Dr Frederick Cook, the controversial explorer and physician made some interesting claims of having encountered “giants” among the “Ona” people of Patagonia during his “Belgica” expedition in 1896-97. His photographs and notes which I recently discovered in online publications, I feel, might offer some explanation to the endless stories of giants in that part of the world — that actual tribes averaging six feet tall for men, with some individuals 6-1/2 and even 7-1/2 feet tall–indeed existed.
Back in January, 2015 I stumbled upon old photos in a newspaper from 1899 showing how tall some of the Patagonian Ona tribesmen were. I sent the image to the “Search For the Lost Giants” Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/searchforthelostgiants/posts/1581147855453814 The photo of what appeared to be two nearly 7 foot tall Ona Indians, next to one of the ship-mates from the Belgica expedition, raised immense curiosity in my mind! (Incidentally, Dr Cook and most of his ship-mates were from 5 ft 8 in. to 6 ft tall: https://books.google.com/books?id=O9IBAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA260)
I later found a February 1938 interview in “Popular Photography” Magazine, with Dr. Frederick Cook, and in this interview he claimed the Ona tribe he met in 1897 were from “6 to 7-1/2 feet tall” , wore animal skins, had “horse endurance” and “Bull’s strength” and lived in simple wigwam huts made of tree branches.
One of the amazing photographs he took featured a man 7 feet 2 inches tall, and another of a woman 6 feet 6 inches in height.The people Dr. Cook photographed in 1897 were the Onas, or Selknam nation, a nearly extinct people http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Selknam_people who were mercilessly pushed off the land, and massacred by new coming settlers in the 19th century. The tall, and impressively built Selknam, averaging somewhere around 5 ft 10 to 6 feet for most males, they wore long fur pelts, lived in stick huts, and carried bows and arrows — these were ultimate survivors, and among the most primitive tribes in all of the Americas. So “primitive” were the Fuegians and Patagonian tribes, that Charles Darwin himself had some surprisingly harsh words to describe these peoples. “Wild men”, “Cannibals”, “absolutely naked”, the most “miserable state of barbarism” & etc., I shall not repeat what Darwin had to say in entirety, as you can read his endless prejudice comments here for yourself: http://www.corpussomnium.org/darwins-descriptions-of-the-fuegians-and-patagonians/
So “wild”, and intimidating a people to the early Europeans, could the fabled stories of giants, or even wild hairy men, be in part, based upon such encounters with these strange, but terribly misunderstood, and now exterminated indigenous tribes? Perhaps. We have some legends among Indigenous persons in North America regarding the cannibal red headed giants, in addition to some historical accounts of the tall and powerful Karankawa, also alleged cannibals. I think these fierce and powerful types may have left a lasting impression on neighboring tribes, and later European colonists — that they became the “bogey men”, and wild giants — the stuff of fairy tales. We need to remember, the average height of the Spanish, English, and early Navigators of the 16th to 18th century was about 5 feet 5 or 5 ft 6 inches tall, and that was almost a head shorter than the “Tehuelche” tribe of Patagonia, who averaged about 6 feet for men, and some even 6 feet 6 in. (See Documentary: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ehIfTIdfXs) And now, with the revelation of Dr. Frederick Cook’s notes, there is yet more evidence of some individuals up to 7 ft 4 among the Selknam, Ona tribe, existing right up into the turn of the century.