Breaking

Selknam natives en route to Europe for being exhibited as animals in Human Zoos, 1899


In 1889, with the permission of the Chilean government, eleven Selcanum natives, including an eight-year-old child, were taken to Europe to be displayed in human zoos. Patagonian Indians were rare. Between 1878 and 1900, three groups of natives belonging to the indigenous groups of Tehuelche, Selknam and Kaweskar were shipped to Europe to be exposed in human zoos.

They were photographed, measured, weighed and expected to perform every day. Sometimes 6 to 8 times a day. Selknums didn't get the best care. Therefore, many of them did not return it. Some did not reach Europe.

But why would civilized people act like showing other people to zoos?

From a sociological point of view, this makes sense: a more technologically advanced civilization lacking modern-day sensibility and political correctness finds an ancient civilization living in the Neolithic, so they immediately assume that They are less than him. This has happened countless times in history.

In the Jiu Tang Shu (History of the Tang Dynasty) you can find examples of black slaves brought to China by Arab traders and slave traders, which were then acquired by wealthy Chinese people and used as entertainment by the nobility of Guangzhou. (for example they were hired as gatekeepers during parties to intimidate and impress the visiting guests).

A few centuries after that, the Emperor of China sent messengers to Malindi (East Africa) to bring the exotic animal, they brought him a giraffe (which, to no end to the emperor, called it a godly animal and wanted to honor his best artist). Ordered a painting with a giraffe.



The Selcanum people, also known as the Ona, lived in the Patagonian region of southern Chile and Argentina, including the island of Tierra del Fuego.

They were one of the last aboriginal groups in South America until the end of the 19th century, when the governments of Chile and Argentina made efforts to discover and integrate the Tierra del Fuego (literally, "land of the fire" on an early European basis). The explorers are looking at the smoke of Selknum from their bonfire).

Selkanum spoke a Chon language. Hunters and gatherers, Selknams were characterized by their tall height (average 5'11"), physical strength and toughness to adapt to the most hostile and extreme environments.

He was also highly concerned with his personal presentation. They enjoyed any opportunity to paint their bodies and faces. In fact, the initiation ceremony known as the Hahn was a defining moment in Selknam culture in which teenage males went through a number of mental and physical trials into adulthood that could last for months.

These ceremonies were highly secret meetings conducted by adult men who emulated the spirits of the universe with very well defined figures and personalities.


Some of these spirits are believed to have emerged from the depths of the earth and others from the sky. With the help of guanaco leather masks, tree bark, paint on their bodies, and other mundane elements, these actors managed to successfully disguise their human condition and emulate spirits.

Selknam avoided contact with the Spanish colonists. The Spanish killed most of the local animals that were the food source for the Selcanum and used a large part of the land of Tierra del Fuego to establish large estancias – sheep farms.

Selknam, who lacked understanding of the sheep herd as private property, hunted sheep, behavior that was regarded by farm owners as banditry. Ranchers supported armed groups to hunt down and kill Selknam. To get their reward, such groups had to first return with the ears of the victims.


Alejandro Caas estimated a population of 3,000 Selknam in 1896. Martin Gusinde, the Austrian ethnographer who studied them at the beginning of the 20th century, wrote in 1919 that only 279 Selknams remained. In 1945 the Salesian missionary, Lorenzo Massa, was counted 25. In May 1974, Angela Loiz died; She was the last full-blood Selknam.

The tribe is extinct, although it is likely to be a descendant of a partial Selknam lineage. According to the 2010 United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Atlas of the World's Languages ​​in Danger, the Ona language is extinct, as the last speakers died in the 1980s.

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