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Tehuelches. Upon examination of many of the more perfect of these earthen vessels, it was found that they were punctured with a series of small holes in the bottom, and that the surface of the interior, over the bottom and a considerable portion of the sides also, was blackened and charred, thus bearing unmistakable evidence of having been subjected to the continued action of fire. It occurred to me that such earthen vessels were used for conveying fire from one encampment to another when on the march. Upon inquiry I was pleased to hear this theory confirmed by an aged Tehuelche woman who remembered distinctly that in her childhood fire was frequently transported with them when on the march.
The Tehuelches find their chief employment in hunting the guanaco and rhea or South American ostrich. The region inhabited by them extends northward from the Strait of Magellan along the western border of that part of the country occupied by the prosperous Patagonian sheep farmers, and which lies adjacent to the Atlantic coast. This sheep-farming district extends westward from the coast for an average distance of about thirty miles. Between this thirty-mile strip and the Andes is the home of the Tehuelche. Of the habitable portions of the earth's surface, it is perhaps the most sparsely settled of all. Notwithstanding its natural resources, over thousands of square miles are entirely uninhabited. For the most part, it is indeed comparatively barren, as in the lava beds of the central interior region, but to the westward over the lower slopes of the Andes and in the valleys entering the mountains, there are exceedingly fertile regions, capable of supporting considerable populations, but at present quite unoccupied by either Indians or Europeans. The writer, together with Mr. O. A. Peterson, spent five months of travel during the summer of 1896-97 in the country lying between the sources of the Santa Cruz and Desire Rivers without encountering either whites or natives.
The Tehuelche is and always has been a plainsman. His methods and the implements employed by him in the chase are designed for a level open country, and are not adapted to rough, mountainous, or wooded districts. Greatly reduced in numbers he finds the area still left to him in his natural habitat more than ample to supply his simple wants and satisfy his inherent, nomadic disposition. Left to himself, his necessities are few and easily supplied, for nature in Patagonia is exceedingly lavish in furnishing those animals that provide him with every domestic necessity. Give to the Tehuelche his horse, dogs, and bolas, and destroy all other animal life indigenous to the region save only the guanaco, and he would continue to exist, experiencing little inconvenience.
The guanaco is to his existence the one important and indispensable animal. From its flesh he derives his chief and for long periods only sustenance, while from its skin his industrious wife constructs the family toldo and makes with admirable skill and patience their ample clothing and bedding, fitting and sewing the parts with the nicety and proficiency of a skilled seamstress. A wooden or bone awl used as a delicate punch is her needle, and the sinew taken from the loin of the same animal her thread. From this same beast he likewise obtains the sinew for the light but exceedingly strong thongs of his bolas.
But the guanacos are in no danger of extinction. They roam in thousands over the Patagonian plains. So abundant are they that in travelling across the country it is scarcely possible to pass out of sight of them. Contrary to the general rule with undomesticated animals, the guanacos inhabiting settled regions are far less timid than those of unsettled districts. In that region along the coast occupied by the sheep farmers, they exist in great numbers, are exceedingly tame, and are a source of considerable annoyance to the herdsmen, who nevertheless suffer them to go unmolested.
Beyond the settlements the guanacos are more difficult of approach, and in the Cordillera they are exceedingly wary, as is also the rhea or so-called ostrich. This is the more striking and difficult of explanation since the deer in the same mountainous region seem absolutely fearless. and prompted by curiosity rather than fear when approached. On several occasions, when in need of meat while travelling through the Southern Andes, we located a band of deer and walked directly up to within twenty or thirty feet of them before shooting. Neither the report of the rifle nor the death-struggles of their companion aroused in them any apparent feeling of uneasiness. The surviving members of the band stood about at a distance of only a few feet, taking notes as it were, while we were engaged in skinning and dressing the carcass of their fallen comrade, often approaching so near that we would be compelled to suspend operations and urge the spectators to remove to a more respectful distance.
THE ONAS OF THE FUEGIAN PLAINS.
Closely resembling the Tehuelches and evidently derived from the same original stock, are the Onas, inhabiting the plains and timbered regions of central, northern, and eastern Tierra del Fuego. Like the Tehuelches they are of splendid physique and live entirely by the chase. They are essentially a plains people and only occasionally frequent the coast. Their island having been separated from the mainland. for a remote period of time, they have been practically cut off from all communication with their relatives on the northern shores of the eastern stretches of the Strait, and have thus developed a language quite distinct from that of the Tehuelches, while many of their customs and arts differ materially from those of the latter. Not being a maritime people, they have been unable to import the horse from the mainland, so that the Onas of today are in much the same condition as
were the Tehuelches of the mainland prior to the introduction of the horse. With the Onas the bow and arrow is still the one indispensable weapon for offence and defence, while bolas and horses are quite unknown among them.
