Museo Chileno de Arte Precolombino

Indigenous Stories > Selk’nam > Cenuke

Cenuke lived during the time of the first ancestors. He was a very powerful man and a powerful xon (shaman). He was the only child of Kakrecen and Sakutá, his father and mother. While he lived here on Earth he was called Hasaps, but later he was transformed into the star called Cenuke. In his youth he was rebellious, repulsive and unfriendly, and the people looked down upon him. He was constantly trying to harm and abuse the other children. His parents lived near the fishing village of Irigoyen, and their family was from the South. When K’aux divided up the territory, the 10th district of K’al was given to them.

As he became stronger and more powerful, Cenuke also became more dangerous. His power as a wizard reached far and wide and no one could match his strength. But theough he attempted to bring the people under his sway and rule over them, they joined together and were able to resist him. Thus, Cenuke was thwarted in his desire, even though he had many relatives.

Cenuke killed people for pleasure, and was violent beyond measure. He could cause a man to fall down dead in an instant. Once, as a woman was walking along the beach looking for mussels, Cenuke approached her, sat down on a rock and watched her for a while. He said to the woman, “Give me some mussels!” The woman rushed over immediately and offered him some. Cenuke let loose with a malicious laugh and gave her a piercing look, and the woman fell down dead. This pleased Cenuke very much.

Cenuke had a powerful adversary in Kwányip, who had also harmed many of the people in that land. The people were powerless against these two outlaws, and suffered accordingly. Luckily, the two often fought with each other. People in these parts remember those two insolent and despotic xons with loathing.

When the deity Kenós ordered Cenuke to wash those people who awoke from the deep sleep (after old age), Cenuke agreed. After Kenós left the Earth, one after another, the ancestors presented themselves to Cenuke, saying, “wash me!” and Cenuke washed them one by one. This made them feel young again, and happy to be alive. But Kwányip did not allow his older brother to awaken from the deep sleep, causing Cenuke to explode in a rage. He lashed out swearing at Kwányip and took off for the heavens, where he remains to this day. Cenuke is the star that comes out only in the evening, aways shining between his two wives. The rest of this ancestor’s story will be told in the section on Kwányip, his great adversary. In general, though, he is a figure who is not well loved by the people.

Los Indios de Tierra del Fuego.
Tomo I Volumen II. Los Selk’ nam.
Martín Gusinde.