Note:  Do not rely on this information. It is very old.


Fuegians, the inhabitants of Tierra del Fuego, of whom there are three distinct ethnical groups: - (1) The Onas in the east (King Charles South Land), who are Patagonian intruders from Argentina; (2) the Alacalufs in the west, intruders from the Chilian Cordilleras, and akin to the Araucanians of that region; (3) the Yahgans of the southern islands, who are the true aborigines of the archipelago; total population, 8,000, of whom 2.000 are Onas, 3,000 Alacalufs, and 3,000 Yahgans. Of these groups the Yahgans have come into most frequent contact with explorers, and to them alone missionary work has hitherto been extended. Hence most of the published accounts of the Fuegians refer to these aborigines, who are at an extremely low grade of culture, and of a debased physical type, characterised by small stature (4 feet 10 inches to 5 feet 4 inches), low brow, high cheek bones, flat nose, tumid lips, dark chocolate colour, loose, wrinkled skin, black, restless eyes very widely apart, coarse, black, lank hair, head and chest disproportionately large compared with the slender and outwardly curved legs. The mental qualities are at the same low level, as shown by the brutal treatment of their women, who, when old and useless, are often eaten; by the lack of affection for their offspring, who in rough weather are cast overboard either to propitiate the storm-gods or to lighten the canoe; and by many repulsive practices connected with their food and social habits. There is no tribal or social organisation, each family circle living apart with no hereditary or even temporary chiefs. The language, which shows no affinity to any other American idiom beyond its general polysynthetic structure, has root words only for the first four numerals; it has been reduced to writing by the English missionaries, who issued a translation of St. Luke in a peculiar script in 1881. (Darwin, Voyage of the "Beagle;" W. Parker, The Wild Tribes of Tierra del Fuego, in Transactions of the Ethnol. Soc. 1861; South American Missionary Magazine, passim; Lieut. Bove, in Guido Cora's Cosmos, 1883; A. H. Keane, art. Tierra del Fuego, in Encyc. Brit., new ed.)