Conception of the world The bolas Painted Leathers
In the XVII century, after the Spaniards came, they adopted the horse to hunt. Bolas were their main weapon. Women sometimes cooperated by forming a fence to enclose preys and, occasionally, they hunted minor preys like skunks (Conepatus humboldti), hares (Dolichotis patagonum) and armadillos (Chaetophractus villosus). Their resources were based on hunting, apart from gathering certain edible roots and seeds to eat toasted or to make flour and prepare cakes.
Commerce became an important part of their economy. Horses enabled them to travel long distances to exchange their products for the ones offered by white people from the colonies. In the XIX century, the dependance on these products increased and the journeys to Punta Arenas and Carmen de Patagones became the core of their economicalactivities. There were more people in each settlement andterritories were not so strictly defined. However, the huntingof guanacos and ñandúes kept being important.
Bolas have been used in Patagonia for about 10,000 years. During the Conquest, the two balls bolas were the main fighting weapon of the tribes in Pampa and Patagonia. Nevertheless, the three balls bola was known in the Andean region since pre-Colombian times.
During the latest years, the Tehuelches used bolas found in old settlements or in the hunting lots of their ancestors.
For the Northern Tehuelche mythology, these bolas they found were manufactured by a dwarf called TACHWšLL, who worked in cliff-like valleys and hills. He scratched the stones with his nails, and although he tried to hide from people, the rattling of his tools was constantly heard. On one occasion, he was discovered, but as soon as it happened, it became cloudy and started to rain so much that they had to set him free. Then the rain stopped.
It was an only stone bola, either plain, sharp or bristled, tied to a belt. They used to throw it from a distance at animals or enemies. Sometimes they grabbed it by the end of the belt and used it as a mace to fight man against man.
TWO AND THREE
They are intended to stop or lock the movement of the enemy or the prey. They are thrown at different parts of the body according to the prey. ¤and£es are attacked at the base of the neck, while mares and guanacos are aimed at the legs.
The double bola is known as ñanducera. It is formed by a stone or metal ball with an oval handle made of a lighter stone.
Recent Tehuelches used wooden bolas to capture horses and cows because they are lighter and less agressive. They were made of Ñire wood (Notophagus antarctica). These trees are attacked by a fungus, the Llao Llao ( Citaria darwini ) and form very hard knots on their branches.
They used thin colt leather stripes to make belts and lassos, and also guanaco's neck or the tendons of a ñandú's leg plated three by three. To fasten the grooved stone, they tie a leather strip around the groove and then join it to the end of the lasso. Even bolas are usually stuffed in the 'retobo'.
fight with bows and arrows and some stone balls which are as big as a fist
and have a cord tied as a guide; they are so accurate that they never miss
(Luis de Ramírez, Spanish, 1528.)
The most important task for women in the campsite was the manufacture of fur blankets, a task that deserves a detailed description. First they dry the furs in the sun and peg them down with carob thorns. Once they are dry, they scrape them with a piece of flint, agate, obsidian or sometimes glass tied to a naturally curved branch forming a handle. Then they smear the furs with grease and a pulp made of liver to soften them manually until they are completely flexible. After that, they extend them on the ground, cut them into pieces with a small sharp knife and make some small notches around the edges to assemble the pieces of leather and sew them tight.
These little leather cuttings are distributed among four to six women, who sew them together with needles and threads. Needles are punches made of sharp nails and threads are the dry tendons of the loin of an adult guanaco. When the blanket is big, they do not sew it all at once. First, they finish one half, peg it down and apply the painting in the following way: they moisten the surface, then each of the women takes a pastille or a piece of red ocher and soak it to apply the paint with great care. Once the background is completed, they draw the black spots and the blue and yellow stripes on it. Once this part is finished, they put the fur to dry during one night and finish the other half and the wings that form the sleeves; after this work is finished, the fur shows a compact surface.
Their favourite drawing, except when the owner is in mourning, is a red background with black crosses and longitudinal blue and yellow stripes with trimmings, or a white, blue and red zig-zag.
From the XVII century onwards, the Araucanians crossed from Chile to their region. This situation ended when Northern Tehuelches virtually disappeared as such in the provinces of Buenos Aires, La Pampa and Neuqu‚n up to the river Limay. Some GÜNÜN A KÜNA groups remained on the West and only joined the Araucanians after the outpost of General Villegas in 1886.
ELEMGASEM is an outstanding figure in their mithology. He is the father of the race that lives near the cave and the author of the rupestrian paintings on the caves near where he lives. He is described as a big strange animal covered by an enormous thick shell, similar to an 'armadillo'. He used to steal people, and according to some narrations, he had a human face. According to others, he was a man medium height with the back covered by a big armour.
A KÜNA had a song for the Elemgasem. They said he was the "owner"
of all living animals and could only be killed by a ray. They used to scrape
the bones of the Elemgasem (any fossil) and give that powder to children
to be strong and healthy.