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From Cape Horn to Panama
A Narrative of Missionary Enterprise among the Neglected Races
of South America, by the South American Missionary Society

By Robert Young

[London] South American Missionary Society, 1905.

Chapter XII. Among the Mapuché Indians of Araucania

ALLEN GARDINER, as early as 1838, and afterwards his son, as already mentioned, earnestly desired to labour among the Indians of Araucania, which they judged to be a most hopeful field. For many years, however, access to it was found to be impracticable. In the course of time many English families settled down as mercantile and mining colonists at Quino, in Chili, their numbers, with children and others residents in the districts, being about 1,000, while a similar number of immigrant labourers were expected to join the colonists. In response to a, petition sent home in 1889, the Society appointed the Rev. J. R. Tyerman, who had been labouring for several years at Cordoba, and Tucuman, to minister to their spiritual necessities. The fact that the colonists were surrounded by Indians was felt to be a supreme reason for responding without delay to the appeal. The territory had previously been Indian, but the Indians accepted the conditions imposed by their conquerors, and were then living peaceably with their new neighbours, while they on their part were friendly with them.

A few extracts from the South American Missionary Magazine for September, 1894, will enable the reader to understand what kind of people the Araucanians are. The writer says:--

The Araucanian Indians, the bravest and most intelligent of all the savage races with whom the settlers of the new world came in contact, inhabited, at the date of their first encounters with the Spaniards, that part of southern Chili which lies between the river Bio Bio on the north and Valdivia or Culacalla on the south, tins territory being bounded on the east by the Andes, and on the west by the Pacific Ocean forming thus an irregular kind of parallelogram, about 180 miles in length by about 130 miles in breadth.

The name "Araucanians" was not originally their own--for they belong to the family of the Moluche Indians, and call themselves "Ché reche," that is, "the pure people"--but it was given to them by the Spaniards, and is said to be derived from a word in their language, "Auca," signifying "free," for they are enthusiastic lovers of liberty. It is the appellation by which they are generally known.

Their government was simply but effectively organized, not in the form of a kingdom with a despotic sovereign at its head, as in the case of the Peruvian Incas, or the Aztec monarchs in Mexico, nor yet on the loose system of a collection of tribes headed each by its own independent chief, as was the usage with the tribes of North American or other South American Indians. Each of the four divisions into which the entire territory was divided was ruled by a "toqui," and was itself divided into five provinces, each governed by an inferior chief called an "apoulmen," and each of these provinces was again subdivided into nine districts called "regues," each of which was regulated by an "ulmen." Thus the government was constituted rather upon an aristocratic mode with three orders of nobility, succession in which was hereditary in the male line.

The Araucanians were a brave race, yet not, so far as appears, swayed by any lust of conquest beyond their own territory. They were fond of fighting hand to hand in their battles, but not, like other savage tribes, wantonly cruel, or torturing their prisoners when taken. . . .

Summarizing their other characteristics, it may be added that the Araucanians are faithful to their engagements, hardy and hospitable, of quick understanding, and of a frank bearing, an Araucanian generally looking his interlocutor full in the face. They are a noble race and cherish an undying love of freedom. They are also in general kind to one another, and to their animals. An Araucanian's horse will follow him about like a dog. They call themselves, not Araucanians, but Mapuché, i.e., "people of the land."

The Araucanians believe in a Supreme Being, the author of all things, whom they call "Pillan." Other names are given to him, signifying "the Spirit of Heaven," "the Creator of all," "the Omnipotent," "the Eternal." This deity has his subordinate divinities: "the god of war," "the genius of good and the friend of mankind," "the malignant being, the author of all evil and the cause of all misfortunes." They have no places of worship, no idols, and no special religious rites, save in some exceptional calamity. They believe in a future state. They hold that man is composed of two substances, body and soul. They have a tradition as to a great deluge, in which only a few persons were saved, who took refuge on a high mountain. And they believe in omens, and that all serious disorders arise from witchcraft. In consequence, the "machis." or sorceresses, or prophetesses, exercise great influence. The following account of their proceedings is taken from a letter from Mr. William Wilson, one of the Society's agents, to he. afterwards referred to:--

