Dawson Island
Dawson Islandhttp://islands.unep.ch/IXE.htm#333 is an island in the Strait of Magellan
Strait of Magellan
The Strait of Magellan comprises a navigable sea route immediately south of mainland South America and north of Tierra del Fuego...

 that forms part of the Tierra del Fuego
Tierra del Fuego
Tierra del Fuego is an archipelago off the southernmost tip of the South American mainland, across the Strait of Magellan. The archipelago consists of a main island Isla Grande de Tierra del Fuego divided between Chile and Argentina with an area of , and a group of smaller islands including Cape...

An archipelago , sometimes called an island group, is a chain or cluster of islands. The word archipelago is derived from the Greek ἄρχι- – arkhi- and πέλαγος – pélagos through the Italian arcipelago...

, 100 km south of the city of Punta Arenas in Chile
Chile ,officially the Republic of Chile , is a country in South America occupying a long, narrow coastal strip between the Andes mountains to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west. It borders Peru to the north, Bolivia to the northeast, Argentina to the east, and the Drake Passage in the far...

, and part of the Municipality of Punta Arenas. It is located southeast of Brunswick Peninsula
Brunswick Peninsula
Brunswick Peninsula is a large peninsula in Magallanes y la Antártica Region, Patagonia, Chile, at . It is wide at its base in the north, and almost in the south. It measures in length from the base to Cape Froward, the southernmost point of the American mainland. This yields an area of more...

 and is an approximately 1290 km² tract of land that is often lashed with harsh Antarctic weather. Its population was 415 as of the 1992 census
A census is the procedure of systematically acquiring and recording information about the members of a given population. It is a regularly occurring and official count of a particular population. The term is used mostly in connection with national population and housing censuses; other common...

 of population,, and 301 as of 2002 Punta Arenas. The settlements are Puerto Harris, Puerto San Antonio and Puerto Almeida.


Dawson Island was used as a concentration camp for the Selknam
The Selk'nam, also known as the Onawo, lived in the Patagonian region of southern Chile and Argentina including the Tierra del Fuego islands...

 and other native people in the late 1800s. In 1890, the Chilean government granted Salesian missionaries from Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

 a 20-year concession to Dawson Island to educate, care for, and adapt indigenous people. One of the structures from the Salesian operation remains and is now a Chilean national monument.

In more recent history, after the 1973 military coup in Chile, the island was used as a place to house political prisoners suspected of being communist activists, under strict control of the Chilean Navy
Chilean Navy
-Independence Wars of Chile and Peru :The Chilean Navy dates back to 1817. A year before, following the Battle of Chacabuco, General Bernardo O'Higgins prophetically declared "this victory and another hundred shall be of no significance if we do not gain control of the sea".This led to the...

, as each individual case was investigated. According to an International Red Cross
International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement
The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement is an international humanitarian movement with approximately 97 million volunteers, members and staff worldwide which was founded to protect human life and health, to ensure respect for all human beings, and to prevent and alleviate human...

 report in 1974 and the Report of the Chilean National Commission on Truth and Reconciliation (Rettig report
Rettig Report
The Rettig Report, officially The National Commission for Truth and Reconciliation Report, is a 1991 report by a commission designated by then President Patricio Aylwin encompassing human rights abuses resulting in death or disappearance that occurred in Chile during the years of military rule...

) it was home to some 99 political detainees who were sentenced to forced labor. Others have estimated that as many as 400 persons were held at the two camps. Members of the International Red Cross, the BBC, and Brazilian press corps were permitted to visit the camps. The camps were temporary holding locations and the internees were transferred elsewhere or released in 1974.

In 2009 a film was produced about the camp experience, called Dawson, Isla 10 directed by Miguel Littin
Miguel Littin
Miguel Ernesto Littín Cucumides is a Chilean film director, screenwriter, film producer and novelist. He was born to a Palestinian father, Hernán Littin and a Greek mother, Cristina Cucumides....

. The film was based on a book written by Sergio Bitar, a political prisoner
Political prisoner
According to the Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English, a political prisoner is ‘someone who is in prison because they have opposed or criticized the government of their own country’....

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