The Kawésqar ( or Kaweskar, also called Alacaluf or Halakwulup , which is a pejorative denomination that means 'mussel eater' in Yaghan ) are a South American people living in the Chilean Patagonia, specifically in the Brunswick Peninsula, and Wellington, Santa Inés, and Desolación islands. Their traditional language is known as Kawésqar.
They were a nomadic seafaring people until the twentieth century. Because of their maritime culture, the Kawésqar have never farmed the land.
They were never very numerous; the total population never exceeded five thousand. In the 1930s the Alacaluf settled on Wellington Island, in the town of Puerto Edén. Today, very few Kawésqar remain. The 2002 census found 2,622 people self-identifying as Kawésqar (those that still practiced their native culture or spoke their native language). In 2006, only 15 full-blooded members remained. Lessons in Kawésqar are part of the local curriculum but very few speakers of the language remain.
Tribes and languages
Treatment of Kawéskar by Europeans
In 1881 eleven Kawéskar people were taken from Patagonia to be exhibited in the Bois de Boulogne in Paris, and in the Berlin Zoological Garden. Only four of them returned alive to Chile. The remains of five others were repatriated from the University of Zurich, Switzerland, early in 2010. Upon their return, the president of Chile apologized that the state allowed these indigenous people to be taken out of the country to be treated like animals.
- BBC.co.uk 130 años después regresan los kawésqar