One of the most essential parts of a machi's equipment consists of her drum and bells, the former being merely a large wooden basin, with a piece of hide stretched tightly over its mouth; this is generally ornamented by various devices and figures painted upon it in different colours. The latter are simply a number of little bells, such as are often found on children's toys at home, something akin to a baby's "rattle." The drum is beaten and the bells rattled in order to frighten away the devil. The distinctive badge of the machi is a red shawl worn over her other garments. A machi's house, in place of the usual brass plate or red lamp as at home, is marked by a large post, from six to eight or ten feet high, set in the ground a few yards from the door. This post has a number of steps cut in it so as to form a rude stair. Part of the machi's curriculum, I believe, consists in climbing to the top of this post and throwing herself headlong to the ground. What object this is supposed to serve I have not yet been able to find out. Tied to the machi post there is usually a large branch of the canelo, the sacred tree of the Mapuches, and hanging upon this, in most instances, you observe a sheepskin. This latter is connected with the machitum, one of the few religious ceremonies of this interesting people. In this, as the name indicates, the machi plays an important part. In fact, she seems to fill the role of priest as well as physician. I had the privilege of witnessing this most interesting ceremony once; in company with Mr. and Mrs. Sadleir. A sheep had been killed, and some of its blood caught in a basin, which was placed upon the top of the machi post as an offering to God. A young man got the sheepskin over his head, and as it was covered with blood where the animal's throat had been cut, he presented rather a ghastly appearance. In this guise he faced the machi, who was armed with her drum and bells. After having given her drum a preliminary beat as a sort of signal, she commenced walking round the machi post, going backwards, beating the drum and rattling her bells all the time, while she croned a sort of low dirge. She was followed by the young man with the sheepskin over his head, who kept lacing her all the time. After these two came about a dozen other men, women, and children, who joined in the ceremony, which consisted simply in going round the machi post after the machi and the young man bearing the sheepskin. One or two of the other men had a ram's horn, which they blew, and another woman had a rattle, which she shook most assiduously. Whilst the whole joined the machi in her low chant, occasionally, to relieve the monotony, they gave vent to a sort of "hoorah." which reminded me forcibly of the Salvation Army firing a volley. The whole was excessively childish, especially as they did not walk, but employed a sort of shuffling gait, somewhat between a dance and a hop. A man who was standing by explained to us that it was "para contento Dios" ("to please God ").....

The struggle of the Araucanians to maintain their independence is a long story. Suffice it to say, it was in the year 1550 that the Spaniards first came in contact with them under Pedro de Valdivia, the, real conqueror of Chili. In that year he advanced within a short distance of the river Bio Bio, which forms the northern boundary of Araucania, where he founded the town of Concepcion. In the following year he marched through the Araucanian territory; but after founding seven towns, to be held as forts, and when it was supposed all resistance had ceased, the Araucanians were roused by a youth of sixteen to make a supreme effort to regain their independence, with the result that the entire Spanish army, except two of their Indian auxiliaries, was captured or cut to pieces, Valdivia himself being taken prisoner.

For 334 years thereafter the struggle for supremacy was continued with varying success. But about 1885, at the close of the war between Chili and Peru, resulting in a victory for the former. Araucania finally lost its independent nationality. Since then many evils have been introduced by the settlers among the Indians, the outstanding one being the indiscriminate sale of intoxicating liquor,which as elsewhere, is playing sad havoc among a once noble race. Thus, Mr. Theodore Child, in his book. The Spanish American Republics, says, in reference to the Araucanians:--

The white settlers, many of them Germans, distil for their (the Indians') especial benefit unrectified alcohols of most searchingly corrosive power, the result of which may be seen in the towns on Sunday afternoons and evenings, when they roll in the gutters by the dozen, and get lodged in the police-station.

Bishop Stirling, in one of his letters, referred to the much violence and great insecurity of property prevailing among the European settlers. In no case had it arisen from the Indians. Bandits and reckless characters infesting the distant outskirts of civilization have been the cause of it. In consequence, travelling in these parts, and even venturing out of doors, after nightfall, is attended by no little risk to life and property.

The Bishop furnished the following additional particulars:--

In the Argentine Republic the Government policy and practice was to exterminate the Indians. In Chili the plan and purpose was to reduce and pacify them. Here, under a firm and vigilant control, the Indians throughout the south are living in peace, if not in perfect contentment. They are everywhere accessible, and when not degraded by drink, form an important and by no means insignificant part of the population. The Government, by a wise policy, has interspersed among the Indians colonists of various European nationalities. By this plan any attempt at revolt, should it be made, would be at once detected and suppressed.

