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First inhabitants

The main cultures that lived in the southern regions of our country were:

– The kaweshkar: also known as alacalufes, they lived from the Gulf of Sorrows to approximately the Cockburn passage or channel, along the western part of Tierra del Fuego. They also took up almost all of the strait of Magellan, all the way to the southern entrance of Sarmiento channel.
They were known as sea nomads because they lived on their boats. The canoe was the women’s space, for they were the ones that paddled towards the rockeries, where they would leave their husbands and sons to fish and hunt all day. Meanwhile, they would steer the vessel towards shallow waters, where they could dive and collect shellfish with a basket hanging around their necks. Here, they would place the lobsters and sea urchins they caught. This went on because men didn’t know how to swim.

– The selk’nam: also known as the onas, they lived on Isla Grande de Tierra del Fuego (Greater Island of Tierra del Fuego). Although the families were nomadic, some of them lived in one place, enabling them to confection huts made up of a frame made from tangled branches and covered in leather pelts. Here, they kept a fire going to keep them warm. They were known to be hunters and gatherers. Their clothing was made of guanaco or fox pelts. If there was a lot of snow, they covered their feet in a type of leather moccasin. They adorned themselves with necklaces and bracelets made of seashells, bones or stones, and they wore a feathered headdress atop their brows.
Within their social organization, there was an important character called a shaman, who was credited with having supernatural powers. He played the role of healer, magician or warlock. They also believed in the existence of a superior being called Temaukel, who lived in a bright part of the sky and watched over man through the stars.

– The aonikenk: also known as tehuelches, they lived between the Negro river and the strait of Magellan. They hunted guanacos and greater rheas with bolas and bows and arrows, as well as gathering all types of roots and wild seeds. The men were very tall (1.75 m on average) and they adorned their bodies with colorful drawings. They also tattooed their forearms using small branches that burned their skin. Their social structure acknowledged the presence of lineages led by a chief and the existence of shamans.
The same as with other cultures, they believed in a life after death and expressed this belief by burying their deceased in graves or caves, which they then covered with dirt or stones, accompanied by a funeral dowry of weapons, utensils and ornaments.

– The yamanas: also known as yaganes, they inhabited the archipelagoes from the Brecknock peninsula to cape Horn. They were hunters, fishermen and gatherers who took advantage of the fertile conditions of the islands and spent a good deal of time on land, where they erected huts with frames made of branches covered in pelts. They rubbed their bodies in sea lion fat and wore nothing but a short pelt cape that fell to their waists. When the weather was very bad, they wore leather moccasins. They also liked to don ornaments, such as necklaces made from seashells or bones, leather bracelets and feathered crowns.
Similar to other cultures, they had complex religious beliefs, expressed through the worshipping of an invisible supreme being, creator and organizer of men and nature. They thought the spirits of the dead went to a paradise of sorts where the sun was always shining.

Physical geography

The relief of the southern part of the country is very bumpy thanks to the joint action of sinking tectonics and intense glacial activity.

– Region of Aisen: it presents three types of relief. The Coastal mountain range appears as a broken chain and can be seen between the Chonos archipelago and Tres Montes point. The intermediate depression only develops east of the Taitao peninsula, up to the Ofqui isthmus, disappearing for good in the Gulf of Sorrows. Finally, the Andes mountains, which in this area are called the Patagonian Andes, develop on both the mainland and the islands and is characterized by an abrupt topography (sloping inclines and narrow passes) and for having few plains between the mountains. However, its most peculiar trait is the presence of far-spanning ice fields (eastern side of the mountains). South of the Gulf of Sorrows, the mountains break up into a series of islands bunched up in archipelagoes that make up channels, fiords and straits.

– Region of Magallanes y de la Antartica Chilena: the most important form of relief found in this region are the Andes mountains, which are called Patagonian Andes here. One can distinguish the Andes (located in the western part of the region. From north to south, they reach around the Muñoz Gamero peninsula), the archipelago area (here, the Andes appear in broken chains with low altitude peaks) and the Magellanic pampas (a vast area where the relief has ups and downs and spreads both to the north and south of the strait of Magellan). Beyond the American mainland, in Antarctica, there are prolongations of this mountain chain.

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