man about thirty-eight, has three wives, three little children and a good canoe. Another man, a visitor here, not living with Palahlaian, intends to give his canoe to Palahlaian. Palahlaian does not wish it, and hears of it indirectly and is troubled what to give in return. He told me all about it. Palahlaian at length is told that such and such a canoe is his, not, however, by the giver. Palahlaian then seeks him and gives him a large axe, well handled. Thus there is no mutual agreement previously made, and most of their transactions are performed in this loose manner. Marriages are brought about in much the same way; ... there are no arrangements, no agreements between the various parties. This horrible looseness prevails through everything.

The begging and stealing propensities of the natives discourage laying up stores of fuel or food and engender slyness. When they sell skins or other things to us they aim to do so unknown to their fellows, in order to keep what they receive for themselves.

It seems to be the rule among ignorant races to have no special name for themselves, though they invariably have for the tribes around them: in default of such names they are content to use for their own tribe terms meaning man, person, people. Thus a Yahgan, wanting to know whether one of his tribe was aboard would ask /p33/ "Undagaratayamana"? i.e. "Is there a man or a person on board?" He did not consider the English or other persons in the same sense as he did his own people. The Tehuelches among themselves use the word Tsónaca for their tribe. This word also means man, person. Similarly the Ipurina of the river Purus in Brazil use the word Ipurina, whose meaning is identical with Yamana and Tsónaca. This word, yamana, applied specially to mankind, is highly significant. It plainly points to the idea of man being the highest form of life. The word means living, alive; as a substantive it means life; as a verb it means to live, recover life or health. Wiamanana means to give life to, restore to health, to heal.

I gave these natives the name Yahgan because it was convenient. The Murray Narrows, near which our Mission was established, called by the natives Yahga, may be considered the centre of their land, and the language as spoken there was that I learned and its purest form, being the mean between its varieties spoken Southward, Eastward and Westward. For these reasons Yahgan seemed a suitable name and is now known everywhere.

Admiral Fitzroy called the Yahgan tribe Tekenika and Yappoos. I know the origin of the first and I think of the second term also. The first is the name given by Fitzroy to a large Sound in Hoste Island called by the natives Putruaia (Hot bay) by Admiral Fitzroy Tekenika Sound.

In passing it Jimmy Button (a native lad) was asked what was the name of the Sound. He, not speaking English very well, replied in his own language "Tekaenaca", by which he meant to say that it was a strange place which he had not seen before. Yappoo evidently comes from Aiyapüj, an otter. Neither of these terms are known to the Yahgans as terms for part of their tribe. In the early days of the Mission this same Jimmy Button was asked the name of his son. He, thinking he was asked how many sons he had, replied "Three boys", which accordingly was understood to be the boy's name and clung to him ever after, though his only name at the time was Mamashtagadagunges from Mamashtagadaga, the place of his birth.

Three classes of names were current among the Yahgans. First, those derived from the place of birth, as Sechunges, Usiehguloom, Washanges (men) and Tuspilikeepa, Ashailikeepa, Calagatamuatamolikeepa (women).

By these people were generally called, oftentimes they had no other name. But if you asked a person his name and he happened to have only that of the place of his birth, he would tell you that he had no name, because to the native mind the family name was preeminently the name of the individual. These family names, to a great extent, have in process of time lost their meaning, being largely of very remote origin.

Children seldom received their parent's name, but usually those of their uncles and aunts and of grandparents. Of these family names the following are samples: Lasapa, AiamInaez, Palahlaian, Meacol, Cushchin, Chingalaian, Pataez, Lacoazkeepa, Aiawahr, Hanyuitan.

Extract from "Voice of Pity", vol. 13, page 176

The natives have an idea that naming children early stops their growth and since children so often die in early infancy and it is considered evil to name the dead, if the child had no name the parents are not vexed by hearing it.

The third class of names were epithets descriptive of some peculiarity of manner, feature or accident. These latter were often handed down as family names, when of course they became no longer suitable.

/p34/ Of this class I will only give translations: Long, Red or Pointed Nose; Flat, Broad or High Forehead; Long, Short or Bow Legs; Hairy Face; Broken Hand or Foot; and a great variety of others, many of which were highly objectionable but which through constant repetition the natives used almost unconsciously of their meaning.

