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Literal meaning: ‘most ancient one’. Although Charles Darwin considered that the Indians of Tierra del Fuego lacked any idea of religion, later investigation has revealed this not to be the case. The Yahgan tribe prayed to Watauineiwa, a benevolent sky god who made and sustained the world. Among the Ona, their neighbours, the supreme being was Temaukel. He was said to be without body, wife, and children. Souls, kaspi, travelled to the place of Temaukel after death. Initiation rites practised by the Yahgan and the Ona, like those of the Australian Aborigines, were the preserve of the men: indeed, their central myth was a celebration of the superiority of the male, following an initial period when the female was dominant. Today the inhabitants of Tierra del Fuego are a vanishing people.

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