This pre-Columbus community occupied the Patagonian Steppe, located in southern Patagonia, from the river Santa Cruz (in Argentina) in the north, to the Strait of Magellan (in Chile) in the south. They called themselves ‘aonikenk’.
The tehuelche people can be described as hunter gatherers, who were tall and lived a nomadic lifestyle, who hunted mainly ñandú and guanaco; they used the latter’s meat as food and its skin to make clothing and build dwellings. During their hunting activities they needed to travel to different terrains carrying bows and arrows, slings, spears and boleadoras – an implement consisting of two or three stone balls covered in leather that were attached to a ring with rope. The whole tribe participated in the hunt.
The women and children transported the load so that the men could corner and trap their victims. Sometimes they would dress in animal skins for this event. When the Spaniards arrived they baptised them with the name ¨patagones¨ (and called the area they lived in Patagonia) because the type of leather footwear they used left notoriously big footprints in the snow.
In their settlement, they lived under tents supported by wooden posts which were covered in guanaco skin or horse skin, the latter being introduced by the Spanish. They used long capes made of camelids skin for clothing.