Extract from Diary

January 25th. 1872. Ootatoosh very much desired to drop the name of Ootatoosh, which means narrow or small neck, and to be called, as is the custom, by the name of his father's father, Meacol, to which, of course, we have assented.

But names of any class were to a large extent tabooed when the bearer was present, or in the presence of his relatives after his death. In place of naming persons present they were indicated by the positions they occupied in the canoe, the wigwam or the field with respect to the person speaking or spoken to, or in some other covert manner. Thus instead of saying "Aiaminaez gave me this", they would rather say "He in the bow or stern" or "He on this side or that side of the wigwam gave me this". Such phrases are very difficult to us because we have no concise terms for them but such terms the Yahgans have in abundance, the following will serve as samples: Inga, Ura, Usha, Ila, Hoamatu, Sicu, and many others. All these, in the absence of suitable terms, we should translate he, she, or they but to the Yahgans they all have further reference to place and direction, with respect to the person speaking, spoken to or spoken of.

The natives gave very sensible names to the different parts of the country, observing much method in this matter. Thus Navarine Island they called Wulla; Wullaia or the bay of Wulla is so called because it is the largest bay in the Island and Button Island, situated in this bay is called Wullayeshca, namely the Island of Wulla, Gable Island is called Wulla Lanuj i.e. the end of Wulla.

Similarly named is another group of places round a large bay, called Laia. The Wollaston Islands are called Yeshcusin i.e. The land of Islands and the natives of it Yeshcaiamalin i.e. The Islanders. The following are a few samples of the names of places: The Standing Rock, Red Rock, White Rock, Encircling Ridge, Water at the Door, Veined Rocks, Bitter Waters, Red Reeds, Many Streams, Long Point.

It appears to me, from the unmixed nature of the Yahgan language, that this Southernmost tribe of American natives are the first and sole occupants of their lands; in the names of places there is no trace of other languages save of Ona and Alaculoof in the parts bordering on these tribes.

Yahgan is an ancient language and a pure one. In proof of its being old I will mention that it has compound terms in daily use, parts of which cannot be traced in the present language, out of which they have quite vanished, save in this compound form. Thus Shuganikeepa, a girl; Keepa is woman, Shugani evidently means young or single but it is not found save in this one compound. Now, it takes a long time for such a word to pass out of a language. Again, in the names of places and persons the same partial disappearance is continually met with; part of the name still in the language of today the other not traceable. Yet, in these compounds anyone who knows the language of today can say with certainty that the portion of this or that word now lost was as much a part of Yahgan as the rest of the word.

/p35/ The language is very rich in number of words and its structure is regular and ample. It consists of 45 sounds, of which 16 are vowels. The natives had not the least idea of writing and knew nothing of words as such. They could well use their language but they could not give one a sentence word by word. Their language had to be learned by inference rather than direct information.

Extract from S.A.M.S. Magazine, page 128

It is utterly impossible at first to get hold correctly of the pronunciation of a new language from the lips of a savage. He cannot, before he is taught, pronounce words of his own tongue slowly and distinctly. Often have I, until I was ashamed, made the indians pronounce words so repeatedly that they have called me deaf, being unable to satisfy my mind as to whether I had it correctly, and after all being compelled to write it down when dissatisfied with my pronunciation and consequently with my spelling of the word.

From Ibid., 1878, page 11

The cause of the difficulty these natives find in speaking, reading and writing English is the middle sound they give in their own language to C and G , P and F, D and T, Ch and J , S and Sh; U, A and E which sound in their language so nearly approximate as to render it difficult to determine which is which. They cannot with certainty tell the difference between Et and At, red and rat.

At length, however, it was acquired and accurately written with a phonetic alphabet. This goes on the system of a letter for every distinct sound and each sound to have its especial letter. Thus the task of reading and writing it is rendered most easy and the pronunciation is definitely fixed. But though rich in sounds and numbers of words and, like their appliances of life, eminently adapted to the use of the natives in their former state it proves a very poor means of educating them for a higher life, as it is sadly wanting in definite terms, for ideas which the natives had never entertained.

