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The Toba Bible

[Western Toba]

Copyright © 2017 All rights reserved. Software By Serif.  Web design by Michael Browne


Captain Allen Gardiner arrives in South America, and makes various attempts at evangelising in the south of Argentina, without success. Then, accompanied by his wife Elizabeth, he crosses the Andes with the aim of taking the gospel to the Chilean Mapuches, an overland journey of 1,000 miles by pack mule, from Buenos Aires to Santiago and Concepción.

Captain Allen Gardiner


Wilfred Barbrooke Grubb


Allen Gardiner leads an exploratory expedition through the Chaco region of central South America. Near the River Pilcomayo, he meets a group of Tobas, from whom he retreats, not wishing to fight.



Following another frustrated attempt at evangelising the Yagan Indians of Tierra del Fuego, Allen Gardiner and his party take refuge in Banner Cove, an isolated harbour on the south eastern coast. They are unable to find food or fresh water, but they wait there, hoping to be rescued. Allen Gardiner remembers his encounter with the Tobas, and writes them a letter:   

Read the letter here

The Western Tobas (as well as Wichís, Chorotes, Pilagás, Chiriguanos and Chanés) begin to make annual migrations to the sugar refineries to work in the cane harvest. This gave them access to goods otherwise impossible to obtain: horses, arms, clothes and tools. The journey on foot used to take up to two months. [This practice continued during the next 70 years.]


Wilfred Barbrooke Grubb, previously head of the Anglican mission in Paraguay, proposes that the Leach Brothers, owners of the La Esperanza sugar refinery, allow the Anglican missionaries to evangelise the Indians that work there, and they accept.

Richard Hunt, one of the missionaries, was an excellent linguist, and he began to analyse the languages and differentiate between the various Indian groups.  Initially, the priority were the Tobas, following the vision of Allen Gardiner. However, the missionaries soon decided to focus on the Wichí, due to their willingness to collaborate and better knowledge of Spanish.  Therefore, when the Wichí returned to their homes after the harvest, the missionaries accompanied them, thus generating amongst the Wichí a greater trust  of the missionaries. Hunt recognised early on the importance of getting alongside the people and spending time with them, without making judgements or criticisms, but rather learning their way of thinking and living, speaking their language and understanding their view of the world. This perspective sustained and reinforced the work of the pioneer Anglican missionaries amongst the Indians of northern Argentina.

Next section: Misión El Toba

How the Gospel reached the Tobas:

Initial Contacts (1838 - 1910)