P. Edronkin

The Victory Of Heuchuknhayin

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Games and tournaments form part of every human culture; in all times and places, humans tend to play: the Yaghan Indians of Tierra del Fuego had an animistic cultural system with which they used to explain natural phenomena and their environment. And an important part of those phenomena were, naturally, the winds, which are quite remarkable there and were thought by the Indians to be actually four brothers that used to roam their territories in specific directions.

The fact that in the island the predominant winds come from the west or south-west was explained by means of oral tradition and a story about a tournament in which the brother from the west was victorious: 'Heuchuknhayin,' as it was known, vanquished his three brothers in an amicable game and so became the leader of the four.

Despite the crudeness and cruelty of the austral polar climate, these Indians never saw winds as malignant, but quite on the contrary. In fact 'Hayin' is a word that in their language means something like 'good,' useful.' and 'desirable,' and the four winds had this verbal particle in their names. For someone who is not accustomed to extreme weather, the region is frankly infernal and poises severe survival problems, but these Indians saw everything as a game; in other words, what for many of us would be lethal, for them were playful things.

The spirits with which they associated animals, plants and natural occurrences were always playing and having fun with the world; there were indeed some which were evil, but not for the most part. Their cosmic vision was very optimistic, and they saw fun in every thing where we westerners would se a frozen inferno.

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