22nd January 1833


Beagle Channel
After an unmolested night in what would appear to be neutral ground, between the people we saw yesterday & Jemmy’s, we enjoyed a delightful pull through the calm water. The Northern mountains have become more lofty & jagged, their summits are partially covered with snow & their sides with dark woods: it was very curious to see as far as the eye ranged, how exact & truly horizontal the line was at which the trees ceased to grow. It precisely resembled on a beach, the high-water mark of drift sea-weed.

At night we arrived at the junction with Ponsonby Sound; we took up our quarters with a family belonging to Jemmy’s or the Tekenika people. They were quiet & inoffensive & soon joined the seamen round a blazing fire; although naked they streamed with perspiration at sitting so near to a fire which we found only comfortable. They attempted to join chorus with the songs; but the way in which they were always behind-hand was quite laughable. A canoe had been despatched to spread the news & in the morning a large gang arrived.

Captain Fitzroy’s Journal:
Favoured by beautiful weather, we passed along a tract of country where no natives were seen. Jemmy told us it was "land between bad people and his friends;" (neutral-ground probably). This evening we reached a cove near the Murray Narrow; and from a small party of Tekeenica natives, Jemmy's friends, whom we found there, he heard of his mother and brothers, but found that his father was dead. Poor Jemmy looked very grave and mysterious at the news, but showed no other symptom of sorrow. He reminded Bennett* of the dream (related in the previous chapter), and then went for some green branches, which he burned, watching them with a solemn look: after which he talked and laughed as usual, never once, of his own accord, recurring to the subject of his father's decease. The language of this small party, who were the first of Jemmy's own tribe whom we met, seemed softer and less guttural than those of the "bad men" whom we had passed near the clay cliffs; and the people themselves seemed much better disposed, though as abject and degraded in outward appearance as any Fuegians I had ever seen. There were three men and two women: when first we were seen they all ran away, but upon two of our party landing and advancing quietly, the men returned and were soon at their ease. Jemmy and York then tried to speak to them; but to our surprise, and much to my sorrow, we found that Jemmy had almost forgotten his native language, and that, of the two, York, although belonging to another tribe, was rather the best interpreter. In a few minutes the natives comprehended that we should do them no harm; and they then called back their women, who were hiding in the woods, and established themselves, very confidently, in a wigwam within a hundred yards of our tents. During this and the preceding day, we found the weather, by comparison, so mild, even warm, that several of our party bathed; yet the thermometer ranged only to 53° in the shade, and at night fell to 40°. The temperature of the sea was 48°.

Being within a few hours' pull (row) of Jemmy's 'own land,' which he called Woollӯa, we all felt eager, though anxious, and I was much gratified by seeing that Matthews still looked at his hazardous undertaking as steadily as ever, betraying no symptom of hesitation. The attentions which York paid to his intended wife, Fuegia, afforded much amusement to our party. He had long shewn himself attached to her, and had gradually become excessively jealous of her good-will. If any one spoke to her, he watched every word; if he was not sitting by her side, he grumbled sulkily; but if he was accidentally separated, and obliged to go in a different boat, his behaviour became sullen and morose. This evening he was quizzed so much about her that he became seriously angry, and I was obliged to interpose to prevent a quarrel between him and one of his steadiest friends.

On this and previous evenings, as we sat round the blazing piles, which our men seemed to think could never be large enough, we heard many long stories from Jemmy about the Oens, or Coin men, who live beyond the mountains at the north side of the Beagle Channel, and almost every year make desperate inroads upon the Tekeenica tribe, carrying off women and children, dogs, arrows, spears, and canoes; and killing the men whom they succeed in making prisoners. He told us that these Oens-men made their annual excursions at the time of 'red leaf;' that is in April or May, when the leaves of deciduous trees are changing colour and beginning to fall; just the time of year also when the mountains are least difficult to pass.

At that period these invaders sometimes come down to the shores of the Beagle Channel in parties of from fifty to a hundred; seize upon canoes belonging to the Yapoo division of the Tekeenica tribe, cross over to Navarin Island, and thence sometimes to others, driving the smaller and much inferior Tekeenica people before them in every direction. By Jemmy's own account, however, there are hard battles sometimes, and the Oens tribe lose men; but as they always contrive to carry away their dead, it seems that the advantage of strength is on their side.

These periodical invasions of a tribe whose abode is in the north-eastern quarter of Tierra del Fuego are not to be confounded with the frequent disputes and skirmishes which take place between the two Tekeenica tribes; and it is interesting to compare what we thus heard with the account obtained by Oliver Van Noort in 1589: who learnt that the people lived in caves dug in the earth, and that there were five tribes—four of ordinary stature and one of gigantic size. These giants, called Tiremenen, lived in 'Coin.' The other tribes were called Enoo, Kemenites, Karaike, and Kenneka.

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