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Indigenous Stories > Yámana > The story of chimango

Yo’okalía[1] once came to a camp where he became enamored with a certain beautiful young woman, and so he remained in the camp despite the fact that the others did not appreciate him and he made few friends among them. As time went on, he fell deeply in love with the young woman and went often to her hut to offer her his love, but she spurned him. Yo’okalía returned time and time again to her hut, and eventually she was persuaded and promised to become his wife. Yo’okalía was delighted with the news, and the two lived together from then on[2]. But one night, the man crept up beside her bed, obviously intending to make love to her, and the young woman pushed him away forcefully. After that, she did not want anything to do with him, which dismayed him as he realized the young woman had no desire to be his wife. He ran to tell the village of his troubles, but the people laughed at him, as none of them were his true friends or even wished to know him. Indeed, the people ridiculed him every change they got, even the young woman he had fallen in love with.

Now, the men of the camp went out often to hunt guanaco, but they never took Yo’okalía with them. Every time they slaughtered a guanaco, they took a piece of intestine, turned it inside out and filled it with blood to make a blood sausage. They took the sausage to the hut for the young woman to eat. But for Yo’okalía they made another sausage, as they wished to make fun of him. So they poked their own noses with a sharp stick until they bled, then collected the blood in a piece of intestine and made a ket (a special type of blood sausage). They brought the sausage to the hut and gave it to Yo’okalía, who roasted it on the fire and then ate it. The others watched him do so and laughed secretly. Apart from this blood sausage, they gave no other food to Yo’okalía, who became increasingly thin and pale. Though he asked for more food, they gave him nothing else.

Yo’okalía was now extremely thin and weak, and one day the men returned from hunting as usual, and they brought him the same blood sausage, and he ate it ravenously. The others laughed at him secretly, but two who were his good friends in the camp finally felt compassion for him and said, “What you are eating is a blood sausage made of human blood, that the people made for you from the blood of their own noses!” Yo’okalía became furious, threw the rest of the sausage he was eating far away, and would not eat anything more.

As the people of the camp had treated him so badly, Yo’okalía decided to leave that place. Now, he had very good arrows and a beautiful bow, so when no one was looking he pushed his weapons out of the hut and hid them underneath the hides that covered it. Then he said to his good friends, “Paint me well, I want to return to my parents’ hut! The people here do not appreciate me, but they will get what they deserve. But you, my friends, will be rewarded for having treated me well.” The two friends painted him beautifully. The Yo’okalía secretly picked up his weapons, which had hidden outside the hut beforehand, and left without anyone noticing.

He departed for the place where his father lived, but on the way he had to pass by the hut of an evil woman saw Yo’okalía coming and approached him, intending to kill him. But the lesser Yoalox[3] that was in those parts hid Yo’okalía, and so he was saved. He continued his journey, and in each place he spent the night he lit an enormous bonfire to keep warm, leaving the signs of his passing all along the route.

As he approached his father’s hut, his younger brother, who was standing in the doorway, saw him coming and ran to tell those inside. “I see a man coming from far away. I’m sure it is my brother!” But his mother responded, “That man coming down the path cannot be your brother, for we have not had any news of him for a long time.” Yo’okalía walked toward the hut slowly, as he was very weak and tired, but when he entered the hut his mother recognized him immediately and was overjoyed to see him. Noticing his appearance, his mother asked him, “Why are you so pale and thin?” And Yo’okalía responded, “Those people over there treated me very badly, even my fiancée ridiculed me. They gave me only sausage made of human blood and nothing more, so I became thinner and thinner, and finally I left that place.” His mother’s heart went out to him, and she asked him, “How did you escape?” and he told her,  “Two close friends told me everything, and so I did not want to eat more of that sausage and I left!”

The father, who was seated on his bed and heard everything, became angry at how badly the people of the other camp had treated his son. He was so upset that he lay down to sleep. As he lay there, he imagined killing a whale by forcing it to beach itself, then letting all of the meat rot, to punish all of those who had treated his son poorly. Soon he fell asleep, and began to dream, and in his dream he killed a great whale, then made the whale beach itself right in front of the camp that his son had escaped from. In his dream, he recognized all of the people who had mistreated his son. Finally, he crept inside the body of the whale in order to observe which people came near and what pieces of meat were given to each person in the camp. At last—he thought—all those who had given his son human blood sausage would be punished.

The following morning, a man from that camp saw a great whale on the beach. He quickly called the people together, and they came  right away. Each one received a large piece of blubber, and everyone ate and was very satisfied. Even the fiancée of Yo’okalía received a piece, and his two close friends received a piece of considerable size each. Everyone was happy. The elder Yékamush—the father of Yo’okalía—who was hiding inside the whale, saw perfectly well who received each piece of blubber. After everyone had eaten their fill, the elder transformed the pieces of blubber and meat that each had eaten. The only ones he did not transform were those eaten by Yo’okalía’s two close friends. Suddenly, the pieces of blubber began to move around inside the stomachs of the people as though they were alive once more, and they were pulled by an invisible force to the place where the whale was beached. As they moved, they pulled Yo’okalía‘s fiancee and all of those who had given him the human blood sausage to eat. Each piece of meat repositioned itself in the exact place it had been cut from, and the whale was made whole once again. Once whole, the whale became alive again, and it swam back out to sea with all of the people attached to it. Only Yo’okalía’s two close friends were saved.

And even today, you can still see all those people stuck to the sides of the whale. And that was how the elder Yékamush got revenge on those who had given his son Yo’okalía sausages made from the blood of their noses.

Lom, amor y venganza.
Mitos de los yámana de Tierra del Fuego.
Martín Gusinde, Anne Chapman.
Lom ediciones. 2006.

[1] The Yámana word for Chimango (a bird of prey, also called Tiuque)

[2] Thereafter.

[3] A supernatural being.