For 7,000 years, a tribe that was known as the “Selk’nam” inhabited the southern area of Argentina called Tierra del Fuego. The people of this tribe basically lived as nomads that just wandered the land to hunt, fish, and gather food. There were no chiefs or leaders of the Selk’nam. Instead, there were people known as wise men who the tribe believed had special spiritual powers over people and all the events that happened in the world.
The Selk’nam had a very sacred ceremony called the “Hain,” also known as the coming-of-age. During this ceremony, the adults of the Selk-nam would paint themselves white, black, and red, and then wear costumes made of bark and fur. They were trying to impersonate the spirits they feared. During a time period that would last days or even weeks, the Selk-nam would have the boys undergo an initiation to enter adulthood.
The last “Hain” to be conducted was in the year 1920. A missionary by the name of Martin Gusinde recorded the ceremony by taking pictures of the tribespeople in their strange costumes. Gusinde became a priest in the year 1911 after he was ordained in Germany. He immediately wanted to go to New Guinea and work with exotic tribes as a missionary. However, his superiors wanted him to go to Chile instead and teach in Santiago at a German school. A few years later, he started doing expeditions for the Museum of Ethnology and Anthropology of Chile. These expeditions led him to the far southern regions of Argentina and Chile known as Tierra del Fuego.
The photographs of the Selk’nam tribe can only be described as haunting and amazing. He also captured pictures of other tribal people including the Kawesqar and the Yamana.