Museo Chileno de Arte Precolombino

Native peoples > Chono


Little information is available about the Chono people. It is not even known whether they were a single indigenous group or several. Early writers, sailors and missionaries referred to them and left short descriptions of their lifestyle and the vessels they used to navigate the coastal waters. The Chonos are thought to have interacted with the Huilliche people of Chiloé and the Kawashkar further south; some authors have suggested that the Chonos were actually a branch of the latter. The first recorded contact between the Chonos and the Spanish occurred in 1553. In 1557-1558 they were observed and described members of the expedition commanded by Juan Ladrillero and Francisco Cortés Ojeda. Their population was estimated at around 1700, more than a few of which were enslaved to work in the mines of the north by the Spanish expeditions that sailed by their coastal settlements. This led the Chonos to avoid the more traveled coastal sea routes. Some moved further south into Kawashkar territory, while others found refuge in the Jesuit missions of Chiloé, where a few are said to have been baptized in 1608.

After he was shipwrecked in the Guaitecas islands in 1741, the English sailor John Byron wrote about the Chonos he encountered and eventually lived with there. The last mention of the Chono people was in 1805; after this date, there are not referred to again.