THE MOON-WOMAN IN SELK'NAM SOCIETY
"Where are the women who sang like the canaries? There were many
women. Where are they now?" One day Lola Kiepja asked me these questions,
as if she did not expect an answer. She was the last Selk'nam who
had lived as an Indian. This was May of 1966 when I was living with
her near Lake Fagnano in what was then the Indian reservation. Lola
died a few months later at the approximate age of ninety. Since
her death, on 9 October 1966, to the present (15 December 2004)
the thirteen people of Selk'nam descent I had the honour of working
with through the years or simply knew, have also died.
There are still some people in Tierra del Fuego,
and perhaps in Buenos Aires, whose grandparents were Selk'nam. This
is all that remains of a group whose population was estimated to
be between 3,500 and 4,000 individuals before the arrival of the
Whites about 1880 N.2
Despite the well intentioned efforts of the Salesian missionaries
and other Whites such as the sons of the missionary Thomas Bridges,
the Selk'nam were assassinated and died of sicknesses brought by
the Whites or were deported outside of the island. Some died during
a combat among Selk'nam themselves at the beginning of the twentieth
The Selk'nam depended on hunting and gathering
for a livelihood and fabricated their tools from stone, bone and
wood. Given the climate and the nature of the soils agriculture
would have been impossible in Tierra del Fuego. In recent decades,
the new-comers with the aid of chemical fertilizers, increase the
growth of pastures for their sheep and cattle, tend vegetables in
hot-houses and grow flowers in the gardens of their farms.The Selknam
didnt grow anything, not even flowers simply because they
were nomads. The guanaco was their prize game as well as various
little burrowing animals such as the rodent, Ctenomys fueguinus,
called tucutuco. They mainly consumed these animals, made
their tents of guanaco skin and their clothing of either guanaco
fur, or of the rodents and less frequently of fox fur. They gathered
mussels, eggs, berries, certain roots and seeds as well as mushrooms.
They also hunted birds and seals, fished in the lagoons and along
the coasts and took advantage of beached whales. As they moved from
one camp site to another, the man in the lead carried his bow and
arrows, his wife followed, burdened with all the domestic utensils
and often a baby attached to her back in a cradle made of wood boards.
The children and older people trailed behind. As they went from
one camp-site to another, they stopped over in places where they
expected to find game or fish. They were familiar with the landscape
of the entire island and gave names to virtually all its topographical
features. Extended patrilineal and patrilocal families and lineages
(of three or four generations) inhabited a specific terrain , known
was haruwin, whose limits were (generally) respected
by the neighbours.
Even people who inhabited territories that were
very distant, knew one another, because they had many opportunities
to meet. When a whale was beached the first who arrived lighted
two fires as a signal for all who saw them to come a partake of
this gift of nature. They met to compete in foot-races, wrestling
matches or to prove their dexterity with the bow and arrow by shooting
at a volunteer who demonstrated his ability to dodge the arrows,
which were blunted for the occasion. When a famous person died,
people from far away were notified also by fires and flocked to
his haruwin to express their sorrow by laments and
certain rituals. Barter also attracted people who lived in distant
haruwins. The date would be set for the meeting through a
messenger from the host and people would come to exchange stones
used to ignite fire ( above all pyrite), other stones for making
certain tools, wood for their bows and arrows,
supports for their tents, feathers for the head-dresses, the large
shells used to scoop up water, certain tiny shells preferred for
making necklaces, etc. N.3
Another type of "meeting" was the combats which
usually lasted a few days or only a few hours. Despite their short
duration, the battles were in earnest. Several men might be killed
or wounded and the victors often captured women although they frequently
managed to escape and return to their own camp or that of their
The shamans, called xo'on, from different
haruwins, met in public to participate in competitions of
spiritual power and chant while reciting their mystical traditions
in a state of trance. The most prestigious ordeal of a xo'on
consisted in introducing an arrow, having a wooden point, under
his skin, just below the shoulder blade, drag it slowly across his
chest and out at the level of his waist, without loosing blood.