In Paraguay the Indians are widely scattered and far less accessible. The splendid courage and endurance of Mr. Grubb have been tested to the utmost there, and have met with signal success. But in Araucania the people are, so to speak, at hand. Their tolderias are in easy proximity. They frequent in large numbers the fast-increasing frontier towns, and lie open to our touch in all directions. The climate, too, is excellent, the country picturesque and beautiful.

There is a manifest opening, and an opportunity, to miss which would be a great mistake for a Society desirous of getting at, and Christianizing, the aboriginal tribes of South America. To do them good every who re should be our aim. But here the way is open. If we contrast their position with that of the Ona in Tierra del Fuégo, we are struck with the difference so far as conditions of approach are concerned. In the south the Indians have been, and at this moment are being, provoked and terrorized and destroyed by those who have, occupied their territory, or portions of it. The acerbity of feeling thus engendered makes missionary work there dangerous, if not for the time hopeless. The Ona deserve our help and consideration; but how to give it under present circumstances is a difficulty. Add to this that they are far behind the Araucanian Indians in the arts of life. They are more primitive and more barbarous. The natives of Southern Chili, on the other hand, are in touch with civilization--are every day within the range of any benevolent effort that may be made in their behalf--are, when not provoked by injustice, kindly, and disposed to be friendly. ...

To do anything effective, and worthy of the cause of Christ, it is no feeble effort that should be made. A well-manned, strong mission should be formed. The outpost at Quino should be strengthened, not by one man, but by half a dozen; and from there as a basis in the first instance the movement in advance should be made.

Mr. Tyerman mentioned that many of his Indian neighbours had been shamefully robbed, and instanced various cases of extreme violence, including the brutal murders of Mr. A. Watt and Mr. Mager, which necessitated a memorial to the Foreign Office in London. With so much to disturb and counteract, it need hardly be said that he carried on his labours alike among the colonists, and, as far as he was able, among the Indians, under serious disadvantages.

The work being too heavy for Mr. Tyerman single-handed, the Society sent out towards the close of 1890 Mr. William Reade Gardiner, grandson of Captain Allen Gardiner, who had been trained as a medical missionary almost at his own charges. In view of his expected aid, Mr. Tyerman wrote: "How thankful shall we be when Mr. Gardiner arrives here! he will be such a help to these poor people (the Indians, who were under a dreadful visitation of small-pox). While I am writing this letter news comes of his arrival on the coast." Alas! the very number of the Society's magazine which contained this letter recorded the sad intelligence of Mr. Gardiner's death on March 3, 1891, at Valparaiso, from typhoid fever. It was a mysterious and trying dispensation, and Mr. Tyerman's patience was exercised for some considerable time longer.

The year 1894 witnessed


and in connection therewith the raising of a special fund to strengthen and develop the previously existing work, and to start the new mission to the Araucanian Indians. This last was meant to be the memorial of the Jubilee year. And rightly so, for with Araucania the names of Allen Gardiner, his son, and grandson, are indissolubly associated.

During the same year Mr. Tyerman was able to report that robberies and outrages were less frequent, and that everything was prospering with them, and not least the work among the Indians, Caciques and people alike expressing their delight at the prospect of additional mission-vines coming from over the water to instruct and care for them. He wrote:--

Wonderful is the thought that our bravo founder tried so hard and failed to gain a footing in this country about fifty years ago, whilst to-day it is our happy privilege to preach the Gospel of peace and goodwill towards men in camp, village, and town throughout the length and breadth of Araucania, and to maintain most friendly intercourse with many Indians.

Mr. Tyerman, who was established at Quino, was the means of materially helping the British settlers of Araucania in temporal as well as in spiritual things, his knowledge of Spanish and of medicine, and his influence with the Government authorities, proving beneficial to the people.

The agents for the new mission reached the field in the course of 1895. They were the Rev. C. A. Sadleir and Mr. Percy E. Class, from Manitoba; Mr. w. Wilson, from Glasgow; and Mr. P. J. R. Walker, from Buenos Ayres. The last-named, with his family, was the first to arrive. At the call of the Bishop, he gladly consented to transfer his services to Araucania. Along with other qualifications he had the advantage of some medical and surgical knowledge. Then followed Mr. Wilson and Mr. Class, who left Liverpool on July 18, and Mr. Sadleir a month later, he having gone back to Canada to take leave of his friends, and to organize some practical support for the mission. His first intention was, as it was also that of Mr. Class, to offer himself for work on the banks of the great Amazon river, where there are upwards of 150 different tribes. Eventually, however, they were led, from climatic and other considerations, to devote themselves to the Araucanian Mission, where they expected to find a healthy centre, a large field among the Indian tribes, freedom from many papal and pagan difficulties, and a stable and friendly Government. Another labourer (Mr. Denmark) was added in 1897, and others have followed.

