[News] Toward Reconstruction of the Mapuche Nation

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Tue Nov 17 12:39:06 EST 2009

Toward Reconstruction of the Mapuche Nation

Raúl Zibechi | November 13, 2009

Translated from: 
<http://ircamericas.org/esp/6567>Hacia la reconstrucción de la nación mapuche
Translated by: Monica Wooters
Americas Program, Center for International Policy (CIP)

Tired of waiting for the slow transfer of lands 
from the state and the always problematic 
recognition of their rights, dozens of Mapuche 
communities have begun to mobilize, a process 
that the Chilean government has responded to with extreme harshness.

Thousands of Mapuches arrived at midday on Oct. 
22 at the Municipal Council in Temuco (capital of 
the Araucanía, 700 kilometers south of Santiago) 
to denounce the violence used by police when they 
shot pellet at children. "After arriving in the 
center of the city, a group of Mapuche children 
from the community of Ercilla opened a sack that 
contained the remnants of over 200 tear gas 
canisters, cartridges, and police issue bullet 
shells," according to the Azkintuwe newspaper.1

The protest, organized by the Mapuche Territorial 
Alliance (Alianza Territorial Mapuche), had as 
its objective to refute the claim that no 
children had been wounded during the intervention 
of police forces in the zone. The lonko (Mapuche 
authority) Juan Catrillanca, pointed out that in 
a police raid, seven children from the local 
school were wounded by pellets and as a result 
they coordinated this march that is watched over by a strong police contingent.

"We are not afraid of the Chilean State and its 
use of violence, our path continues toward the 
national liberation of the Mapuche. We know that 
we will continue resisting in our communities," 
said Mijael Carbone, werken (director) of the Alliance, to the crowd.

"We are all here, the wounded children are here. 
We can all see them. My son Pablo is here with 
just one eye, the mothers of the babies that were 
gassed one week ago in Temucuicui are here. 
Carlos Curinao, brutally beaten by the police the 
same day is here. None of them received proper 
medical attention. We have come peacefully to 
demand respect one more time," stated Catrillanca.2

Despite the fact that the authorities deny it, 
both the church and international organizations 
have confirmed that children were wounded by 
pellets. Gary Stahl, representative of UNICEF in 
Chile, was very clear when he said: "In order to 
ensure that another generation of Chileans is not 
marked by violence, we need to know what has 
happened, and find a solution so that this does 
not repeat in the future."3 On Oct. 5 a 
14-year-old child from the Rofué community was 
shot, arrested, loaded into a helicopter, beaten, 
and tied up by police forces who threatened to 
throw him out of the helicopter once they were in 
the air if he did not agree to give the names of 
those who participated in the takeover of the Santa Lucía estate.

Human rights organizations have provided dozens 
of cases from the last two years in which minors 
were shot with pellets and beaten by the local 
police as well as militarized police in Chile. 
"As of today we have not seen one impartial 
investigation to uncover the truth of what 
happened," added Stahl after demanding, on behalf 
of Unicef, that the administration of President 
Michelle Bachelet take measures to ensure the 
protection of Mapuche children.4 The indignation 
overcame ethnic barriers that week when the 
minister of the Interior accused the Mapuche 
parents of using their children as "shields" in 
their taking of lands. The statement provoked a 
wave of anger across the country from south to north.

Land and Poverty in the Araucanía

Poverty levels in Chile reached 22.7% of the 
population; however, among indigenous peoples it 
has reached 35.6%. Indigenous families earn 
nearly half the income that non-indigenous 
families do. Education among indigenous people is 
2.2 years less than the national average of 9.5 
years and just 3% of the rural Mapuche population 
has received any secondary education by the age 
of 15. Just 41% of indigenous households have 
access to sewer systems and 65% have electricity. 
Infant mortality rates in some indigenous 
municipalities are 50% higher than the national average.5

The human development index among the Mapuche 
population is less than the non-indigenous 
population (0.642 to 0.736). The lowest indices 
in the country are found in the rural areas of 
the Araucanía (the Mapuche territory south of Bio 
Bio) at 0.549, but the Mapuche woman has an even 
lower index of 0.513. In addition to being poor, 
they are discriminated against, "almost 
completely in the media and in particular in 
television,"6 for example. The Mapuche have no representation in Parliament.