Another outstanding occasion for meeting was the celebration of
a ceremony known as the Hain. Many families from distant haruwins
would converge to initiate their young men into adulthood during
this ceremony, which could last two or three months or even a year.
The ceremony also permitted the males, as the dominant "strata"
of the society, to reaffirm their privileged superiority, as well
as a "spirit" ( man in disguise) to punish disobedient
wives. The life of the Selknam was all this and much more.
Among the symbols, Moon-woman, whose name
was Kreeh, was the axis of their beliefs. Her "function" in the
conceptual scheme was complex. She created the drama of the mythological
past, through her transfiguration from an earthly supernatural woman
into the celestial being. This myth explained and justified the
Selknams patriarchal society. Woman-power was expressed
in this ancestral myth (see below) with such vehemence that the
men felt a reinstallation of the matriarchy to be an ever present
Although Sun failed to capture the Moon-woman,
his erstwhile all-powerful wife, he was the ideal symbol of the
patriarchy: luminous and reliable. He had defeated his wife when
he and the men attacked the great hut where the women were preparing
to perform the Hain ceremony to humiliate the men and prove, once
again, with the scenes of the women, disguised as different "spirits",
that the powers of the universe were their allies (see below). After
the defeat of the matriarchy when the great matriarch, the powerful
female shaman, fled from the burning Hain hut into the sky and was
transformed into the Moon, she became a creature of the night, the
symbol of womanhood. She was a frightful symbol: unreliable because
she appeared in different forms, places and times in the celestial
dome, and sometimes not at all. She was a danger especially when
she went into an eclipse and might consume an unexpected victim:
men and even children. During an eclipse she demonstrated that she
was capable of avenging her intolerable defeat, the destruction
of the matriarchy over which she had reigned. Then she became red,
flush with anger against human beings, especially the men, and particularly
the shamans. In the haruwins, the people met to placate her
anger by chanting, while they and the men shamans beat the earth
with poles and rolled-up guanaco skins as they chanted to her to
assure themselves that she would somehow be controlled, that on
the morrow the Sun would continue reign supreme and that the patriarchy
would be saved.
When the gods inhabited the earth.
The universe was encircled by immense cordilleras,
invisible to all but the shamans, known as the four "skies",
the four cardinals, abodes of the most powerful supernatural beings.
Moon was also called Sho'on-tam, the daughter- tam, of the
skies - shoon. Following the "catastrophe"
of the destruction of the matriarch, she and her brother Snow, whose
name was Hosh, the word for snow, fled to the South Sky. The West
Sky became the "residence" of the Sun and his brother,
Wind - Shénu. While the North Sky was claimed by Rain Chálu-,
and the Ocean Kox, as well as their sister Storm - O'oké.
The East Sky was the centre of the celestial universe, whose cordillera
was the greatest of all, the ultimate challenge to the shamans when
they attempted to ascend it during a trance. There Pémaulk
resided, the most imposing of all the supernatural beings.
During the mythical era, called hoowin,
the hills, mountains, lagoons and most if not all physical nature,
as well the animals and certain stars, inhabited the earth as supernatural
beings. N.4 They were powerful
shamans, the hoowins. When the world of today and the human
(Selk'nam) society originated, most of the hoowin had been
transformed into mountains, hills, cliffs, pampas and valleys, lakes
and lagoons, animals and especially birds who exist or live in what
is now called the Isla Grande, the Main Island of Tierra del Fuego,
where later the Selk'nam inhabited. During that "era", as well as
after their metamorphosis, each of the hoowins were associated
with one of the cardinal points, or skies (shó'on).
The Selk'nam themselves were also classed according to the skies,
through their father's kin, that is patrilineally.
Like the Selk'nam later, each of the hoowins
,when they "lived" on earth [the island], had his or her own territory,
haruwin. They inhabited the entire island. The haruwin
of Moon, for example, was called Apen and was located in central-southern
part of the island, at the foot of a cordillera.
