Naked at the end of the world!

In Ushauia – we found out all about the Yamana people and the Selknam people. They lived at the bottom of the world in Tierra del Fuego in South America. The Selknam lived inland and hunted guanaco. The Yamana lived along the coast.

The Yanama with their canoes - where they kept a fire burning all the time and didn't wear clothes!

The Yamana with their canoe – where they kept a fire burning all the time and didn’t wear clothes! At the Maritime Museum, Ushuaia. This canoe was made trying to copy the traditional methods before they are forgotten and lost!

The Yamana lived further south than any other people in the world and although it was cold they didn’t wear clothes but always had a fire burning even in their canoes and put animal grease on their skin to help stay warm. They sometimes put an animal skin around them like a cloak. The women were the fishers and paddled the canoes, and were the only ones who could swim as they had to swim out to the canoes that were tied up in the reeds!

English: TIERRA DEL FUEGO. Yamana women Españo...

TIERRA DEL FUEGO. Yamana women  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The women fished and collected mussels but sometimes they went out as a family to hunt seals. The women paddled, the men threw the spear at the seals and the children kept the fire alight in the canoe all the time. The canoes were made of a single piece of tree bark and wood.

They lived in small houses made from branches and huddled together around the fire to stay warm!

When the Europeans came and discovered them, they saw all the fires burning along the water’s edges and that’s when they called it Tierra del Fuego (Land of Fire)  It is very sad because in the 1800s , just over 100 years ago, the Europeans tried to make them ‘civilised’ by setting up missions, giving them clothes and food and different houses and they brought diseases that the Yamana didn’t have immunity to. So the Yamana  people and their languages and traditions have died out – there is just one old lady left from the Yamana, who was born in 1928 and is now in her 90’s. She is the last speaker of the Yamana language.

The Selknams also died out after the Europeans tried to make them ‘civilised’

We went to the Tierra del Fuego National park and found thousands of mussels and walked around in the wild places, imagining how life was for the Yamana.

Searching for mussels like the Yamana women in Tierra del Fuego National Park

Searching for mussels like the Yamana women in Tierra del Fuego National Park

When we saw the beautiful beach and water of the Lago Roca at sunset, I decided to see what it was like to have to swim in that water – well, my Dad dared me to go skinny dipping and this is what happened!

4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. freespirit41
    Jun 28, 2013 @ 06:55:16

    Brilliant Zoe, so brave!


  2. Gretchen Hollett
    Aug 10, 2013 @ 11:12:34

    You are so brave and amazing. Emma and Mia loved seeing these videos of you! We miss you all….Gretchen


  3. Kath McNulty
    May 08, 2016 @ 20:43:43

    Hi Zoe, my name is Kath and we are in Puerto Williams at the moment. I was looking up info online to write a blog post about the Yagan (Yanama) and came across your blog. It’s brilliant. Very impressed you went all the way into the water, I should get brave and have a go too. What puzzles me about the Yanama is why they didn’t make clothes. I’m still looking for a credible answer.


    • Mo
      May 08, 2016 @ 22:39:01

      Hi Kath,

      Thanks for your comment.good question why didn’t they make clothes!? I think they just used animal skins which kept them warm. Really interested to read a bit of your blog – what an adventure YOU’RE on:) I noticed you spent a while in the Falklands – we loved our visit there. And you still have the Pacific ahead of you – our favourite places were Easter island, some of French Polynesian islands, Tonga and Vanuatu – where will you go?
      Best wishes,
      Mo & Zoe


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