Dawson Island [*] is an island in the Strait of Magellan that forms part of the Tierra del Fuego archipelago, 100 km south of the city of Punta Arenas in Chile, and part of the Municipality of Punta Arenas. It is located southeast of Brunswick Peninsula and is an approximately 1290 km tract of land that is often lashed with harsh Antarctic weather. Its population was 415 as of the 1992 census of population [*], and 301 as of 2002 [[:es:Punta Arenas]]. The settlements are Puerto Harris, Puerto San Antonio and Puerto Almeida.
Dawson Island was used as a concentration camp for the Selknam and other native people in the late 1800s. In 1890, the Chilean government granted Salesian missionaries from Italy a 20-year concession to Dawson Island to educate, care for, and adapt indigenous people.
In more recent history, after the 1973 military coup, the island was used as a place to house political prisoners, suspects of being communist activists, under strict control of the Chilean Navy, until each individual case was duly investigated. According to an International Red Cross report in 1974, it was home to some 99 political detainees who were sentenced to forced labor and lived in squalor. The detainees were transferred elsewhere in 1974.
The Chile Information Project: Dawson Island
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