During the "epoch" of the matriarchy, the most
powerful female shaman and the other women dominated the men. The
great male shamans: Sun, Wind, Rain and Snow, and all the other
hoowin men were assigned to the humble chores: carrying the
burdens when the families moved from one camp site to another, cooking,
taking care of the babies and small children, fetching water for
domestic use, doing all of what was to become women's work, besides
their own tasks, mainly hunting and providing the other necessities
of daily life.
The young hoowin women were initiated into
the social position they were destined to occupy as adults by means
of a ritual, during the Hain ceremony, mentioned above. In preparation
of the ceremony certain women, who had already been initiated, disguised
themselves as spirits, using tall masks which reached their shoulders
or even their knees. They painted their bodies red and white and
black drawing lines and circles of different sizes to symbolize
their identity. The disguises as well as the movements of the women
represented so exactly the "real" spirits that the men,
the passive spectators, had never doubed that they were the spirits
who had come to partake in the ceremony; that some had descended
from the heavens and others had emerged from the bowls of the earth
into closed quarters of the ceremonial hut which no
man dared even approach. Each time the ceremony was performed the
men saw that the spirits manifested their solidarity with the women
and their approval of the matriarchy. This was the uncontested order
of society, endorsed as it was by supernatural powers that reigned
in the universe, for all eternity. However, one day three men who
afterwards were transformed into the oyster-catcher (sit),
the ibis (kehke) and the crown sparrow (chechu),
That day these three hoowin men crept, ever so quietly, into
the Hain hut to spy on the women. They were soon shocked to see
one of the young women painting herself as the Matan "spirit."
that moment they realized that all the spirits were only women in
disguise. When they discovered the truth, one of the spies whistled
to alert the other men waiting outside. At that moment the woman
who was to represent Matan was transformed into the white swan with
the black neck very similar to the painted body and mask of Matan;
half white and half black. When the women heard the whistle they
immediately extinguished the sacred fire in the centre of the Hain
hut, fearing that the men outside were about to attack them.
The hoowin man who had whistled the alarm
and his two companions became transformed into the three birds mentioned
above: the oyster-catcher, the ibis and the crown sparrow. As all
three were then spies, since they have become birds, they still
move in silence, looking in all directions. The oyster-catcher still
whistles as a sign of alert.
The most courageous among the men was outraged
by the revelation that the women had held them in such servitude
through hoax of the Hain ceremony. When he and his men attacked
the women the Hain hut, he struck his indomitable wife, with a burning
log. At that moment the entire firmament trembled. Then he struck
her yet again but not a third time. He ceased before the third strike,
fearing that if he struck her again (and killed her), the heavens
would collapse on the earth and all would be destroyed. He dared
not conclude his act.
N.6 The great shaman, the matriarch, escaped, her face
badly burnt. Invaded by an anger without bounds, she will never
cease to hate the men. She fled from the earth forever, transforming
herself into the Moon. Her husband pursued her through the heavens
and became the Sun. To this day he has not been able to capture
Every month Moon relives this event. She appears
full as in the era of her ancient dominion, though disfigured by
the scars (the spots on the moon) that forever recall the unpardonable
offence to which she had been subjected. The great matriarch was
the only the woman of the feminine Hain who escaped and retained
her personality. Almost all the other hoowins (women and
men) were transformed into different animals, especially birds,
those that live today on the island and in the surrounding sea.
In the human society the Selk'nam women occupied
the place of the hoowin men; spectators of the Hain
ceremony performed by the opposite sex. The women sang the
chant of Tamtam every dawn during the ceremony. Tamtam was the daughter
of Moon and Sun, whom, when her father killed her, became transformed
into a canary. Perhaps the same canary that Lola spoke of in the
beginning lines above.
There were men who tried to save their
daughters during the slaughter in the women's Hain hut. When the
whistle altered the men and revealed that the Hain was a farce,
the men became so infuriated that they attacked the hut and massacred
all the women. But one man, who became the flightless steamer-duck
(tari) , tried to save his daughter who was hiding behind
his legs but he could not defend her against the other men and she
also was killed by an arrow. Another, who was transformed into a
cormorant ( keyáishk), fought with hoowin man
who became a hauk (caracara in Spanish, karskai in
Selknam) to save his daughter, also in vain.
