With the state responsible, through omission, and faced with brutal seafarers and sailors of the era, the indigenous Kawésqar people suffered the abuses of being outlawed, being seen as savages, having no citizenship, and even being considered subhuman, according to research.
Lorenzo Palma, IDEAL Center. A professor from the Austral University of Chile (UACh), Dr. Alberto Harambour, PhD in History from the State University of New York at Stony Brook and a researcher at the Center for Dynamic Marine Ecosystem Research at High Latitudes (IDEAL), recently published the results of a study in the magazine “Revista Uniandes” that dealt with the Kawésqar, an indigenous people who lived in the channels of southern Chile. According to this study, these people were victims of violence from civilians in a continuous and systematic manner from the end of the 19th century through the beginning of the 20th.
This is the first time that a review and analysis of the related judicial file has been undertaken, working with public and private “microhistory” material, as part of research conducted in co-authorship with José Barrera Ruiz, a student from the IDEAL Center who also studied at the University of Wageningen, in the Netherlands.
“For the first time, through the review of the archived judicial files and an analysis of the public and private narrative microhistory records, we noted how humane treatment was denied to these canoe people,” commented the historian. He went on to explain that microhistory analysis takes into account the local conditions and experiences of flesh-and-blood subjects, who find themselves are inserted into global processes. “We cannot think of the colonization of Patagonia without the British imperial influence, nor without the influences of the nations of this region,” he explained.
With respect to the archived materials, Harambour indicates that, “they allow access to voices, more or less mediated or measured, by the judge or the actuary, in which subjects appear about whom we might otherwise never know anything. These include like poor migrants, women, domestic workers, and prostitutes that served the sheep industry. In the case of indigenous peoples, there are very few records in which they have any presence.”
This study has rescued the testimonies of witnesses and victims, providing valuable historical background, that includes the names and nicknames of Kawéskar individuals. But in the earliest source material there is no mention of any word of the indigenous peoples.
The researchers conclude that the violence against the Kawesqar lasted for more than a century, due to the attitudes of the state agents of the time. “The Kawésqar were considered as savages located outside of time, outside of history, and on the ragged border between humans and animals,” noted the IDEAL Center researcher.
According to its authors, the scope of this research “shows that violence and dehumanization existed on the part of the private sector as well as the State. That it was something permanent and that it continues to exist, in other ways, such as the creation of the Kawésqar National Park. In the park there is no protective control for this town, particularly in the maritime space,” reported Harambour. The researcher also pointed out that we must never forget that the Kawésqar people existed long before the Chilean State.