Proyecto de Documentación Ñuke Mapu

The situation according to the Mapuche organisation Xeg-Xeg 1

The problem of the Mapuche people is a socio-political and a territorial one, combined with a with a loss and weakening of the culture. Without diminishing the communication problem, which for the last 450 years has been a hegemonising factor among many others the indigenous peoples of America and Chile have had to withstand, it is pertinent to obtain some of the background underlying the present situation, where the Mapuche people are dominated and prostrated

Firstly, we have the denial of history, an element which will remain hidden in the webs of official Western history for a long time yet. This denial begins with not acknowledging the territory of our people. Almost all history texts claim that the Mapuche had no delimited or defined territory. As well as hiding the true People-Nation nature of our Mapuche society, this claim has divided our own claims as a people, making it possible to govern in that confusion. We are referring here to the disarticulation of our Meli Wixan Mapu as a unified concept of the Mapuche nation before 1541 2. From then on all Western (wigka) historians will assert that Picunche and Williche, Puelche and Lafkenche3 , are separate people.

We are facing a situation which will be difficult to reverse, given the time which has passed and the territorial destruction, and above all the loss of the identity and cultural roots of our people.

Secondly, the philosophical-social assault, in many cases direct, others subtle, of that wrongful assertion by Alonso de Ercilla y Zuniga, of calling our Mapuche People “Araucano”4 . This not only causes psychological confusion, but generates an ethnic and moral debate among Mapuche themselves.

The main strategic element, however, has been the introduction of the cacique ruling system. The Mapuche people never had caciques as a form of social organisation, and this introduction created among Mapuche a social hierarchy which ruined the concept of reciprocity and solidarity on which social organisation and work were based. This third and decisive element of the Colonisation - Conquest - Settlement and Division of Mapuche, is and has been the source of the most serious internal conflicts among our people. If we add to this the changing of the concept of  “defender of the people” or kona, we will find a wide ranging ideological colonisation which numbs the social behaviour of a people, who thus confused opt not to see what they are: Mapuche. This leads to a gradual loss of identity which even makes doubtful the future existence of our Mapuche People.

From 1928 the introduction of the Primary and Compulsory Instruction Act imposed in Chile has done the rest: the every day alignment and the erosion from early age of the weak identity of our youth.

All of this socio-historical process is what we have called the trauma of incommunication.
Depending on the views at the time, and the generation, when realising this lack of communication, many Mapuche leaders assumed strategies which may today be criticised, but which may have been necessary at the time. That is the case of the Nagche, Mapuche brothers 5  in the 18th and 19th centuries who were staunch advocates of the Parliaments. Not so the Wenteche who never shared that idea. This is but one example of varying strategies, other conflicts involved whether or not to adhere to the formal education system, to the Catholic process of so called evangelisation, later on to the evangelical sects; to the Chilean military service, the political parties, work systems, electoral system, and of course, to Western forms of communication: the dichotomy between Mapuzugun and Spanish.

Irrespective of whether Western systems of communication were adhered to, the imposition of the language has been the most traumatic element. With respect to the media, the Mapuche people gained access to the Radio during the 60’s and 70’s, nowadays it is massively used, and there are probably no Mapuche homes without a radio. The point now is that this now massive and important medium does not contain any programmes of relevance to indigenous culture, nor does it even attempt to be truthful to cultural elements which are distorted in every communication. With reference to the written media - newspapers, magazines, publications, bulletins, etc. Mapuche participation is very low, not to say non-existent. TV has been introduced to a significant extent in the communities in the last five years, and we foresee a massive use.


1. The name is pronounced [treng-treng]. This text is an extract from a project application, translated by Cristina Parra, who has also added these footnotes

2.  Year of the arrival of the Spanish

3. People of the north, people of the south, inland people, people from the coast

4. Alonso de Ercilla wrote between 1569-1590 what is considered one of the founding epics of the Chilean nation, La Araucana, a glorifying retelling of the first battles fought between Mapuche and the Spanish invaders. According to Mapuche lawyer Lincoqueo, 70% of Mapuche died during the first 100 years of the invasion. The Mapuche victory at Curalaba in 1600 and the Treaty of Quillin in 1641 established the Bio-Bio river as the limit of Spanish rule. Mapuche would defend this frontier for the next 200 years, until the invasion, the Pacificación de la Araucanía, by the Chilean state starting in 1860.

5. actually it should be siblings, the Spanish “hermanos” can apply to a mixed gender set, but the English siblings does not have the fraternal feeling of “brothers”