NYC - Lecture Series w/ Jacqueline Windh
Southern Patagonia’s Yagán People: Tales from the Ends of the Earth
The Yagán people are a canoeing tribe who paddled the waters of southernmost Patagonia: the canals along the steep southern shores of Tierra del Fuego, the windswept Beagle Channel, and the treacherous waters around Cape Horn. “Before I could walk, I would go with my mother to Cape Horn, tied to her back,” recalled Rosa Yagán, who witnessed the effects of European contact through her lifetime, and who died in 1983. “She would take me up the hill there, to make a camp and eat those birds that fly over the sea, those ones that answer you from their nests on land if you whistle to them.”
European contact came late to the Yagán people relative to other indigenous tribes in the Americas. However, the effects were no less devastating. One of the earliest encounters was in 1830, when Captain Robert FitzRoy, in command of the Beagle, took four young Yagáns hostage and brought them back to England. One of them died of smallpox after arriving in England; the other three were returned by FitzRoy, this time with the young naturalist Charles Darwin on board, the following year.
The few encounters that occured between Yagán people and Europeans over the following decades were, for the most part, violent. It wasn’t until the 1860s and 1870s that a missionary who had learned the Yagán language was able to promote more peaceful relationships, and to start the first European settlement on the southern shore of Tierra del Fuego.
Mission life, however, did not suit the Yagán. “Who knows what was making us sick, living like that...” recalled Rosa Yagán. “We didn’t go out like we used to, because we had our house at the mission and we had to take care of it... Civilization attacked us in the lungs and in the stomach, and we started to die.”
In little over a century, the Yagán population has been reduced to one sole pure-blooded survivor, the Abuela Cristina Calderón. She lives in the small settlement of Ukika, Navarino Island, the landscape she grew up in now transected by an international border which separates Chile from Argentina, with her sons and a handful of other Yagán descendents.
Jacqueline Windh is a traveler, photographer and author from Vancouver Island, Canada. She first made contact with the Yagán people a decade ago, captivated by the similarities between the rugged landscape of southern Patagonia and of her home in the Pacific Northwest, and intrigued by the existance of indigenous canoeing cultures in both regions. She worked with Cristina Calderón, and her granddaughter Cristina Zárraga, to produce a Spanish/English print edition of traditional Yagán stories that the Abuela and her late sister had heard in their native tongue as children. That book, Hai kur mamashu shis (I want to tell you a story)
was published in Chile in 2005, and a North American edition is being published in 2013.
Jacqueline will present a lecture which includes a slide show with historical photos of the Yagán, as well as her own photos of the Yagán today and the majestic Patagonian landscape they occupy, based upon her multiple trips to Navarino Island and Tierra del Fuego over the last decade.
Time: 6:00 Reception, 7:00 Lecture
Location: NYC Headquarters, 46 E70th Street, NY, NY, 10021
Member Ticket Price: Free
Guest Ticket Price: $20
Student Ticket Price:
Free to EC Student Members, $5 w/ valid Student ID
Reservations are secured on a first come, first served basis.
To make a reservation, please call 212.628.8383