Owing to the extremely advantageous nature of their lands for sheep-farming purposes and the consequent aggressiveness of the Fuegian sheep-grower of the present day, the tribe is being rapidly decimated, and their extinction in the no distant future seems inevitable. Already their natural habitat is entirely occupied by Europeans, and they have been driven back into less favorable districts where food is scarce and obtained with difficulty. Naturally a state of constant warfare exists which will inevitably lead to the extermination of the Onas.
THE CHANNEL INDIANS.
Between the eastern and western coasts of Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego there are extreme climatic and physiographic differences. The treeless, semi-arid, and level plains of the east coast, with but few indentations, are replaced on the west by an intricate series of islands, peninsulas, capes, and promontories, separated by a labyrinth of inlets, bays, sounds, and channels, surrounded by one of the most picturesque and rugged mountain systems to be seen anywhere on the earth's surface. These mountains serve as a barrier to the southwesterly winds that prevail here, and effectually deprive them, during the passage over their summits, of most of the moisture with which they have become charged on their long journey across the Southern Pacific. Thus precipitation is constantly taking place, and the surface is perpetually drenched with moisture, thereby producing a vegetable growth, which at low altitudes, even in the latitude of the south and west coasts of Tierra del Fuego, rivals in profusion and luxuriance that of the Tropics. It contrasts strikingly with the eastern plains and river valleys, which are destitute of trees or forests
and where the annual precipitation is just sufficient to support a few species of short but succulent grasses, with occasional clumps of low, scrubby, and usually thorny bushes, characteristic features of semi-arid regions.
The natives of the Pacific coast differ from those of the Atlantic quite as much as do the climate, vegetation, and physiographic features. The natives of the west coast, while belonging to at least two distinct tribes, may be very appropriately denominated, collectively, as Channel Indians. All their activities cluster about the coast. They live on and about the shores of the inland waters of the Fuegian Archipelago and the west coast of Patagonia, never venturing inland for more than a few miles. They are essentially a maritime people, deriving their chief and almost only sustenance from the sea. They are small in stature and inferior in physique to the Tehuelches and Onas of the Patagonian and Fuegian plains, and their origin has undoubtedly been quite distinct from that of the latter tribes.
For houses they usually erect exceedingly primitive structures formed of interwoven or piled-up branches of trees, which would seem, even to most semi-civilized peoples, quite inefficient protection from the storms that almost constantly prevail here. They find their chief occupation in collecting shell-fish, in fishing, and in hunting the fur-seal and sea-otters. From the skins they make their scanty clothing, while the flesh and blubber serve them as additional food.
The chief food of the Channel Indians is the shell-fish that live in great abundance in the waters of this coast. When the supply of shell-fish of any particular cove which may have been selected as a camping-place by a party of these Indians becomes reduced, they place their few domestic necessaries in their canoes and proceed by water to a new encampment where food is abundant. In this manner they move about from place to place in
order to procure sufficient food. They eat their food either raw or slightly roasted on fires that are kept constantly burning on a few sods placed in the bottoms of their canoes. They are not entirely carnivorous, frequently varying their diet by the addition of a few species of edible fungi that grow on the beechtrees of the adjacent forests.
Their canoes are fashioned of large slabs of bark supported by numerous ribs of wood and sewed together with thin strips of whalebone. Sometimes they use, instead of bark, thin slabs of wood hewn out with great patience. One or two instances of true dugouts have been reported among the Yahgans inhabiting the eastern portion of the south coast of Tierra del Fuego and the islands about Cape Horn. Their harpoons and spears are almost always of bone.
The Channel Indians are of two distinct tribes, differing in language, though for the most part quite similar in their mode of life and in the arts employed by them in the gaining of a livelihood. The more numerous and more warlike and powerful of these tribes are known as the Alaculoffs. They occupy all the west coast of the mainland together with the adjacent. islands, the western stretches of the Strait of Magellan, southern and western Tierra del Fuego as far east as Beagle Channel, and the islands lying to the southwest. The remaining south coast of Tierra del Fuego and the adjoining islands as far south as Cape Horn are the home of the Yahgans, formerly the most powerful of all the Indian tribes of this region, but now nearly exterminated by the combined attacks of the Onas and Alaculoffs, aided by diseases, chiefly pulmonary, introduced among them through the mistaken kindnesses of over-zealous missionaries, themselves exceedingly deficient in the first principles of hygiene.
The Yahgans are doubtless only a remnant of a once powerful people that inhabited the region now occupied by the Alaculoffs. They have been crowded into