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Yahgan Dictionary : Language of the Yamana people of Tierra del Fuego
Manuscript of Rev. Thomas Bridges (later annotations by Rev. John Williams), dated 1865
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The First Missionaries to the Yamanas

Among other factors, Darwin's statements and the Yamanas' accessibility to shipping routes, made them a sort of chosen race for the English missionaries, even after the repeated tragic mission attempts of Matthews (1833), Gardiner (1851) and Phillips (1859).

In 1856 the Rev. George Despard brought his family to the Falklands, together with two adopted sons. One of these was the young Thomas Bridges. Despard had started to bring groups of Yamanas to Keppel Island, where the mission was located. By 1859, he reported having collected nearly a thousand words of the Yahgan tongue. Bridges also came into close contact with the Yamanas, and began to learn their language. In 1863, the Despard family returned to England, but Bridges stayed behind. The new missionary, Rev. Waite Stirling, quickly recognized Bridges' ability with the Yahgan language, which was put to good use during trips to the channels. In 1865, Bridges began this copy of his Yahgan and English Dictionary — an activity that he pursued for the rest of his life.

Two decades later, Bridges resigned from his religious work and established a ranch at Harberton (Argentina), on the north coast of the Beagle Channel; here he was able to raise his family and continue documenting the Yamana culture. Undoubtedly, his success was partially due to his ability to speak Yahgan: this allowed him to communicate with the natives, to give and receive help, to integrate them and be integrated in turn. Bridges reported that the Yamanas nicknamed him the deaf one, because he used to make them repeat the same words time and again. Of course, he did this to understand them and record them accurately.