The Onas

These pre-Columbian people inhabited the archipelago of Tierra de Fuego. They arrived there by land 7000 years ago when the island was still connected to the mainland.

They were a nomadic hunter- gatherer tribe whose main activity was hunting “guanaco” (a native camelid). Although they lived in a coastal zone they were fearful and did not know how to sail and as such they never ventured out as sailors.

The Onas were characterised for being very tall (180cm on average) and for manufacturing bows and stone tipped arrows. Their dwellings had a conical shaped framework made from trees, covered with branches and skins, this acted as a windbreak to protect the large bonfire which was lit in the interior of the dwelling.

They dressed themselves in guanaco skin cloaks which were fastened on the left shoulder. Their religion had a controlling, wicked, vengeful god called “Temaukel”.

One of the most important ceremonies they had was called ‘kloketen’. It was a secret ceremony which involved the adult males teaching the pubescent males the secret of how to dominate their women.

The ceremony involved the men folk dressing in frightening masks and appearing in front of the woman shouting and shrieking just as if they were evil spirits. Every time that this ceremony took place the women ran terrified to their husbands for protection.

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