The hoowin men had killed their
wives, mothers, daughters and sisters who had been initiated, because
they knew the "secret" of the Hain. The secret, so well kept from
that men, was that the divinities, the spirits who appeared during
the ceremony, were simply women in disguise, that the Hain was a
farce to keep them subjected to the women's domination. Only the
girls and babies survived because they were innocent, ignorant of
the perfidy of their mothers and older sisters.
After the massacre, the men, and the children
of both sexes departed to the confines of the universe. They went
beyond the seas to the East where they remained there for a long
time, weeping for their wives, and female kin. They continued journeying
for "centuries", passing by the cordilleras beyond the seas; to
the North Sky, then to the West Sky and finally returned to the
earth through the South Sky.
Then these hoowin men founded their own
Hain. and "today" the Selk'nam men guard the secret of the Hain
in order to subject the opposite sex to their will. Thus the patriarchal
society originated, the Selk'nam society as it really existed.
It was also then that a hoowin from the
North sky brought death to the earth. As the hoowin "people"
were immortal: they metamorphosed. The most powerful among them
became the Pémaulk, the Word, who resides in the East, far
beyond the earth, on the outer rim of the universe. Some were transformed
into heavenly bodies: the Pleiades, Orion, and Venus. Others became
the Wind, the Rain, the Snow and the Sea. The most magnificent had
become the Sun. The more humble, became birds, other animals, fish,
hills, lagoons and so forth . About then the first humans, the first
Selk'nam, were created from two clumps of earth.
When the Selk'nam inhabited the earth
Probably during thousands of years (until
the about 1933 when the last Hain ceremony was performed) , the
young Selk'nam or Haush men had been initiated in the Hain hut where
the "secret" was revealed to them, that the Hain spirits
were only men disguised to deceive the women. But this was not the
only purpose of the Hain. During the long months of the ceremony,
the adolescent initiates, called kloketens, became adult men. In
order to achieve this training and state of mind, they were submitted
to the physical and moral ordeals, as well as to the teachings the
elders imparted to them. The elders instructed them in the traditions
of hoowin, the origins and transformations of all that had
occurred in the universe and on earth, as partially explained above.
They were taught how to behave, to comply to their family and community
obligations. They were obliged to confess if they had committed
any error against the moral code, during their adolescence, though
they were not punished for their past wrongdoings. Above all, they
were taken on many hunting expeditions often by their elders, and
sometimes forced to go alone.
Some fifteen or twenty or more men were selected
to interpret the Hain spirits. The number of "actors" varied from
one ceremony to another. However a few spirits were not represented
by "actors". Only one will be mentioned here. Its name was Xalpen,
a subterranean spirit which tradition described as a female cannibal,
voracious and malicious. This spirit was not represented
by an "actor" as will become clear presently.
During the era of hoowin and the
feminine Hain, Xalpen above all who spread terror among the men.
Half rock and half flesh, she emerged from her subterranean abode,
through the fire, into the ceremonial hut. She incessantly demanded
guanaco meat and other foods. The hoowin men had been
obliged to comply with her requests, attempting to calm her insatiable
appetite with the hope that she would not demand human meat. She
would stuff all that the men brought her into a large bag, which
was said to be made of guanaco hide painted with red bands. However,
during the culminating moments of the ceremony, she became desperate
to consume human flesh.
When the hóowin men finally
seized the secret of how to dominate the opposite sex, and the women
of the matriarchy became transformed into elements of nature, and
animals they were deprived of the use of language, so their memory
was lost to them forever-after (all the women except Moon). The
Xalpen "spirit" then served her former victims, the men. Now, in
human time, while preparing for a ceremony, the men fabricated a
Xalpen , made a frame of their bows, and stuffed it with vegetation
to give it body. The image was covered with guanaco skins and painted
red ( paint made of clay). During certain moments of the ritual,
one or two men inside the effigy carried it on the "stage" hoping
to terrorize the women, who could only see it from a distance, as
they were not permitted to approach the Hain hut.
