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HAIN : SELK´NAM´S RITUAL

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H A I N´ S    O R I G I N S

The Selk'nam, also known as Ona people, was an indigenous community in the Patagonian region of southern Chile, including the Tierra del Fuego islands. Selk´nam might mean: The selected branch group.


The Selk'nam was a nomadic hunter aboriginal group, descendants of an ancient hunting tradition, who traveled most of Tierra del Fuego after the guanaco.


Due to the Chilean government’s initiative to integrate Tierra del Fuego to its territory in the late 19th century, the Selk'nam were one of the last aboriginal groups in South America to be reached by Westerners.


Selk'nam´s initiation ceremonies, called Hain, were probably one of the most captivating traditions of their culture.

Throughout the long months of the Hain ritual,

Selk'nam teenagers initiates, called Kloketens, became adult men.

In order to reach a higher state of mind and get enrichment life´s experiences, the Kloketens were brought into physical and moral assessments, committing to the traditions the elders or shamans taught them about the beginnings and transformations of both universe and earth, in the Selk'nam´s tongue: hoowin.


The Kloketens were educated on how to behave; they were instructed to obey their family and community responsibilities. Above all, they were taken on a journey where they would face life´s stepping stones.


During these months of hard training, the Kloketens would have to deal with unexpected hurdles and challenges along their journey. They would be faced to new situations, all by themselves, surviving in a hostile ambient; adapting to nature´s changes (rain, cold days and long nights out in the open).


The Kloketens would have to learn how to feed themselves, how to hunt and how to keep track of the path so they wouldn´t get lost. They were told to keep the eye on the journey, not on the journey's end.


The Kloketens were supposed to find joy by learning to forget about themselves and being able to endure in time.

The Kloketens would show their strength by facing and defeating the spirits and overcoming any kind of obstacles​

Along the road, the Kloketens would be attacked by "spirits" -actually adult Selk'nam disguised as such. These spirits wore tall masks that reached their shoulders or even their knees. They used to paint their body in red; drawing white and black lines and circles to symbolize their character.


As a child, young Selk´nam were taught to fear these spirits when they misbehaved. They represented life´s obstacles, and each of them had its own actions, words and chants as well as typical costumes.


The Hain ritual would end with the last confrontation against the most dreadful spirit. Once the Kloketens were back in the tribe, the last part of the ritual would begin. Then, all the Selk'nam would gather at one place, in male and female camps. "Spirits" sometimes walked in on female camps and were around the place doing various tricks according to their characters.


Finally, the Kloketens would gather with the tribe´s shamans and each one would describe their journey in detail: how they felt, what they learnt, the environmental obstacles they faced, and so on.
After this gathering, the Kloketens were, at last, welcomed as grown-ups.


The last Hain was held in the early 20th century.