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Tehuelche [archive]

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The Tehuelche are located in the lower tip of South America. Primarily they are found in the province of Chubut, Argentine Patagonia. They have inhabited this area for about 12,500 years. The Tehuelche can be split up into two groups: the Northern Tehuelche and the Southern Tehuelche. The Northern Tehuelche live north of the Chubut River in Argentina and the Southern Tehuelche live south of the Chubut River down to the Strait of Magellan. These two tribes are very intermixed. They can be told apart by differences in dialect, slight difference in physique, and the frequent squabbles between groups. The Tehuelche call themselves Ahonicanka or Tchonek, but they are most commonly known as Tehuelche or Tehuel people. The Southern Tehuelche, or Aonikenk, are slightly taller than their Northern counterparts but not as muscular. The men's height ranges from five foot ten to six foot four. The women's height is on average five foot six but can be close to six foot in some cases.

Marriages are not arranged in the Tehuelche culture. The bridegroom sends an ambassador to the house of his intended's parents, offering them horses and silver ornaments for the bride. If they consent, the parents will return gifts of equal value after the bride has accepted the bridegroom's gifts. The bridegroom then escorts his new bride to his toldo with the cheers of his friends and the singing of the women. Mares are slaughtered for a religous feast and eaten immediately. The meat from the mares is carefully guarded against the dogs because that is considered unlucky. An offering to the evil spirit, "Gualychu", is then made on a nearby hill. This consists of the head, backbone, tail, heart, and liver of the horse. The Tehuelche man is allowed to have as many wives as he can support. It is really rare to find a Tehuelche man to have more than two wives and most of them only have one. In the case of a Tehuelche man dying, all of his animals are killed, all of his possessions are burned, and all of the meat from his slaughtered horses is distributed to relatives. His widow(s) cuts her hair in front and wears black paint. The dead male is taken by his relatives and buried in a sitting position, facing east with a pile of stones placed over his grave. He is usually buried sewn up in a mantle or poncho.


Musters, Lieutenant. "On the Races of Patagonia." Journal of the Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland. Volume 1: pp 193- 207 2.

"The Tehuelche(English Version)." (29 June 1998)

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 Languages Spoken in Argentina
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