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Customs

Yagán Spiritual World II

The Yagán people do not have an oral tradition about their origin, but they say that Watanuineiwa always existed because the celestial dome existed, only it was much closer to Earth than now.

In that time the women dominated them.

About their origin they tell the following legend:

In remote times many families arrived from the East. In company of that group the Yaolox family also arrived. The Yaolox brothers taught the other men how to use weapons and make tools. Simultaneously Lem arrived, the sun man and his Alainix brother, Rainbow and his wife Hanuxa, the moon woman. With their appearance they initiated a new form of existence, as if preparing the way for the coming of the real human beings, mankind.

The Yaolox were 3 brothers: two men and one woman. The youngest surpassed his older brother in all senses, and the woman Yaolox Tarnuxipa, was most intelligent of them all. The discovery of fire is attributed to the older brother.

The Last Chiejaus

Mujer yagan pintada  para el Chiejaus de 1922

The last Chiejaus took place in Assif, on Navarino Island. There, Masémikensh, a Yagán teacher, directed the young people's lessons, before their almost total extinction.

Father Martín Gusinde, ethnologist, was the only white man invited and as an ushipin initiate he participated in the ceremony.

During the ceremony the Yagán people sang to distract themselves, and to drive away to the Yetahite, enemy and malignant spirit, jealous of the accomplishments of the Chiejaus.

They also struck the walls of the Marma with sticks and branches, to frighten the spirit.

The dance was one of the favoured parts of the ceremony and it took place at the end of the night. Each dance received the name of the animal, which it imitated. " The Yagán people are true artists in the representation of these animals ", says Aureliano Oyarzún, who was present at such a ceremony.

Rituals and beliefs

Niños yaganes junto a su vivienda.

The creation of all the existing one was known like Watauiwineiwa. In spite of having coincidence on the matter, Watauiwineiwa was not adored, according to as traditionally the dominant society it has understood the theism.

The healers or shamans were important for the Yagán people. They called them Yekamush, that could heal patients, cure emotional imbalances, and invoke the spirits.

Martín Gusinde, Ethnologer described as a wizard acted: "(...) the wizard arranges itself to act by means of a long song, calling in this form to the spirits so that they help to him. Nothing must bother nor distract its attention; it prefers to see single with that they request his Help to him, which feel or they tend before him. Between songs and smooth balances of the trunk "it is reuniting in a certain place the sickly matter", absorbing it violently with his lips. Immediately escupe in the palm of the hand and blows it later ".

Yagán Spiritual World

Pedro, Henri, Piskouna, su hija, El Capitán, Antonio (El Feroz), Catherine y su hijo, Lisa, Pequeña Madre y niños, en el zoo de París Foto : Gustave Le Bon, septiembre 1881 (Colección Société de Geographie de París)

The Yagán Flood.

This legend tells about how long ago the moon fell into the sea, making it rise, as the water in a bucket rises, when a great stone falls inside.

The only survivors of the flood were the lucky inhabitants of Gable island (in front of Port Williams in the Beagle channel), which broke off from its bed in the ocean and floated freely in the sea.

Soon to the surrounding mountains were covered with water and the people of Gable island saw nothing but water on the horizon.

The island did not go drift, it must have anchored somehow and when the moon eventually appeared it emerged with its load of human beings, guanacos and foxes, populating the world once again.

The Chiejaus

Hermanas Calderón en Villa Ukika. Fines s. XX Últimas yaganes hablantes

The Chiejaus was a veritable school for tribal customs, norms and knowledge necessary for the survival of the community. A fundamental principle in the life of these canoeists was learned:

"We, men and women, first of all must be good and useful to the community ".

The Chiejaus took place every five years and all the adolescents assisted. A marma, or cabin, was constructed for the occasion; the size of which depended on the number of godfathers, disciples and teachers.

The heads of families decided on the site where the marma was to be built, many months before.

This Yagán school could last up to five months, since its duration was not predetermined.

They proceeded as follows:

The director of the ceremony painted his body white with cross-sectional red lines. The participants were adorned with spots and lines of colours that represented different supernatural beings from the Yagán world.