For example they have no terms for authority and no laws, even parental rule was very weak. The only term usable for obey is Urumana, which means rather to assent, agree, yield, than to obey. For our ideas of duty, as expressed in the words ought, should, owe, the Yahgans have no adequate terms, even as they had no proper conception of them. The only word by which one can express owe is ushari, to promise, because what one owes one in a sense promises to give. They have no word for to pay, it can only be rendered by the word tagu to give. For equal they have no equivalent nor have they any name whatever for any fraction; thus it is impossible to say in Yahgan "two and a half" "one and a quarter" etc.

Extract from S.A.M.S. Magazine 1873, page 118

They gave us the only form of farewell known here, 'Hala yella,' i.e. 'I am going;' to which the appropriate answer is 'Ulla yel' hia' i.e. 'Leave me' or 'You may leave me'.

Yahgan has fully thirty thousand words, (foot note. Thirty two thousand odd, see letter in Appendix) is beautifully constructed and susceptible of endless composition. Its nouns, pronouns and verbs have three numbers viz. Singular, Dual and Plural, each complete in its various changes for Case, Tense, Interrogative, Positive and Negative forms. It is particularly rich in Pronouns and Verbs, and, owing to the eminently social life of the people who spend so large a part of their lives in talking and, both men and women, in giving lengthy /p36/ harangues, called by them Teehamuna, they perfectly keep up the knowledge of their language and early learn to speak it well. Children were not confined to the society of their parents and a few busy servants but intimately mixed with the whole community. Everyone knew everyone and each item of news was well discussed. The Wigwam life of ease and sociality is eminently favourable to talk. I expect the gypsies, for this reason, are a very forward people with their tongues. The natives among themselves gathered round the wigwam fire, their wants generously supplied (for as a rule they had abundance of food) were very animated and spent a large part of their time in lively conversation and exuberant merriment, laughing as much to please others as to express their own pleasure. Their laughter was very natural and hearty and it was excessive in degree. I feel safe in saying that in actual work the natives did not spend more than one twelfth of their time, whereas we spend fully five twelfths of ours in occupations forbidding much conversation.

Extract from Diary

June 13th. 1877. This afternoon visited two wigwams; the first was so crowded with natives and crabs and so dense was the smoke, that I could not stay three minutes. In the other I spent some time and right welcome to the inmates was my visit. There were three men, five women and seven children in this wigwam and three fires lit in different parts.

Whilst Ona is rugged, harsh and broken, Yahgan is decidedly a soft language. One of its great peculiarities is that it has a regular system of wholly distinct and original singular and plural verbs. Each set of them is perfect, having their three numbers and all their proper moods and tenses etc. Thus Ata, to take, catch or bring one thing. The dual of this is Atapai, but the plural is Tumeema. Thus, "he took it" is catude, "he took them" (dual) catupikinda, "he took them" (plural) catuminude. This is the case with an extensive set of transitory verbs, which with their endless compounds form a very important and unique part of the language. But there is also another and equally important set of similar verbs, only intransitive in their prime form, but entering very largely into a host of transitive verbs. I can only give here two or three instances: Cataca, to go afoot, (singular); Catacapai (dual) and Utushu (plural). Thus "Where did he go?" Cutupai catacara? Ditto (dual) Cutupai catacarapai? Ditto (plural) Cutupai utushara? By the use of these verbs there is no need of pronouns.

There were various participles which, like the pronouns, are inflected for number and case and largely supply the place of nouns.

No difference of gender is known in Yahgan in any class of words, its structure requires long words, but it is very simple and regular and these long words have a large significance. Thus "Cataguamush" means "he says that he will give it".

The number of affixes and prefixes to verbs is very great and the changes the verb undergoes in the process of inflexion so complete as to render the original word lost to sight and sound. But it is always plainly to be found according to the regular manner of the inflexion of the language. Thus ata, to take, becomes uhrdu, he has not taken and ura, to weep, becomes annucush, he has wept. /page unnumbered/

Extract from Voice of Pity, vol. 12, page 6

Keppel Island, August 29th. 1864. Although I am improving in my knowledge of their (foot note. the Yahgans') language, yet, owing to the multitude of other business, my progress is slow and I am yet far from perfectly knowing it. To thoroughly acquire it, reduce it to writing and to form a dictionary and grammar is my longing desire and I shall be very happy when I shall be able to tell them, to my satisfaction and their conviction, of the love of Jesus.