Meanwhile in the interior of the hut the men are
thumping the ground with rolled up guanaco hides to dramatize Xalpen's
anger provoked by her insatiable appetite. The women were told that
the kloketens had been ordered to hunt in order to bring her great
quantities of meat. The mothers of the kloketens, at hundred
or so meters from the Hain, hut chanted to Xalpen, begging her to
be kind to their sons.
Now [the kloketens are ] far away.
[Their ] ankles are tired
Beautiful heart [phrase of Xalpen].
The hunt could last many days. When the kloketens
returned to the Hain hut,exhausted by the weight of the
guanaco each had brought, Xalpen became even more excited. Not satisfied
with guanaco meat she was determined to consume human meat. She
would throw herself on a kloketen and split him open, from the neck
to the abdomen, using the long nail of her index finger, so the
women were told. When one was mutilated, the earth trembled as men
shouted from the interior of the hut, struggling to dominate her,
aghast by the terrible death of their sons. Such scenes of horror
were a complete farce. Inside the Hain hut the men were busy with
the sound effects; screaming, beating the ground with rolled-up
guanaco skins, and shaking the posts of the hut to simulate the
trembling earth. During all the racket, the kloketens were seated,
moaning loudly, some probably worrying about their mothers who were
sobbing, fearing they were being devoured by the female monster.
The women were desperate: they heared the tumult
and moans of their sons, and saw the hut trembling as if it were
collapsing. Weeping they chant imploring Xalpen again, now to have
pity on the sons. Some became so distraught by their impotency to
control Xalpen that they sang, calling her:
Head of rock.
Until the annihilation of this culture, the secret
of the Hain was rigorously kept from the female population
and the male children who had not been initiated. If, by chance
a woman found out about the secret, discovered the truth, she would
soon be killed, supposedly by the power of a shaman, which of course
did not really kill her. Xalpen was the symbol of a woman who betrayed
the women by mutilating and consuming their sons. Moon whose anger
against the men was so excessive that the women themselves repudiated
her. Xalpen was probably a manifestation the Moon.
Thus it appears that the mystic of the Moon-woman,
resolved the latent conflict which symbolically threatened the equilibrium
of the patriarchal society: conflict between the sexes for dominion,
Though the conflict was resolved with the defeat of the mythological
matriarchy, and the victory of the patriarchy, the threat of the
matriarchy lingered on, the men had to be vigilant, be very attentive
that the women not learn the "secret."
Now, since the defeat of the matriarchy, Moon
enters into a eclipse to demonstrate that she maintains her anger
against the men. Her face becomes red with the blood of men who
will be doomed in a coming battle. Even the earth may appear as
if it were soaked with their blood. During an eclipse Moon is consuming
the menwhom she has condemned to die battle or otherwise.
Let us go to the daughter of the heavens
The shaman, xo'on, knew from his dreams
when the Moon would eclipse. When it was about to happen two, three
or more shamans met with the people of their respective haruwins.
The women painted their bodies with red clay, their faces with bands
of white clay from the nose to the ears, while they beat the ground
with rolled guanacos skins and chanted to appease the fury of the
Good heart... Woman of Apen.
Moon of the broad face.
The xo'on painted a red circle
on each cheek, placed a crown, made of delicate feathers, on his
head, and dressed in his long cape of guanaco fur. Staring at the
Moon, the shamans chanted to her, During an eclipse the shaman's
spirit (waiuwin) visited the Moon. To do so he had to be
in a trance, for only thus could he liberate his waiuwin from
his body. Concentrating on the Moon, he leaped and chanted until
he felt that his spirit was departing into the heavens, soaring
like a eagle (kex) to her abode. At this moment, he
shouted like the bird which flies most deeply into the sky.
