The Selknam, also known as the 'Ona, were an indigenous people who inhabited the archipelago of Tierra del Fuego until the death of the last descendant, Angela Loij, in 1974. They were one of the last aboriginal groups in South America to be reached by Westerners who hunted them down for money.
After thousands of years of semi-nomadic life in Isla Grande de Tierra del Fuego (literally, "big island of land of fire," based on early European explorers' observations of smoke from Selk'nam bonfires), the introduction of European sheep ranches created strong conflicts between natives and European, Argentinean, or Chilean settlers. The conflicts became a war of extermination. Large companies paid sheep farmers one pound sterling per Selk'nam dead, which was confirmed by the redemption of a pair of hands or ears, or later a complete skull.
Repression against the Selk'nam persisted into the early twentieth century. Ángela Loij, the last full-blooded Selk'nam, died in 1974. According to the 2010 United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger, the Ona language is extinct, as the last speakers died in the 1980s.
- Adelaar 2010, p. 92.
- Adelaar, Willem (2010). "South America". In Christopher (ed.), Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger, 3rd Edition. UNESCO. pp. 86-94.
Further reading 
- Luis Alberto Borrero, Los Selk'nam (Onas), Galerna, Buenos Aires 2007.
- Lucas Bridges, Uttermost Part of the Earth, London 1948.
See also 
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