Southern South American Native American Tribes: Yaghan

Figure 1.--The Native American inhabitants of Tierra del Fuego were notable for their ability to withstand cold. probably the people that could stand better the cold. One of the tribes was the Yaghan which despite the cold did not develop clothing technology. Anthropogists are not sure just why the Yaghan were able to withstand the cold so well. Here are two Yaghan boys. We are not sure when this phothrapoh was takem, perhaps the 1920s.

Anoter southern tribe were the Yaghan. Although a small tribe, there are many alternative spellings (Yagán, Yahgan, Yámana, and Yamana). They lived even further south than the Alacaluf, asouthern tribe found along the Straits of Nagellan. They were a very pimitive tribe which despite the cold climate did not develop clothing before contact with the Europeans. As is often the case of tribes found in desolate areas, they were probably driven there by more advanced tribes. The Yaghan inhabited the islands south of Isla Grande de Tierra del Fuego south to Cape Horn. The term Fuegians were used to describe the Yaghan, but did not descriminate between the various tribes living in Tierra del Fuego. They speak Yaghan which is considered to be a language isolate. The Yaghan were a nomadic people who used canoes to collect food from the various islands. The men hunted, primary sea lions. The women dived to collect shellfish which was impressive given the cold water temperatures. The Yaghan raise several interesting questions. Why would apeople who used technologies like canoes not develop clothing to keep themselves warm. There are a number of possibilities. The Eskimoes in Alaska presumably acquired their warm clothing from the Siberian people who crossed the Bering land bridge. As Native American people migrated south they developed new clothing technologies. As to why the Yaghan lost this technology, despite the obvious need for warm clothing, is unclear. We suspect it probably reklates to the available resources. Unlike North America, there were no fur bearing animals available. The sea lions they hinted relied on bluber for warms, not a fur pelt. And there were also no caribou. Observers have noted some apparent cultural adaptations. The Yaghan had fire. The name Tierra del Fuego comes from the many smsall fires of the Native American peoples. Other adaptations included rock shelters, domed sheltersd, greasing their bddies, and a squatting position which reduced the surface area exposed to the air. There may also have been evolutionary adaptionsm such as a higher metabolic rate. Actual scientific studies are limited. A Chilean researcher has reportly found average body temperature a degree warmer than that of Europeans. We have not yet been able to identify this researcher. To our knowledge this has not been confirmned by other researchers. And we wonder if a slightly higher body temperature woukld make all that nuch difference in their harsh environment.



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Created: 7:39 PM 12/27/2009
Last updated: 7:39 PM 12/27/2009