However, the state has stood up to an active 
policy in favor of indigenous peoples and the 
Mapuche in particular. The National Corporation 
for Indigenous Development (CONADI, Corporación 
Nacional de Desarrollo Indígena) through the Fund 
for Indigenous Lands and Water (Fondo de Tierras 
y Aguas Indígenas), has transferred some 200,000 
hectares to the Mapuche since 1994, benefiting 
more than 10,000 families. The numbers are 
insufficient as it is estimated that 200,000 more 
acres should also be appropriated. Additionally, 
many of the families have received individual 
titles, not communal ones. The process is very 
slow, leaving out many communities, and there are 
no support programs in place.7

Among the Mapuche there are many complaints in 
regard to the fact that none of the official 
programs have consulted with the communities. An 
evaluation of state policies in 2003 resulted in 
the special rapporteur from the UN Human Rights 
Council, Rodolfo Stavenhagen, concluding that 
"despite having produced important advances 
during the last 10 years, these [people] continue 
to live in a situation of marginalization and 
negation that keeps them separate from the rest of the country."8

The situation has worsened due to the impressive 
expansion of tree plantations throughout southern 
Chile for the past three decades. In 1960, each 
Mapuche family had an average of 9.2 hectares 
even though the state maintained that they needed 
50 hectares to live decently. Between 1979 and 
1986 each family had just 5.3 hectares, which has 
since shrunk to a mere three hectares of land per 
family. Under the Chilean dictatorship the 
Mapuche lost 200,000 of the 300,000 hectares that 
they were conserving. The advancement of tree 
plantations and hydroelectric plants on their 
lands has caused an exponential increase in poverty and emigration rates.

Currently there are two million hectares of 
monoculture tree plantations in the Araucanía in 
the hands of three large companies. The Mapuche 
lands in their entirety do not amount to 500,000 
hectares, where some 250,000 community members 
live in 2,000 reservations, tiny islands in a sea 
of pines and eucalyptus. "Seventy percent of the 
Mapuche territorial entities are directly 
affected by environmental impacts caused by the 
penetration of tree plantation companies," that 
alter the ecosystem, as now "the artificial 
forest dries up estuaries and wells, isolates 
them geographically, and contaminates the soil," 
according to researcher Juan Calbucura.9

Children at the Center of the Conflict

In response to this scenario, the communities 
have been engaged in a constant struggle to 
recuperate their ancestral lands that belonged to 
them just 20 or 30 years ago. That struggle 
clashes with the interests of the large tree 
plantation companies and the Chilean State that 
supports them. The result is growing 
militarization in the most active communities. 
This year an important growth in Mapuche activism took place.

In July a hundred or more delegates from the 
communities sent a letter to President Bachelet 
that was interpreted as a kickoff of a major 
process of land recuperation. In August, Jaime 
Facundo Mendoza, a Mapuche leader, was killed 
when the Special Operations Group evicted dozens 
of families from a piece of land they had 
recuperated in the Ercilla zone. The funeral was 
impressive: it took place over four days and was 
attended by thousands of community members from 
all over the Araucanía, especially those from the 
recently created Mapuche Territorial Alliance 
that brings together between 60 and 120 communities.

But other groups attended as well, such as the 
Council of All Lands (Consejo de Todas las 
Tierras) that became known in 1990, and the more 
radical Arauco Malleco Coordination (Coordinadora 
Arauco Malleco), created in 1998 that recently 
declared war against the Chilean State. But, 
above all there were dozens of cultural 
associations, traditional authorities, university 
students, and the Nationalist Mapuche Wallmapuwen 
Party (Partido Nacionalista Mapuche Wallmapuwen).

On Oct. 12 some 10,000 people demonstrated in 
Santiago in a protest organized by Meli Wixan 
Mapu, an urban Mapuche organization. The biggest 
protest in Chile in the last few years attracted 
a wide array of indigenous and social groups. A 
sign of the times as well as a sign of the 
prestige of the Mapuche struggle, Garra Blanca, 
the fan base for the Santiago soccer club Colo 
Colo, was in attendance waving their flags in the 
Alameda (Santiago's main avenue) along with 
Mapuche flags and banners referring to the 
conflict and denouncing the official celebrations 
of the bicentennial anniversary of Chile's independence.10

This is one of the highlighted characteristics of 
the current stretch of the Mapuche conflict: the 
growing participation of the winkas (whites) in 
solidarity against the state-sponsored repression 
that employs Pinochet-era methods and laws such 
as the Anti-Terrorism Law. In Chile there is 
debate over whether this legislation should be 
applied in cases where property is threatened 
(automobiles, tree plantations, etc.) but people are not.

