YAHGAN / ONA (Tierra del Fuego,Argentina)
Among the Yahgan,
little girls are betrothed to adult men; sometimes parents agree to unions
between little boys and girls. Girls of ten to twelve are found
to be no longer virgin.
Among the Ona,
“[t]he sexes were kept separate and watched vigilantly from very early years”
(Cooper). Gusinde’s trilogy
on the Yahgan gives some insight. Children of the Selk’nam (1931:p372) separate in childhood (cf. Gusinde, 1946:p253-4). Some
homosexuality among boys
is prevalent: “Wissen Buben
sich selbst überlassen, dann kommt es manchmal zu Frivolitäten, welche sie als solche einschätzen, doch nie vor Erwachsenen
zu wiederholen wagen. Sie drücken und
ziehen sich gegenseitig am Membrum, pissen sich gegenseitig an, legen sich nackt aufeinander
und steifen dabei das Membrum. Manche Weiße verkehrten mit indianischen Burschen in der nämlichen Form”.
“They never show the
slightest prudish narrow-mindedness when boys are by themselves; rather, it
has their fullest approval that they thoroughly have their fling. Naturally,
the rascals throw off their little cloaks during lively play, even those as
old as 14. Then they vivaciously frolic about, throttle and wrestle with one
another, throw themselves on the ground and lie on top of one another in the
drollest positions, strike one another on the buttocks or lightly brush the
hand over the sexual parts, and sometimes adopt a pose that would not be
permitted adults: All this is regarded as harmless naïveté, for such romping
about usually takes place outside the camp. Once I saw from a distance how
several small boys made a circle and at the same time, amidst whispering and
giggling, started to take care of a minor need with somewhat free deportment,
quickly broke up the circle, ran after one another yelling, and mutually
urinated on one another. Two old men who were standing beside me- we were not
observed by the boys - smiled at this performance; they said to me
apologetically: “After all, the boys are there by themselves!” ”.
Girls are less active. Sex instruction is not
formalized. “Children are never witnesses to intimate familiarities between
married people” and “[…] children are never given a so-called “explanation of
the facts of life”, any more than they are given hints about the sexual life
of spouses. Each child’s own developing nature may teach him what needs to be
known about this. The young Feuerländer /Fuegians are alert and have a keen gift of observation;
hence the twofold sexuality among human beings cannot remain hidden from them
as long as they can directly observe it in the animal” (p579).
Thus, “In educational instructions and
especially in sexual enlightenment, the Indian never anticipates the child’s
physical and mental degree of development or maturity reached naturally; in
everything he waits for the appropriate age and the eligibility of the
developing young human being”.
A comparable pattern is seen for the Yamana (1937:p741), and for the Halakwulup
At the Kloketen
initiation rite (Chapman, 1982), genitalia of the initiands are sqeezed (p105-6).
Sometime afterwards the kloketen (initiand) will be made to confess whether he has had
sexual relations (though he would not be required to name the woman or women
involved). The young men would have been warned that premature sexual
relations would stunt their growth.
D. F., Growing Up Sexually. VolumeI. World Reference Atlas. 0.2 ed. 2004. Berlin:
Magnus Hirschfeld Archive for Sexology
revised: Sept 2004