The inhabitants of these islands are descended from the continental aborigines of Chili, as is evident from their manners, appearance, and language; yet are they very different in character, being of a pacific and rather timid disposition. They accordingly made no opposition against the handful of Spaniards who were sent to subjugate them under Gamboa, though their population is said to have then exceeded seventy thousand. Neither have they ever attempted to shake off the yoke, except once at the beginning of last century, when a very unimportant insurrection was speedily quelled. The number of inhabitants at present amounts to upwards of eleven thousand, which are distributed into seventy-six districts, each of which is governed by a native ulmen. The greatest part of this population is subject to the Spanish commanders, and are obliged to give personal service fifty days in every year, pursuant to the feudal laws, which are rigorously enforced in this province, though they have been long abolished in the rest of the kingdom of Chili.
These islanders in general possess great quickness of capacity, and readily learn any thing that is taught them. They have an apt genius for all mechanical arts, and excel in carpentry, cabinet-making, turnery, and the like, and are very expert in the construction of wooden-houses, as indeed all the habitations and even the churches are of timber. They are likewise good manufacturers in linen and woollen, of which last mixed with the feathers of sea-birds they make very beautiful bed-coverings. They also manufacture ponchos or cloaks of various kinds, many of which are striped, or embroidered with coloured silk or worsted.
These islands abound in wood, of which they supply large quantities yearly. As it rains almost incessantly, the cultivated lands are commonly wet the whole year. Though they have abundance of cattle, these are not employed for ploughing the ground, which is tilled, or cultivated in the following singular manner. About three months before seed-time, their sheep are turned upon the lands intended for a crop, changing their situation every three or four nights, in the manner called folding in Europe, by which the land is sufficiently manured. The field is then strewed over with the seed corn, and a strong man scratches or slightly turns over the soil to cover the seed, by means of a rude implement composed of two crooked sticks of hard wood fastened together and made sharp, which he forces into the ground with his breast. Notwithstanding this very imperfect tillage, the subsequent crop of wheat generally yields ten or twelve for one. They likewise grow large quantities of barley, beans, peas, guinoa, which is a species of chenopodium used in making a pleasant species of drink, and the largest and best potatoes that are to be found in all Chili. Owing to the moisture of the climate, the grape never comes to sufficient maturity for making wine; but its want is supplied by various kinds of cyder, made from apples and other wild fruits which abound in the country.