Extract from S.A.M.S. Mag., 1879, page 256

from letter dated Ushuaia, Aug. 18th. 1879. My chief occupation has been the completion of the Dictionary, which I find was commenced August 24th. 1877, and completed July 5th. 1879. ... I have commenced a new and last dictionary, as the one just finished is much interlined and in the earlier part are many inaccuracies. The Dictionary lately finished has six hundred and twenty two pages of from thirty six to forty words to a page and the new one will be still further increased. Of it I have reached the seventy fifth page of thirty six lines in each page. Towards a grammar I have over three hundred entries of things specially to be noted.

Extract from Private letter dated April 24th. 1898, on voyage to Buenos Aires in brig "Phantom"

I shall hope to finish my Yahgan grammar this voyage, and now after overlooking my corrected copy I may say I am pleased with it. There is yet much to add to it tho' it amounts to some one hundred and twenty pages. The materials are all ready to hand.

On July 15th. 1898, in Buenos Aires, the Rev. T.Bridges died. /p.A1/


Letter from Revd. Thomas Bridges to The Buenos Aires "Standard" - dated Sept. 6th 1886.

A friend yesterday called my attention to certain observations and statements which appeared in a letter addressed to "The Standard" some days ago. The following information, I think, will go far to convince the writer referred to and all readers that, incredible though it may appear, the language of one of the poorest tribes of men, without any literature, without poetry, song, history or science, may yet through the nature of its structure and its necessities have a list of words and a style of structure far surpassing that of other tribes far above them in the arts and comforts of life. My dictionary of Yahgan has One Thousand and Eighty One pages, each averaging 30 words, which multiplied make thirty two thousand four hundred and thirty words.

In forming this work it was not my object to multiply labour and to make startling statements but simply to put in order the contents of the Yahgan language for reference and preservation. Instead of amplifying words I have suppressed large numbers, which from analogy would be known to any student of the language and restricted myself largely to noting only such compounds which, from their primary importance, demanded a place in a dictionary professing to be Yahgan.

I will here give a few examples: Iúa, to bite, becomes Iúata, to seize, to catch as a dog his prey; Iúashéata, to bite off, or bite in two; Iúagámata, to bite in passing, 2 to bite instead of, i.e. the wrong one, 3 to bite slightly, i.e. to nip and let go as a dog an animal that escapes; Iúawiela, to leave as a dog an animal it has caught or as a fish the bait it has tried and found not to its liking, 2 to bite slightly, 3 to bite again; Iúacuru, given to biting, apt to bite, to wish to bite; Iúagámata, to bite what one does not expect to find and so to hurt oneself, as for instance any foreign substance in what one is eating. This last verb, when Muni is prefixed means to bite sometimes, now and then, repeatedly; Iúama, to tear, rend by biting; Iúashi, to cut up in pieces for distribution, 2 to bite in pieces; Iualáshu, to tear, wound sorely by biting. I might go on at great length with this list of verbs all relating to the one primary verb Iúa. None of these forms should be omitted in a dictionary.

But it is not solely by multiplying in composition that Yahgan contains so great a vocabulary for its primary words are very numerous. Thus it has far more terms than has English descriptive of kindred. Thus whilst the English list comprises 25 terms, the Yahgan has 61. English assists its deficiencies by descriptive terms as, younger, elder, uncle on the mother or father's side etc., whilst Yahgan has totally distinct words for each term. Again the shells of fish which they use have special terms for, differing entirely from the name of the fish. I will offer some examples; Téllash, the large shells of the fish called Kaiaiim, Gálluf, the shell of the Chámunna mussel, Lápa the shell of the Cachouin mussel, Lapash, the shells of fish generally, Lacash, the shells of eggs, crabs, nuts etc., Cusi, the shells of fish of every kind, Dashan, burnt masses of shells, /p.A2/ Cusimara, shell heaps around the wigwams. This last word is a compound but must be given a place in the dictionary because it is unique, as in this case only does the word mara signify a heap or mound.

Yahgan has many duplicates, thus Lum and Ustecas, sun; Annuca and Hunian, moon. Ou-walakeepa and Cupapataguna, full moon; Yarumatia, new moon; Chisa, cheek. This word, short though it is, is a compound; from Yisa, to chew and Ch, a prefix signifying that which does; hence the true signification of the word is "that which chews," hence the jaws, the cheeks.

