Tierra del Fuego was named after the first European explorers sailed around the southern tip of the Americas in 1520. The Spanish Captain Magellan saw the many fires of the indigenous people burning in the distance, and labelled it “the land of fire”.
For 7,000 years, the Yamana and Selknam people inhabited Southern Patagonia. Upon arrival of Europeans in the late 1800s, there were an estimated 3,000 indigenous people living in Tierra del Fuego. By 1910 there were just 100, and today there are none. The story is all too common amongst indigenous people around the world, whose culture and population was destroyed by colonisation.
Europeans were surprised to find the indigenous people mostly naked, despite constantly freezing temperatures. They wore some animal skins, but it wasn't until missionaries came that they really covered up. It is interesting to note that these people had developed a second metabolism and their body temperatures were 38.2 degrees Celsius, which would be a fever by our standards. Charles Darwin noted that when some 'Fuegians' joined him at a fire they were sweating when the fire barely warmed the Europeans! Despite this, fire was still key to their survival. They had fires burning with them wherever they went, including inside their wooden canoes.
Those interested in learning more should read excepts from Darwin's The Voyage of the Beagle, particularly Chapter X, which provides both amusing and disturbing observations of the native people.