Last of Argentina's Ona Indians dies
BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) -- The last of Argentina's full-blooded Ona
Indians has died, ending a 9,000-year history of a tribe that was hounded by
settlers and bounty hunters at the tip of South America, authorities said on
Virginia Choinquitel, 56, died of a heart attack on Wednesday in Rio
Grande, Tierra del Fuego, a priest in the town said.
Argentine anthropologist Miguel Angel Palermo told the daily Clarin that
last Ona man died in 1995 and Choinquitel was the last full-blooded Ona
Her long-time friend, Roman Catholic priest Father Jose Zink, confirmed
that she was the last member of the Ona tribe.
"There are many people of mixed blood but to the best of our knowledge
she was the last full-blooded Ona," Zink said in a telephone interview with
Reuters from his Rio Grande home in Tierra del Fuego.
The nomadic Ona people's roots in Tierra del Fuego date back 9,000 years.
Its people were short and stocky with Asiatic facial features and were
victims of campaigns by armed settlers intent on exterminating them. By the
late 19th century, several missions were established in Tierra del Fuego and
nearby islands to protect the remaining survivors.
But the ancient tribe continued to be threatened by epidemics and bounty
About 300 Ona were left at the time of the most recent government census
of the native population taken in 1965 - among them Virginia Choinquitel.
By 1970 there were only 10 Onas left in the world, according to Palermo.
Although honored by Argentine authorities in her later years, Choinquitel
was orphaned at age 4 and was raised by nuns before being adopted and
taken to Buenos Aires.
Choinquitel married an Italian immigrant and lived on the outskirts of
After he husband died, the municipal government of Rio Grande offered her
a pension and a home where she lived until her death Wednesday.