Nearly 50 Mapuche prisoners populate the jails 
because the state responds to land occupations 
with massive reprisals against entire 
communities. Several children were beaten, 
together with their mothers, on Oct. 16, as 
happens each time police forces enter the 
communities of Ercilla and shoot 
indiscriminately. That day the police got as far 
as the Temucuicui School and began firing 
pellets, leaving a dozen wounded and 30 
suffocated, the majority children.11 That action 
resulted in a reprimand from the International 
Federation for Human Rights who joined the UN 
Committee against Torture in their 
recommendations released last May indicating that 
the security forces should cease in their mistreatment of the Mapuche people.12

Convention 169: A Step Forward?

In September Convention 169 of the International 
Labor Organization, that recognizes the rights of 
indigenous peoples, went into effect. Chile was 
the last country in South America with an 
indigenous population to approve the legislation, 
20 years late. It is interesting to note that the 
governments that make up the Democratic Agreement 
(Concertación Democratica) were always reluctant 
to adopt legislation that was approved in 1991 in 
Bolivia and Colombia, despite the fact that these 
two countries were governed by conservative administrations at the time.

Bartolomé Clavero, a Spanish lawyer and historian 
as well as a member of the UN Permanent Forum on 
Indigenous Issues states in a recent article that 
was published the same day that Convention 169 
went into effect, "The government published, 
without due consultation or consent of the 
indigenous people, the Regulation that regulates 
the consultation and participation of indigenous 
peoples. It did this precisely, in view of its 
content, to reverse mechanisms of control in future consultations."13

Clavero assures that the current UN special 
rapporteur, James Anaya, engaged in an extensive 
dialogue with the government warning that the 
regulation of Convention 169 should be consulted 
with the indigenous peoples. He adds that: "The 
Regulation of Convention 169 is not the first 
test of the bad faith, the first being when the 
government of Chile insensibly made a great show 
of its interest in indigenous population in its 
relations with international human rights organizations."

In his opinion, the government is looking for "a 
constitutional reform to recognize indigenous 
peoples without recognizing their rights." This 
is why he refers to "bad faith," as the 
government recognizes something formally while 
negating it through its actions. He concludes: 
"The bad faith plays both sides of the issue, 
against the indigenous population as well as the 
international human rights institutions." In the 
report following his trip to Chile, Special 
Rapporteur James Anaya states he found "a 
significant level of distrust, discontent, and 
even the negation on the part of the indigenous 
population of the plans, programs, and policies 
of the government," which he attributes to the flawed official policies.14

If this is the language used by prestigious 
international lawyers, one can imagine what the 
Mapuche activists must feel when they confirm 
that the government claims to recognize the 
support from native peoples in the creation of 
the Chilean nation but they deny that those 
people have rights. "The repressive wave," points 
out the website Mapuexpress.cl, is a curtain to 
screen off that which they call a "constitutional 
coup d'etat against the indigenous peoples and their rights."15

A New Generation

In this new cycle of struggles a new generation 
has begun to intervene. This generation, as 
pointed out by the daily La Segunda, "they are 
armed with university degrees to defend the 
indigenous cause."16 In the southern city of 
Temuco alone, there are four self-managed dorms 
with 220 students. They tend to study 
anthropology, law, and journalism. During their 
studies they rediscover Mapuche history. Among 
other things, they learn that the so-called 
"Pacification of the Araucanía," carried out by 
the Republic in the late 19th century was a war 
designed to exterminate their people.

Hand in hand with this new generation appear new 
themes and concepts: the struggle to recuperate 
land is waged to reconstruct the Mapuche 
territory, or in other words, the "nation;" the 
defense of autonomy, both from political parties 
as well as on a general level from the Chilean 
State; the fight not only to keep the culture 
alive but rebuild themselves as a people 
utilizing tools such as ancestral rights. It is 
an urban generation, and although the movement 
continues to maintain a strong rural component, 
the city-based organizations are growing and 
networking with other social movements.

They have built a wide network of digital, radio, 
and press-based media, some from the external 
Mapuche community, and have woven alliances with 
civil society organizations like the NGO Citizen 
Observatory (Observatorio Ciudadano) and many 
others. Their demands are more and more political 
and they formulate them in a new language: 
"Restoration of the territoriality and autonomy 
of the indigenous peoples of Chile; 
Demilitarization of the territory; Withdrawal of 
transnational corporations; Respect for the human 
rights of the Mapuche people."17

They demonstrate an authentic devotion to the 
study of history, as happens among all peoples 
who recoup their dignity. The lonko Juan 
Catrillanca from the emblematic community of 
Temucuicui in Ercilla, and leader of the Mapuche 
Territorial Alliance, assures that his 
organization will continue to occupy private 
property to ensure that the government continues 
to transfer the land to them. The Alliance 
invokes the Treaty of Tapihue, signed by the 
Chilean State and the Mapuche people in 1825, to 
respect the existing border of the time and 
permit transit and commerce between the 
inhabitants of Chile and Wallmapu (Mapuche Nation).