Similarly Chinushyella, a skeleton; this word is derived from Yinara, to gnaw, which forms Yinushyella, to gnaw again or afresh and with Yeca following means, to gnaw for a little time and Chinushyella means to leave, as dogs do the framework of bodies too hard for them to eat, hence the cleaned bones or skeletons of animals.

I had better give in this place the next few examples. Atama, to eat, makes Atuyella, to eat again or afresh, with Yeca following it means to eat a little or for a short time. Tatuyella, to leave uneaten, or to eat and leave, hence broken food, or remnants of a meal. Atuyellun, after dinner, Atuyinun, before dinner. Atungamata, to eat in place of something else, 2 to eat instead of another, 3 to eat the wrong thing, or at the wrong time or place; with Muni prefixed, to eat occasionally. When one or other of the prefixes of going are used with Atungamata it means to eat on the way, i.e. "en passant". Tatungamata, to eat one thing with another. Tatamalaguna, to offer to eat, 2 to try to eat, 3 to taste. Tuatama, to feed, to give to eat, etc. etc. etc.

Taiyigu, to fill, to put in. Taiyikyella, to put in more, to fill afresh. Tstaiyikyella, to leave unfilled, as e.g. potatoes on the ground; hence Tstaiyikyellaki, what is left not put in, as potatoes etc. which the baskets will not hold. Taiyikgamata, to put in or fill in place of something else, as by removing the one and substituting the other or by purposely putting in the wrong things; and Tstaiyikgamataki, things put in among others, or on top of, in addition to. All such words as these deserve a place in the dictionary and result in a great number of words in a language so constructed.

Participles are made largely to supply the place of nouns and must as such be inserted. Thus Cumucandecwiatacun, the line or mark; Cuparriniatacun, the lines, streaks, marks, when parallel to each other; Catugatiatacun, the coast; Cupagutecan, the East coast; Cutagutecan, the South coast; Cucutecan, the West coast, etc. etc. etc.

In enumerating words I did not reckon as separate words the same word when as different parts of speech they have diverse meanings. Thus Mara, to hear; adj. pointed, sharp; Alagana, to look, subs. appearance; Aia, gall, willing, to sew bark cups, to bind fish spears into their shafts. These are really different words, though in sound they are identical. This is proved by the fact that different verbs in the course of inflexion often /p.A3/ assimilate; thus, Annu hatak, I have given, from Tagu, to give and I have raked out, as baked potatoes, from the ashes with a stick; from Acu, to rake out.

What I said of shells applies to the leaves or foliage of trees and other plants, which have names apart from those of the plants. Also the Yahgans distinguish between different kinds of hair; thus Ushta is the hair of the head or of the tails and manes of horses etc; whilst Achela is the short hair of the bodies of horses and such as is found or the human hand or body. Hallush is the hair by which mussels attach themselves to rocks.

In adjectives the language is not poor, as the following will prove. Lasi, Bundasuichi, Matancos, few. These terms are not identical, having reference to degrees of fewness. Similarly, Moagu, Wurru, Yella, Moashaiu mean many; Mara, sharp, as a point; Matu, sharp, as an edge; Yif, sharp, as a ridge. Mallu, blunt, as an edge; Damulla, blunt, as a point; Hulu, large, big; Yamachi, large, i.e. roomy; Ispi, crooked; Iscula, crooked; Waiagulu, crooked.

In pronouns Yahgan is decidedly ample. Besides the universal pronouns I, thou, he and she, with their inflections for case and number, Yahgan has quite a host of others which indicate the respective places of the persons spoken to, or spoken of, with respect to the wigwam or to the person speaking or addressed. Thus Anchín, Cunjin, Siuan, Inga, Ura, Ili, Hoagu, Scu[...?], Hoamatu, Simatu, Hoakillu, Singillu, Hoamachi, Simachi, Kichicill [...?], Scapu, Scagu, Kichicagu and many others, all mean he or she but have reference to either distance or nearness, to different points or directions or to position as higher or lower, in or out, etc. Besides these they have the term Meam for self, Kitu, him or herself, with its dual Kipai and plural Kiuan, both distinct words. Also the possessive singular Kichin and Kichina, his or her or hers. The possessives of the dual and plural are regular.

The demonstrative and interogative pronouns are also complete. As in Spanish so in Yahgan, there are two words for that viz. Siuan, ese and Anchin, aquel.