When his waiuwin arrived, he found the
Moon seated in the south corner of the universe (her South Sky),
in a space limited by four tree trunks that represented the outer
space of the universe, the four skies of the heavens. When the shaman's
waiuwin reached the Moon's abode, she let him know if he
will be allowed to be seated. Those who are allowed to do so take
their place in the corner which corresponds to their sky affiliation
on earth, just as they do in the ceremonial Hain hut.
Those who are favoured by Moon have her permission
to be seated: they will not die in the near future. But the xo'on
who is denied permission to be seated found himself in her shadow,
beneath her knees or in back of her. Then he realized that he was
condemned. Moon did not look at him.
On earth the shaman who saw his headdress in her
shadow, and its feathers soaked with blood, realized that he would
soon die, that the Moon had seized him. Trembling he chanted:
Moon has my head-dress under her knees.
I am certain that Moon has taken me.
I am under her knees..
I am there. My head in her shadow.
I have been seized by the Daughter of the
I am under her knees.
Someone will kill me. I am seized by the
Then the women raised their voices chanting, insulting
Moon- of the burnt face
Face of fury.
It is said, that those who were condemned by Moon,
those who would be "eaten' by her, were shown a blood drenched object:
a bunch of weeds, an arrow point, or a piece torn from his cape.N.7
This shaman would be killed in a combat. Those who would die
of sickness, saw themselves in the shadow of the Moon, but like
a falcon or eagle without its feathers, not drenched in blood.
To the shamans who were favoured, Moon gave a
round object: a stone, a piece of wood or of guanaco skin. When
he (his waiuwin) returned to earth, another xo'on
approached him and took the round object from his mouth, that the
Moon had given him.
Owl-woman tAKES revenge OF HER husband
During the era of hoowin, the owl
into which this woman was transformed, was named was K'uumits (the
ancient, hoowin, name for this owl which in the Selk'nam
everyday language was called sank'on ) This owl belonged
to the South Sky, like Moon and inhabited her territory, Apen. As
a hoowin woman she was known as Kuumits. Her husband was later
transformed into a certain sparrow (cheip) who belonged to
the West sky, like the Sun. When he was still a hoowin man
he hunted guanacos but his wife, still a hoowin woman, did
not like guanaco meat at all. One day she killed her brother-in-law
with a harpoon (or a lance), cut up his body and roasted it She
began to eat it (perhaps because she didnt like guanaco meat),
when she heard her husband arriving. Then she quickly hid what she
had not yet consumed, under the guanaco skin bed covers. When her
husband was already inside the hut, he asked her: "Where is my brother?"
She replied: "I don't know." Thereupon he began searching for him.
Lifting the bed covers he saw his brother's hip bones. In this instant
his wife, K'uumits, was transformed into the owl and flew out her
hut into the night laughing. This owl still laughs today,
pleased as she is, for having taken vengeance on her husband by
eating his brother. N.8
The woman WHO WAS murdered because she was suspected of being like
The Selk'nam of the territory of Apen (located south Río
Grande in the zone of Lake Deseado ) were called kreeh-unka,
(the last word signifies "of the same place", meaning - from the
same territory, haruwin, as the Moon -Kreeh ) . In
the nineteenth century, before the arrival of the Whites to the
Isla Grande, a woman by the name of Waa-an adored the Moon. She
was not a xo'on but during every eclipse she sang alone to
Waa-an's husband beat her a great deal. She became so overwhelmed
by such abuse that she armed herself with a harpoon. In this moment
her brother-in-law arrived and snatched the harpoon from her and
after beating her he said: "You were going to attack my brother!
You are like your hoowin K'uumits. You want to eat human
flesh. You are a descendant of the Moon that is why you are so bad-tempered."
Then he killed her. When his brother arrived he told him: "Your
wife was about to kill you in order to eat you. She was of the dangerous
hoowin of those who eat people."
The man who WAS CONVINCED THAT he had been seized by Moon-woman
*The following is a true story, mixed as it is with mythology,
that for many of the Selknam was true, as almost any believer
in the supernatural will understand.
One of the last "victims" of Moon-woman was a man named Kauopr,
a xo'on of the haruwin Kamshkin (named for a hill
near the limit between Argentine and Chile).
