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Alakaluf (also spelled Alcaluf, Alacalufe; Kaweshkar or Kaweshrar in recent usage), maritime inhabitants of the fjords, archipelagos, and canals in the Chilean region south of the peninsula of Taitao approaching the Strait of Magellan. The Alakaluf are related linguistically to the Yámana (Yaghanes). Scholars dispute their origins; some claim Paleolithic roots; others argue that Alakaluf are descendants of peoples arriving in 6000-5000 (the Archaic period).

Early European explorers referred to these groups as Fuegians. Alakaluf bands maintained traditional subsistence patterns of hunting, gathering, and fishing by canoe until the mid-nineteenth century, when European colonization of the region and contact with whalers hastened their demise through disease and assimilation. The lack of economic opportunities contributed to the near extinction of this group, which had been primarily occupied with fishing and artisan work. According to the 1996 census, twelve Alakaluf lived in the small community of Puerto Edén on the east coast of Wellington Island in Chile, sixty-four resided in Puerto Arenas, and another twelve in Puerto Natales. The 1993 passage of the Ley Indígena (19.253) in Chile, and resulting programs favoring indigenous rights, has been influential in the current organization of the Alakaluf people. In the first decade of the twenty-first century, 101 Alakaluf were registered with the Chilean Corporación Nacional de Desarrollo Indígena (CONADI).

See alsoIndigenous Peoples .


Junius Bird. "Antiquity and Migrations of the Early Inhabitants of Patagonia," in Geographical Review 28 (April 1938): 250-275.

Richard Shutler, Jr., ed. South America: Early Man in the New World (1983): 137-146.

Museo Chileno De Arte Precolombino. Hombres del sur: Aonikenk, Selknam, Yámana, Kaweshkar (1987).

Osvaldo Silva G. Culturas y pueblos de Chile prehispano (1990), p. 17.

Additional Bibliography

Emperaire, Joseph. Los nomades del mar. Translated by Luis Oyarzún. Santiago: LOM Ediciones, 2002.

                                    Kristine L. Jones