The effect of the Spanish invasion of the Inca nation in South America is well-documented. That civilisation was annihilated as the conquistadors plundered, tortured and raped their way around in their lust for gold, conquest and to spread the word of Christianity.
What happened in Tierra Del Fuego is less well known.
When the Spanish first visited the large archipelago at the tip of South America they were amazed by the sight of tens of thousands of campfires that lit the place up at night. It is estimated that 500,000 South American Indians inhabited the area. Tierra Del Fuego literally means land of fire. Those natives, despite the freezing temperature, went naked and lived by hunting the numerous wildlife, mainly sealions. They did this from canoes. It is thought that the large amount of sealion blubber in their diet raised their metabolism to enable them to deal with the cold.
That discovery was the end of that way of life and the end of that half a million people.
By the time I visited Ushuaia in 2016 there was just one elderly Native American Indian left.
The ships from Britain, Portugal and Spain came more often. The ships, much to the dismay of the Tierra Del Fuegans, massacred the wildlife. They even went to the breeding grounds and wiped out the young. They slaughtered everything even when they did not need them for food. What was plentiful became rare.
The Indians found that the sealions, their staple diet, were no longer sufficient to support them. They began to starve.
The evangelical missionaries moved in. They offered food to the starving people if they agreed to convert. They insisted they wore clothes.
Unfortunately the clothes became soaked when out canoeing and the hunters became chilled. Clothing the natives killed them. Feeding them on corn did not maintain their metabolism to deal with the cold. The missionaries brought Western diseases. The Natives were decimated with influenza, measles, syphilis, and gonorrhea.
What was once a vibrant culture living at one with nature was rapidly transformed into a decimated rump. Hundreds of thousands died.
When I visited it was clear that the wildlife was sparse. The remnants were hanging on.
The very last Native American was living our her last days.
Evangelism has wiped them all out. They might all be dead but at least they had received the word – right?
Evangelism is deadly.
When I heard of the stupid American evangelist who was visiting the natives in the Andaman islands. I was quite pleased that they’d shot him full of arrows.
I suggest that we leave people alone!! (And stop slaughtering the wildlife!!)