Angela related that she had heard this story about families who
had lived about ten years before she was born, in the 1890s. Eight
or ten families lived in the territory Kamshkin. Kauopr, known as
Kamshkinu-xo'on, had inherited his shamanistic power from
his father who had been killed by the Whites several years before.
Kauopr lived there with his wife, six sons and his six brothers,
two of whom also had children, besides his uncles and other kin.
During an eclipse of the Moon, which had occurred some time before,
his spirit (waiuwin) made the trip to visit the Moon-woman.
She had shown him a bunch of blood soaked grass, and he felt he
had been kreeh-chinen "seized by the Moon". He was convinced
that Moon was going to "eat" him. So it happened, a group
of White men arrived to their camp on horseback and armed, intending
to take all the families to the Salesian mission which had just
been established on Dawson Island. It is not know how it happened
but several of the Selk'nam men were killed, Kamshkinu-xo'on
(Kauopr) among them. Some of the adults and children were taken
to the mission but the others escaped.
Kamshkinu-xo'on had become convinced that he would be killed
either by a Whiteman or an Indian and
so it happened, just as he had feared. He had been seized by the
Note that despite their mythology and beliefs about consuming
human flesh, the Selk'nam were not cannibals neither were the other
Indian groups in Tierra del Fuego.
1. For this article I did not make a distinction
between the Selk'nam and the Haush, though they spoke different
languages and their cultures, although similar, had remarkably distinctive
features. For instance the latter were a peaceful people while the
Selknam were not. Angela was a Selknam but some of their
mythology may well have been learnt from the Haush. Both groups
were hunter-gatherers and shared many customs and beliefs, including
mythology, some of which was derived from their Patagonian ancestors,
known as Tehuelches. An entire book should be dedicated to the Haush,
even though the data concerning them is rather scarce. Back
2. Estimate made by Martin Gusinde Los Indios
de Tierra del Fuego; los Selknam, 1982: 1:135. There are
people of Selk'nam ancestry, some of whom may be knowledgeable about
the ancient culture but with whom I had no contact. Back
3. The Selk'nam language has a number of phonemes
that do not exist in the Indo-European languages. The transcription
of Selk'nam words in this article is only an approximation of the
Selk'nam language, it is not written phonetically. Also a plural
"s" was added to some of the Selk'nam words simply for convenience.
4. All the hoowin "people" had special
names which are different from the common Selk'nam words which appear
in my text. My informants, as those of Gusinde also, used these
the latter designations, though probably they were not used by the
Selk'nam who were well versed in the tradition, such as the "Fathers
of the word", the shamans, and others. These unfamiliar names were
part of the esoteric vocabulary used by the shamans. I have notes
on a few of these names but not sufficient to replace the common
names, usually employed by my informants. Back
5. Another version of this myth relates that
Sun discovered that the "spirits" were only women in disguise.
At the beginning of the ceremony he came across a young woman who
was pasting tiny feathers on her body to represent the spirit called
K'térrnen. When she realized that Sun had seen her she plunged
into a waterfall nearby and was converted into a little duck (ko'oklol)
who lives near water falls]. It is quite evident that the myth of
the matriarchal Hain was a partial account of the Hain of the men
actually performed it ( for some of the womens testimonies
concerning the Hain, see Chapman Drama and Power in a Hunting
1982: 150-56. Back
6. Gusinde (1982: II: 837-49) presented for another,
though similar, version of this myth. Back
7.After the arrival of the Whites, during an eclipse,
the Moon was said to show a shaman a bloody piece of the uniform
of a policeman, or a piece of leather from his boots to signify
that the shaman would killed by a White man. Back
8. See Gusinde (1982 II: 610-11) for another version
of this myth. Back
9. The data presented in this article were gather
directly from Lola Kiepja (who died in 1966) and later principally
from Angela Loij, Federico Echeuline, Luis Garibaldi Honte. This
study was carried out thanks to the support of the Centre National
de la Recherche Scientifique (Paris) and in 1972 also of the Consejo
de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas (Buenos