At their peak, the Kawésqar inhabited the southern channels of Chile between the Gulf of Penas and the Brecknock Peninsula, east to the outlet of the Strait of Magellan and west to the Pacific Ocean. As a nomadic people, they used the ecological spaces of the sub-occidental channels, traveling from one area to another. Their principal characteristic is that they sailed in a canoe of approximately eight to nine meters [26 to 29 feet] long and one meter [3.3 feet] wide, which fit an entire family and its dog (kiúrro). They also used to make camp at night on land for a week, or a month or two, depending on the family’s needs.
In the 1930s the Kawésqar settled on Wellington Island, in the town of Puerto Edén. Today, there are a total of two hundred residents in Puerto Edén. Eleven are pure Kawésqar. The rest are people from the island of Chiloé, in Puerto Montt, the tenth region of Chile. These are the Chilotes, the majority of whom are fishermen. The Kawésqar live in five houses, which were donated by a Belgian organization in 1992. While Wellington Island is very isolated from civilization, the Kawésqar now have access to electricity and potable water (c'afalái). These are two advances that help improve their quality of life.
In the second half of the twentieth century, some Kawésqar left Puerto Edén and settled in other areas of Chile. The country is divided into twelve regions, and the Kawésqar migrated to Puerto Natales and Punta Arenas, cities located in Region XII. (The XII region includes Magellan, Ultima Esperanza, Tierra del Fuego, Porvenir, Chilean Antarctica and Puerto Williams.)
Punta Arenas, capital of the Magellan and Chilean Antarctic region, is the main commercial, service, communications, historical, and cultural center of this region. Its history began on December 18, 1848, when the governor of the Magellan Territory, Colonel José de los Santos Amardones, founded the city 60 kilometers [37.3 miles] north of Fort Bulnes, the first Chilean town in Patagonia. The Kawésqar began settling in Punta Arenas between 1945 and 1950.
With 150,000 inhabitants, this booming city is being developed via the influence of Croatian, Spanish, Swiss, French, English, Italian, German, Greek, and other pioneers, who, together with the native Kawésqar and the Chiloé people, form a community that is vital, generous, and open to the world. Situated in the most expansive region in Chile at 1,382,003 square kilometers [863,752 square miles], Punta Arenas is located on the south 53rd parallel. It is south of the Patagonian Andes and faces the Darwin mountain range located in Tierra del Fuego. Nearby is Cape Horn, a half-moon shaped island whose rolling hills rise 150 meters [492 feet] above sea level.
The Kawésqar, along with the Yagan community, are recognized by other Chilean peoples as the original settlers in the Magellan region, and they are respected because it is they who have historically persisted in these lands so far to the south in Chile. They are the people who conquered the uncertainties and the distances that are characteristic of the seas in southern Chile, long before the western explorers, such as Fernao de Magalhaes [Ferdinand Magellan], after whom the Strait of Magellan is named, came to this remote part of the world.
—Patricia Messier Loncuante
(Translated from the original Spanish.)