But it is verbs that Yahgan swells out into great bulk. This arises from various causes. First, it is rich in verbs, having very many for which English has no equivalents. Here is a remarkable instance: Hatanisanude, I thought so, when the supposition was correct but Hayengude, I thought so, when it was false. Thus the two verbs Hanisana and Yenga, to think, have very different meanings. For the latter we have no equivalent. Again, Aguri means to go, with the hope of getting a present. Linganana is to act in such a manner as to attract favour of a gift, to fain distress for sake of charity. Mamihlapinatapai, to look at each other, hoping that either will offer to do something, which both parties much desire [dare] but are unwilling to do. Macanana, to suffer similarly as another, Mamacananapai, two persons similarly suffering. The word Acu before referred to is another instance, as there is a proper word for "to rake" in a general sense, even Akit[...?] Yicu is to scrape a skin in order to make it soft, Gara, to cut ou[t?] thong; Ashagu, to cut as grass, hair or other things; Ichicama, to cut, gash, wound; Wiaca, to cut down a tree; Tuashagu, to cut as with a saw; Ashagata, to cut off; Mashagu, to cut oneself; /p.A4/ Mashagata, to cut off, reave; Weagata, to cut off, cut in two.

In Yahgan, in the second place, there is a regular series of distinct verbs; whose plurals and singulars, as regards the objects referred to, are wholly dissimilar one to the other. Thus, Ikimu, to put in one thing, is Taiyigu, to put in more than two things; Uteca, to put down out of the hand one thing; is Wasella, to put down more than two things. These plural and singular verbs have their several singular, dual, and plural numbers.

But besides the above list of transitive verbs, there is also a large number of intransitive verbs, whose plurals are distinct from their singulars. Thus, Utushu is the plural of Cataca, to go; Alu is the plural of Cana, to be on the water; Magatu, of Mutu, to be; as Ucan cumuhr, he is in the house; Ucan cumagahr, they are in the house.

There is also a large class of reflexive verbs, which are "Primary Verbs," as for instance, Dapa, to put on a jacket or cloak; whilst Tudapa is to put the same thing on another person; Magu, to put anything round one's neck; whilst Tumagu is to do the same to another; Miatu, to open one's mouth, but Dagumiatu, to open another's mouth. This class of words is very numerous.

There are many other ways in which the Yahgan verbs amplify themselves in an extraordinary manner but the above will suffice to show that, owing to these various incidents, it is a language having a great compass of words.

T. Bridges.

[Afterword by Thomas Bridges's children]

/p.A5/ One custom the Yahgans had in old times and of which, oddly enough, we have found no mention among those of our father's papers in our possession, was to tie something tightly around the neck to induce partial strangulation. They said that in this half stupefied state they saw beautiful colours. Our father was once called to the aid of a young woman who had lost consciousness through binding her neck too tightly and whom the other Indians thought to be dead or dying, she however recovered.

Another thing of which we can find no mention is that the Yahgans formerly, both men and women, sometimes suffered, or pretended to suffer, from a sort of madness which took the form of running frantically without, apparently, any fixed idea. All the bystanders would give chase, and when at last caught the person would be thrown or dragged into the water, which appears always to have had a calming effect.

We used to think this simply hysteria or sham to arouse a little excitement and probably often was so, but we have since known of two similar cases which certainly seemed genuine. One, a small boy of mixed Ona and Yahgan blood, we were told would sometimes at night, when sitting with his friends, suddenly rush away without any reason and greatly to the inconvenience of the said friends who felt obliged to follow and catch him - a difficult task as on these occasions he ran very fast. The other was an Ona man named Coiyoat, not at all an excitable character, who on one occasion climbed, in this condition, a steep cliff. He was not especially active - rather the opposite - but only one, a very agile man, could follow him. The others made a detour and captured the runner after a long chase. This same man once when camping out alone with one of our brothers asked him, it being a fine night and full moon, to tie him up for the night saying that he feared to run away and perhaps injure himself. He said that on one occasion, also at full moon, he had come to his senses in a thick wood a long way from his encampment and had walked some distance before recognising where he was. Of course this might have been a case of sleepwalking, but on the other occasion the noise made by the pursuing band of Indians would put this out of the question.