PARQUE YATANA – Childrens’ Cultural & Learning Center
Who are the Selk’nam People?
The Selk’nams are descendants of the earliest settlers of the Tierra del Fuego Region in Argentina. Roughly 500 years ago, settlers arrived in this area and all but destroyed their culture. Only a few native descendants of the Tierra del Fuego region remain in this area where neither of their native languages of Yaganes or Selk’nam are spoken today. At present, there remains only one full blooded native Yagan speaker left in the world: 86 year old Grandma Cristina Calderon, who lives in the military town of Puerto Williams, Isla Navarino, Chile, (the southernmost city in the world). This is a reservation designated by the government for Indigenous Peoples relocation. Cristina Calderon’s Yagan language is literally in the Guinness Book of World Records as the rarest language in the world. We were very fortunate and honored to have visited and be photographed with her on several occasions while on Isla Navarino.
In the last two decades almost all of the indigenous peoples of Tierra del Fuego have emigrated seeking a new and better life for themselves. Conversely, many new ethnicities have arrived from the Andean world, especially Bolivia, as migrant workers. The cultural heritage of the Selk’nams had all but disappeared.
Overview of Expedition
The Yagan and Selk’nam projects of Chile and Argentina respectively, have been combined into one larger and more effective total project. The decision to combine these projects into one larger project was made by the Inti Raymi Fund after an extensive three weeks of searching for what remains of the four original tribes inhabiting the region: the Selk’nam, Yagan, Haush & Kaweshkar Peoples. We found no one left of indigenous pure blood. These findings were sad and disappointing, and we hope the Selk’nam/Yagan Project will serve as a wake -up call to raise awareness for the remaining Indigenous People of the world. We ask that socially responsible, financially and politically powerful people, will assist us in making a difference.
On this note, the last Selk’nam or Fuegan person of pure blood, Lola Kiepja, died in 1974. To the best of our knowledge, along with her went the Selk’nam language. You can listen to her innocent language and chants recorded before her death by anthropologist Anna Chapman in coordination with the Smithsonian Institute. This language can also be heard on our video link on this page.
Our Video below albeit quite artistic in nature, represents a traditional dance brought over from Europe along with their Sheep, which caused the beginning of the end of these wonderful Indigenous Yagan Peoples.
A three member team traveled to Tierra del Fuego representing the Inti Raymi Fund on recommendations to visit with Monica Alvarado and overwhelmingly selected her and her associates to facilitate helping others in Southern Chile & Argentina on the fund’s behalf. Monica has been the director of Parque Yatana, a public charity operating within a national park in Ushuaia, Argentina for the last eleven years, so her selection both easy and natural. This incredible soul is an Indigenous Mapuche, an accomplished artist and nurturing mother; an extraordinary woman to say the least.
One of our plans will be to ferry by boat, across the Beagle Channel, Christina Calderon Yagan and others of similar significance and heritage, to the Parque Yatana Cultural Center to re-teach their dying languages, keep folk stories alive along with the great spirit of the people who stood proudly as the original occupants some 8,000 years ago to this literal “end of the earth”.
We found Monica’s mission of re-teaching and helping to revive the Indigenous peoples of Tierra del Fuego a brilliant idea. Since there were no remaining villages able to sustain themselves and make these decisions, it was decided to rebuild the Yagan & Selk’nam Nations emotionally through the Parque Yatana enlightenment. We have provided a completely transparent link to the Parque Yatana Web Site and personnel below. If our message and theirs resonates with you, we encourage you to financially support their operations directly.
Our Video below albeit quite artistic in nature, represents a traditional dance brought over from Europe along with their Sheep, which caused the beginning of the end of these wonderful Indigenous Peoples.
What is the Parque Yatana Cultural Center?
Parque Yatana Cultural Center helps the Selk’Nam and Yagan to rediscover and define themselves as children of Mother Earth, to value their indigenous ancestry and reconnect with the spirit of Mother Nature. It is a work of “consciousness” that reinforces their “identity” and improves the quality of life of the entire community.
Parque Yatana’s Objective
The Parque Yatana Foundation was created in 2004 by professor of Painting and Visual Arts, Monica Alvarado, to protect the native forest. Within this forest she established an arts and nature center dedicated to the preservation of the Indigenous Peoples of Tierra del Fuego. This cultural center helps enlighten the approximately 1,700 mixedblood children and grandchildren of the nearly extinct indigenous tribes of Patagonia and the Tierra del Fuego Region. These wonderful people include the Selk’nam, Yagan, Haush & Kaweshkar Peoples. Parque Yatana educates these children on their history, re-teaches their native language which is all but extinct, teaches tribal art & music, educates on local flora and fauna and environmental issues, and helps preserve their spirits and hearts as Indigenous people of the land, as they move forward with the consequences of globalization. The center performs ancient ceremonies and practices worldview/mother nature workshops in a natural setting and was transformed from a dilapidated gathering place of drug & alcohol abuse, to a Cultural Learning Center whose goal is to use art as a form of emotional medium to heal the forest and transmit the knowledge of native culture.
Inti Raymi Fund’s Role in Financially Supporting the Efforts of Parque Yatana
The Inti Raymi Fund is providing funding to construct a building that would withstand severe inclement weather at the Cultural & Learning Center in Parque Yatana:
- Total contribution: $50,000 ($25,000 for Chile & $25,000 for Argentina).
- Inti Raymi provides funding for The Living Sculpture Shelter, located in the heart of the Yatana Forest.
- The Nature Building and various artistic projects for the children’s engagement in educational works.
- Facilitates & engages with the traditions of the Indigenous Peoples of Tierra del Fuego, and the Americas.
- Inti Raymi provides funding for attendees of Minca Ancestral Art. This is an annual event with international benchmarks advocating knowledge of native cultures. Its objective is to share the ancient wisdom of native peoples in relation to art, earth and life.
- Inti Raymi shares in the experience of Yatana – Ecuador, the Intercontinental Biennial Conference of Indigenous, Ancestral and Ancient Art, which meets every two years. This opportunity offers an outstanding international reference in ancient art. This wisdom and knowledge is brought back to the Parque Yatana and shared with the children
facebook: Bosque Yatana
25 de mayo 510. Ushuaia. Tierra del Fuego.Argentina.
Start Date: February, 2013
Completion Date: Est. YE, 2014
Funded so far: $10,000 USD
Total Project: $25,000 USD
Lives Affected: 850
Simon Bingham, CHASKI, Monica Alvarado - Parque Yatana Director, CHIMU - IRF Director