The Lost Tribes Of Tierra Del Fuego: Rare And Haunting Photos Of Selk’nam People Posing With Their Traditional Body-Painting

The Selk’nam, a stone-age hunting culture inhabited the Tierra del Fuego area of southern Argentina and Chile for 7,000 years. During those times the tribes lived nomadically and in tune with the land—hunting, gathering and fishing.


The Selk’nam had no chiefs, but were instead led by wise men (‘fathers of the world’) who were believed to possess spiritual power over people, weather and events. The tribe’s most sacred ceremony was the coming-of-age, or the ‘hain’. Adult male members of the tribe would be painted with red, black and white paint and don fur, down and bark costumes, impersonating much feared spirits. Over a period of days or weeks they would conduct a complex initiation to transition boys into manhood.

One of the last such ceremonies was performed in 1920 and recorded by the missionary, Martin Gusinde. When Gusinde was ordained as a priest in Germany in 1911, he hoped to travel to New Guinea to work as a missionary among exotic tribes. Instead, his superiors sent him to Chile to teach at the German school in Santiago. Within a few years, however, he found his calling at Chile’s Museum of Ethnology and Anthropology, carrying out expeditions to Tierra del Fuego in the far south of Chile and Argentina.

Gusinde first went to Isla Grande de Tierra del Fuego in December of 1918, filled with (in his own words) “indescribable enthusiasm” and “youthful dreams” of an encounter with archaic tribes. Gusinde’s haunting photographs of the Selk’nam, Yamana, and Kawésqar peoples present a way of life that was already on the brink of extinction when he visited the region in 1918–1924 and that has since ceased to exist.

(Visited 1 times, 2 visits today)

Leave Your Comment Below

More Inspiring Stories

World Heritage Gassho Zukuri Farmhouses Hold Water-Discharge Exercise
Balloonists Take To The Skies To Launch The Bristol
It Was Way More Fun Flying Around The World 50 Years Ago
Rock Art Depicting Extinct Animals Is Discovered In Colombian Amazon And It's Dated Back Around 12,000 Years
This Bright Pink Bubble-Gum Lake Can Perk Up Your Diet
Japan Turns Competitive Pillow Fighting Into An Art Form
Philippines Preparing for the New Year
The World’s Most Unusual Beach Is A Glacier In Russia’s Kingdom Of Permafrost
"Dwarf Empire" in Kunming, China
“Life Is Too Short To Be Unhappy”: Dublin Student Beat Depression By Befriending Sharks, Stingrays And Pigs In The Bahamas
Nearby Train Crossing Gives Aichi’s Daibutsu The Title Of Most Stylish Great Buddha In Japan
Children From A Remote Village In China Have To Take A Dangerous Path To Get To School
An Ordinary Day In An Extraordinary Place – Aiguille Du Midi (3842m)
Parts Of Hawaii Are Covered In Snow
Benetton Uses Ethnicity Data To Create Computer-Generated 'Models' From Different Cities
This Beach With Sand That Looks Like Popcorn Should Be On Your Bucket List
Fly Geyser: A Collision Of Human Error And Natural Geothermal Pressure Created This Rainbow-Colored Geologic Wonder
A Look at Daily Life in a Small Thai Village
The Hobbit's "Battle Of Five Armies" Re-Enacted In Czech Republic
A Used Cargo Van Becomes A Mobile Studio
Luxury Hotel Creates 'Shanty Town' Slum for Superrich
Refuge Galindia: The Polish Slavic Pagan Resort That You Have To Visit
Aerosutra: How People Survive On Long-Haul Flights While Trying To Sleep
The Breaking Bad-Themed Coffee Shop Has Just Opened In Istanbul
Stewardess Skill Training In China
Waldo Is A Real Guy And You'll Love Following His Adventures
The Spectacular Lochnagar Crater Somme In France
Tiny Beach in a Cave
400-Year-Old Colonial Church Emerges From Mexican Reservoir as Water Levels Drop
Inside Chernobyl’s No-Go Zone 30 Years After The Nuclear Apocalypse