Monday, November 22, 2010

Chile - Hain Adolescent Initiation Ceremony (1)

Tierra del Fuego.
Ulen, agile and quick as the wind. Body painting for the Hain adolescent initiation ceremony, pertaining to the Selk'nam people (Onas).

Sent by my great friend Hernán from Santiago, Chile.

This is from Wikipedia : The Selk'nam, also known as the Ona, lived in the Patagonian region of southern Chile and Argentina including the Tierra del Fuego islands. They were one of the last aboriginal groups in South America to be reached by Westerners, in the late 19th century, when the Chilean and Argentine governments began efforts to explore and integrate Tierra del Fuego (literally, the "land of fire" based on early European explorers observing Selk'nam smoke from their bonfires).

While the Selk'nam are closely associated with habitation of the northeastern area of Tierra del Fuego, their early origins are likely from the mainland, whence they departed by canoe across the Strait of Magellan. Their habitation in the early Holocene likely ranged as far as the Cerro Benitez area of the Cerro Toro mountain range.

The Selk'nam were nomadic people and survived by hunting. They dressed sparingly, a remarkable feat given the cold climate of Patagonia.

They shared Tierra del Fuego with the Haush (or Manek'enk), another nomadic culture that lived in the south-eastern part of the island.

The Selk'nam avoided contact with Spanish colonizers. The Spanish killed most of the local animals which were the food source for the Selk'nam and used a great part of the land of Tierra del Fuego to establish large estancias - sheep ranches. Selk'nam, who lacked an understanding of sheep herds as private property, hunted sheep, behavior which was perceived as banditry by ranch owners. Ranchers supported armed groups to hunt down and kill the Selk'nam. To receive their bounty, such groups first had to return with the ears of the victims. After some ear-less Selk'nam were seen to be wandering the grounds the process was changed to exchanging a complete head for bounty.[citation needed] Relations with whites in the Beagle Channel area were somewhat more cordial, especially with the Bridges family, founders of Harberton and Ushuaia. Lucas Bridges, one of three sons of Thomas Bridges, did much to help the local cultures, learning the languages of the various groups and trying to provide the natives with the space in which to live their customary lives as "lords of their own land". Alas, it turned out to be too little, too late, but Bridges' book, "Uttermost part of the earth", gives a sympathetic insight into the natives' lives.

Two missions by Christian missionaries were eventually established to save the Selk'nam. The missions were meant to provide housing and food for the natives, but were forced to close due to the limited number of Selk'nam remaining. While Selk'nam numbered in the thousands before Western colonization, by the early twentieth century only several hundreds remained, and the last ethnic Selk'nam died in the mid twentieth century. In May 1974, Ángela Loij, the last ever pure-blood Selk’nam and last indigenous Fuegian, died.

1 comment:

Handlebarc said...

There's a postcard (b&w) with Angela Lojj's face, which is part of this collection. I'll look for it and send it to you!