After he had been about a month in the country, Mr. Sadleir wrote:--

To have a missionary party of four in the field of Araucania, with its tender associations, with a mission-house built, to have two such centres of work as Quino and Cholchol, with such friends as we believe now exist, with a native girl in one of the families of the missionaries, a good start made with the language, parts of four hymns translated, and a good deal of the story of the Creation, Fall, Incarnation, and the Cross, in the language, is not this much to thank God for?

One day, accompanied by Mr. Walker, Mr. Sadleir started for Traiguen and Cholchol. On the way they turned aside by a short cut to the residence of Conuepan, a leading Araucanian chief. His wife appeared at the door, and gave them to understand that Conuepan had some days before gone to Traiguen, and that she did not know when he would be back. Just then, happily, he came to the door himself, and asked them to dismount and come into the house. They had much conversation, and on parting Mr. Sadleir handed him a copy of the Bible in Spanish, writing his name and title in it--"Cacique General." The chief mentioned that the (R.C.) priests had been there a few days before, and had told him if the Protestants came, to chase them away with a stick. On Mr. Walker telling him that the priests would wish to take the Bible from him, he said if they tried that, he would chase them away with the stick.

On the Bishop surveying the field some months later, it was arranged that Mr. Walker should be ordained, he with this view prosecuting certain prescribed studies. His ordination was carried through in due course in the presence of the Bishop and of a large congregation, and after an interesting sermon by the Archdeacon. The Bishop was greatly pleased with all he saw of the missionary band, and was very hopeful of good results from their labours. Mr. Walker's desire was to try and get the Indians to cultivate the ground and to weave linen, which he thought would be more serviceable than the cotton hitherto in use. Some of them entertained the proposal favourably, and an appeal was made by the missionary for a supply of flax and seed. The introduction of the industrial arts is a step in the right direction.


Thera are two principal stations in the Araucanian field, viz., at Cholchol and Quepe. The former, unlike most of the towns in Southern Chili, is said to be a healthy place, being favoured with the southern breezes. The population is for the most part Chilian, though it is visited by numbers of Indians from the surrounding country daily. Services are held on Sunday in Spanish for the Chilians, who are also regularly visited during the week. A school has been built, and Indian children are taken in as boarders, the Chilian children being day scholars. Due prominence is given to Bible instruction. The school work is much appreciated by the natives, and is most hopeful. Many Caciques are under the influence of the Mission, of whom the most important are Conuepan, Ramon and Antonio Painemal.

No department of the work is more full of encouragement than the medical. Both Mr. Walker and Mr. Wilson had a medical training. Mr. Wilson has a dispensary, which is the means of opening many a closed door. Some of the "machis," or medicine women, are among his warm friends. At Cholchol, as elsewhere in South America, the belief in witchcraft is very common, and operates prejudicially to the work. It is fostered, of course, by the machis. Mr. Wilson mentions the case of an Indian dying from consumption. The machi having inquired of Mr. W. as to the nature of the disease, was informed it was disease of the lungs. She, however, stoutly maintained it was "calcu," i.e., the man was bewitched. One of the most famous of these machis has a hospital, and she gladly avails herself of Mr. Wilson's advice and help. A cottage hospital is greatly desired by the missionaries at Cholchol for the more efficient treatment of Indian patients, a proposal highly approved by the Bishop, but involving considerable expense. Mr. Walker mentioned having on his list more than forty Indian villages, in which he can carry on both evangelistic and medical work. Since then he accepted a call from the Union Church, Santiago; but the English chaplaincy at Santiago has been re-opened, and he has been appointed chaplain.

In his letters Mr. Wilson often refers to the drink curse. Thus he wrote:--

Drink is a fearful curse and an obstacle in the way of the gospel. The habit is so universal that many of the Indians seem to think it quite the correct thing.

When remonstrated with, they will ask, "Why, what is wrong in it? Everybody drinks: Chilians drink, Gringos (Europeans) drink, gentleman drink, poor people drink, why should not we?"


