Remains of Indigenous Abductees Back Home after 130 Years

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The remains of five members of the Kawesqar Indian tribe, abducted by a German explorer 130 years ago for display in "human zoos," found their way back home to Tierra del Fuego on Tuesday. Theirs is a story of degradation, shared by indigenous peoples from around the world.

It was a greatly delayed homecoming. But on Tuesday, the remains of five Kawesqar Indians, kidnapped in 1881 and brought to Europe for display in zoos, were returned to Chile for burial in their ancestral homeland in Tierra del Fuego in the country's far south....

Known as "human zoos," the shows involved the abduction of indigenous peoples from around the world, particularly Africa. Often they were displayed in villages built in zoos specifically for the show, but they were also made to perform on stage for the amusement of a paying public.

One of the most prominent of the human zoo operators was the Hamburg animal trader Carl Hagenbeck, whose name still graces the zoo in Hamburg. Indeed, it was a Hagenbeck expedition which brought the five Kawesqars to Europe (along with six others, five of whom were allowed to return with the sixth dying on the way home). They took part in Hagenbeck shows in Berlin, Munich, Leipzig, Stuttgart, Nuremberg and Zurich in addition to Hamburg. In Paris, the show, called "The Savages from the Land of Fire," attracted a half-million visitors.

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