Pehuenches (people of pehuén in Mapudungun) are an indigenous people that are part of the Mapuche peoples and live in the Andes in south central Chile and Argentina. Their name derives from their habit of harvesting of piñones, the seeds of the Araucaria araucana or pehuén. In the 14th century Pehuenches lived in the mountainous territory marked by Lonquimay volcano and Maule River, but became later Araucanized and partially merged with Mapuche tribes.
Pehuenches incorporated horse meat into their diet after feral horses of Spanish origin reached the eastern foothills of the Andes. These herds had originated in the humid pampa, after the second abandonment of Buenos Aires in 1541. At first they hunted horses as any other animal but later they began to grow horses for meat and transport. To conserve horse meat it was made into charqui after being sun-dried in the high Andes.
In his work from 1787 Civic History of the Kingdom of Chile Juan Ignacio Molina wrote that the language and religion of the Pehuenches are similar to those of other Mapuches, but he described their dress as distinct: men wore skirts rather than trousers, as well as earrings and manillas. Molina described them as nomadic (vagabond in his words) and the most industrious and laborious among "all the savages".
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- ^ Juan Ignacio Molina 1787. Civic History of the Kingdom of Chile, p 222-226