The Quepe station is situated on the north bank of a beautiful river of the same name--pronounced Keppy--the town of Temuco lying ten miles to the north, on the Rio Cautin. The mission there was established in 1898, and has a goodly staff of agents, the Rev. C. A. Sadleir being the superintendent. The outstanding feature of the Quepe mission is the industrial school. Begun in April, 1898, with a solitary scholar, and for a time limited to garden work, it has steadily increased in numbers, until now it has far outgrown the original accommodation. The pupils are also taught carpentering and several other industrial pursuits.

The leading Cacique, Ambrosio Paillalef, who lives at Pitrufquen, a few miles from the station, is most friendly, and has brought several boys to the school. No Cacique is more widely known and respected on both the Chilian and the Argentine side of the Andes. He is a man of education and deep thought. It is through his influence chiefly that so many of the Indians have sent their sons to the school. The father of one of the boys came from Pitrufquen and spent a couple of days at Quepe to see what the school was like and what the boys were taught. As the result, on his return, he sent another son. Ambrosio is much interested also in the gospel narrative, and has rendered important service to Mr. Sadleir in the translation of the Scriptures, his great anxiety being to express as far as possible the exact thought of the passage in the Mapuche tongue. By his help, the "Hundred Texts" have now been translated, as also the first three chapters of Genesis, the Gospel of St. Luke, the Acts, and the last four chapters of Revelation.

Quepe is only from ten to fifteen days' ride from the more northern limits of Patagonia. As regards trading, the Patagonians and the Araucanians have a good deal in common, the passes over the Andes being open during the summer. It is hoped there may yet be an opening for mission work on the Patagonian frontier by means of the Mapuches. One of the chiefs has even asked that a teacher be sent.

As illustrating the difficulties and dangers of missionary life in these outlandish parts, it may be mentioned that while Sadleir and the others were engaged talking to some Indians, the Bishop turned his horse and walked down the little hill on which their village was situated. On following him a little later, he had disappeared. Search was made up and down the river, but without success. An attempt was made to cross the river, but the water was so deep that they concluded he could not have crossed there. After continuing the search, it was decided at all hazards to make for the opposite bank, which with difficulty they reached in safety. On inquiry, the Bishop was at length discovered at Cholchol, engaged in changing his clothes. His horse had had to swim across, and he got soaked to the waist.

Bishop Stirling has had many such experiences in his long and eventful career, and seems equal to almost any emergency. Among the many bishops of the Church of England in foreign lands, there is not one to surpass him in earnest devotion to his Master's work, in sanctified commonsense, and in moral heroism; nor is there one who has had such a vast and varied and difficult field to superintend as he, during the more than thirty years of his Episcopate. It was in January, 1900, that he resigned the office of Superintendent of the Society's Missions. In succession to him, on Sunday, July 13, 1902, at St. Paul's Cathedral, the Right Reverend Edward Francis Every was consecrated Bishop of the Falkland Islands.

The land first occupied by the Mission is at Maquehue (also known as Quepe), on the north side of the River Quepe. Here stand the Mission buildings, including a large new school for the boys. But the Chilian Government have made a grant to the Mission of land valued at £1,000, on the south side of the river, opposite to the other land. A ferry connects the two. On this new land the boys' school has been built, and it is intended to place the church here also. The other school, hitherto occupied by the boys, is given over to the girls.

The aim of the school teaching is not only the Christian education of the young people, but also the training of the most promising of them to become school teachers among their own people, and already there are indications that this is not a vain attempt. The Mapuchés are anxious for the education of their children, and are ready to entrust girls as well as boys to the missionaries for instruction until the new school was built. Owing to lack of accommodation only a few girls could be taken in, but the teachers have been much interested in these, and think highly of the promise of future Mapuché womanhood, when trained according to the true principles of the Christian faith and civilisation. The lack of funds for buildings, industrial equipments, and other most necessary purposes, is a serious hindrance to the work among this very interesting: Mapuché race.

Upon many of the scholars at both Quepe and Cholchol the Christian teaching is having effect, visible in changed lives. Among the adult converts are three influential men; two are chiefs,--A. Paillalef, already mentioned, and B. Namuncura; the other, J. Salas, is an interpreter. All three are workers in the Mission, and are on the regular staff. Considering the good physique, the brain power, and the intelligence of this race, there are great possibilities before them, if only they become a Christian people.

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