They maintain that this treaty was violated in 
1881 when Chile Militarily invaded the Araucanía. 
"We want to recuperate six million hectares. 
Meanwhile, we will continue taking lands and we 
will only defend ourselves with our wiños (wooden 
clubs) and bolas," Cantrillanca said during a 
presentation of the Alliance in August.18 As 
pointed out by the historian Victor Toledo 
Llancaqueo, they are making the change from 
"lands in conflict" to "territories in conflict."19

End Notes

    * Azkintuwe, Oct. 22, 2009.
    * Idem.
    * Chilean daily La Nación, Santiago, Oct. 26, 2009.
    * Chilean daily La Nación, Oct. 26.
    * Jorge Calbucura and Fabien Le Bonniec, 
"Territorio y territorialidad en contexto 
post-colonial," Ñuke Mapuföralget Working Papers No. 30, Chile, 2009.
    * Idem.
    * Idem, p. 20.
    * Cited by Jorge Calbucura, p. 23.
    * Idem, p. 117.
    * Chilean daily La Nación, Oct. 13, 1009.
    * Observatorio Ciudadano, ob. cit.
    * Mapuexpress, Oct. 24, 2009.
    * Bartolomé Clavero, ob. cit.
    * James Anaya, ob. cit.
    * Mapuexpresss, Nov. 3, 2009.
    * La Segunda, Sep. 1, 2009 en 
    * Convergence of Cultures (Convergencia de 
las Culturas), Santiago, Oct. 23, 2009.
    * Azkintuwe, Aug. 15, 2009.
    * Víctor Toledo Llancaqueo, ob. cit. p. 103. 
The land is a physical space used for production. 
Territory is an integral space (physical, 
cultural, religious, symbolic). Toledo defines it 
as "a spatial continuum, a territory with its 
water, species, and cultivatable lands, as well 
as its right to participate in the decisions that 
affect that territory. An imagined territory that 
is superimposed on the real space of plantations 
and the space designed by administrative limits 
and that constitutes the identity to be reconstructed."

Translated for the Americas Program by Monica Wooters.

Raúl Zibechi is an international analyst for 
Brecha of Montevideo, Uruguay, lecturer and 
researcher on social movements at the 
Multiversidad Franciscana de América Latina, and 
adviser to several social groups. He writes the 
monthly "Zibechi Report" for the Americas Program 

To reprint this article, please contact 
<mailto:americas at ciponline.org>americas at ciponline.org.


"Alianza Territorial Mapuche, la nueva 
organización que complica al gobierno," Azkintuwe, Aug. 15, 2009.

Bartolomé Clavero, "Convenio 169 y un reglamento 
APRA cancelar derechos," Sep. 22, 2009, at: 

Center of Public Policy and Indigenous Rights 
(Centro de Políticas Públicas y Derechos 
Indígenas): <http://www.politicaspublicas.net/>www.politicaspublicas.net.

"C169 Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention," 
International Labor Organization, Geneva, 1989.

James Anaya, United Nations Special Rapporteur on 
the Situation of Human Rights and Fundamental 
Freedoms of Indigenous Peoples, "Report on the 
Situation of Indigenous Peoples in Chile," 
Special Rapporteur James Anaya, Oct. 5, 2009, at: 

Jorge Calbucura and Fabien Le Bonniec, 
"Territorio y territorialidad en contexto 
post-colonial," Ñuke Mapuföralget Working Papers No. 30, Chile, 2009.

Citizen Obsevatory (Observatorio Ciudadano): 

Víctor Toledo Llancaqueo, "Pueblo mapuche. 
Derechos colectivos y territorio," LOM, Santiago, 2006.

For More Information

Mapuche Websites

Azkintuwe: <http://www.azkintuwe.org/>www.azkintuwe.org/

Mapuexpress: <http://www.mapuexpress.net/>www.mapuexpress.net/

Meli Wixan Mapu: <http://meli.mapuches.org/>http://meli.mapuches.org/

Werken Williche (General Council of Wiliche 
Caciques from Chiloé): <http://werken.williche.org/>http://werken.williche.org/

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