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Minorities At Risk Project: Home    

Chronology for Indigenous Peoples in Chile

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Date(s) Item
1972 A law passed during the Allende administration gave legitimacy to the Mapuche people culturally and legally. It also recognized collective landholding rights of the Mapuche people. Remedial governmental programs were established to allow the Mapuche to further the development of their communities. These measures were aborted after the coup in 1973. Munoz, Luis Campos. 2003. "CHILE'S MAPUCHE: NOT YET 'PACIFIED'". NACLA Report on the Americas. Vol. 37 Issue 1. 36.
Jan 1989 5 Mapuche leaders were shot and wounded in clashes with police in southern Chile in response to land occupations in Puren, 400 miles south of Santiago. 3 police were injured and 17 Mapuches were arrested.
Jul 30, 1989 Chilean legislature approved reforms to the Constitution. These reforms gave more civilian representation to the National Security Council and subordinated the military to the civilian government. Also, the reforms allowed the military to form tribunals and be the only branch of the government to have jurisdiction over complaints of human rights abuses against the police and military personnel.
Jan 1990 The Mapuche organization, Folil-che Aflaiai (Eternal Aboriginal People) sponsored cultural and language programs to promote youth education and ethnic diversity.
Oct 1990 Mapuche Indians protested in response to the visit of King Juan Carlos of Spain. They also invited the King to Temuco for open dialogue with the Indians.
Dec 1990 1,500 Mapuches marched in Santiago in support of a new law which supported land reform and protection of indigenous cultures, languages, and traditions.
Oct 1991 50 Mapuches occupied land in Santa Clara owned by the Millalemu lumber company, near Lumaco in the Temuco region. 14 Mapuches were arrested. On October 24, 700 Mapuches participated in a demonstration organized by the All Lands Council in support of autonomy for Mapuches.
Nov 1991 22 Mapuches were arrested for painting murals of Mapuche history in the town square of Temuco in honor of the 110th anniversary of the last Mapuche uprising in that region. 6 major Mapuche organizations announced support for the governmental Special Indigenous Peoples Commission. The six groups are Ad-Mapu, affiliated with the communist party; Nehuen Mapu, affiliated with the Christian Democrats; Choil Folilche, affiliated with the Party for Democracy; Cllfulican, affiliated with the Land and Identity Party; Centro Cultural, a faction of Ad-Mapu; and the Socialist Party affiliate Lautaro 'i Ailla Rehue. These groups also opposed the land occupations of the All Lands Council Mapuche organization.
Feb 1992 The government purchased $5 million of land from private owners and the Galletue Wood Company for Pehuenche Indians in Quinquen province in response to land occupations and demonstrations against the government. The National Council of Indigenous Peoples (CNPI) also organized rallies and protests against the government in support of a land grant to the Pehuenches. This land had been sold to timber companies under the Pinochet government, which also supported forced evacuations of Indians from these lands. The new land purchase by the Aylwin government permits Pehuenches to remain on the lands without timber industries developing it.
Jun 1992 The "All Lands Council" of the Mapuches (ca. 140 members participated in the occupation) occupied lands near the city of Temuco, 680 km. south of Santiago, protesting the seizure of their land by settlers. They also demanded sovereignty for the Mapuches. Some reports claim that the Mapuche "All Lands Council" is linked to the "Guerrilla Army of the Poor," (MIR) a revolutionary leftist movement in rural areas. However, Mapuche leaders deny this connection. On June 9, Mapuche Indians participated in the Earth Summit of non-governmental groups, working toward improved policies for indigenous peoples world-wide. On June 20, Indians, students, miners, and homeless squatted on lands and in buildings in protest of government policies. This was in response to the first municipal elections since 1971. On June 23, 79 members of the "All Lands Council" were arrested for land occupation in Cautin province. Other occupations had taken place in Temuco, Valdivia, Carahue, and Lautaro.
Jul 1992 6 Mapuche leaders who were jailed due to land occupations earlier this year were released on bail based upon an appellate court decision not the consider them “elements dangerous to society.”
Sep 1992 The Mapuches adopted a flag to represent all of their various groups and threatened the government that they will continue land occupations unless the government responds to their requests for autonomous status and land grants.
Oct 1992 Hundreds of protests occurred throughout Chile in response to the 500th Anniversary of Colonization of Latin America. The Mapuches protested against the occupation of their lands for 500 years. In Villarrica, a small town which houses a Mapuche reserve, the Mapuches marched peacefully against the takeover of their lands. They were accompanied by riot police and the military, but no violence occurred. Indigenous leaders, including the Mapuches, met in Managua to discuss plans for indigenous peoples of the Americas. Rigoberta Menchu of Guatemala lead the meeting. On October 2, two Mapuches were arrested for trying to set fire to Chilean history books in front of the Education Ministry in Santiago.
Jan 1993 3,300 hectares of land were awarded to five Huilliche Mapuche communities in Quellon, 1,200 km. south of Santiago. 37,000 more hectares were awarded to other Mapuche communities in the region. The Special Indigenous Commission oversaw the land grants.
1993 The Chilean Congress passed a law recognizing indigenous people's diversity, cultures, and traditions. Land reform legislation was not yet formulated, although it was supported by President Aylwin.
Feb 1993 Luis Janquilef, member of the "All Lands Council" of the Mapuches tried to mobilize international support for their cause. They have already gained support from the Greens in the European Parliament, Amnesty International, the Dutch Advisory Committee for Human Rights, and the Hague-based Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO). The Mapuches are calling for these organizations to recognize their ethnic diversity and to pressure the Chilean government to implement policies toward ethnic diversity and land reform.
Mar 1993 Leaders of the Mapuche group accused the government of violating international treaties after the conviction of 144 Indians on charges of illicit association and occupation of lands. Aucan Huilcaman, spokesperson for the "All Lands Council" (Aukin Wallmapu Nguklam) said the government bears responsibility for the crime since they usurped Mapuche lands. The Mapuches claimed that the government violated the ILO treaty 169 on ethnic minorities. The Mapuches were sentenced to 541-day prison terms and $1,000 fine per person. The government began the court process against the "All Lands Council" in 1992 when they began forcefully retrieving their lands, which they claim were taken from them by settlers. The Mapuches also held a Tribunal, which is the Mapuche form of justice based on the communities' political, moral, philosophical, and religious beliefs. They discussed the issue of the arrests of their members and demand legal recognition of their culture, language, and traditions. They also call for a "bi-national state."
Jun 1993 Chilean ecologists and Mapuches brought suit against the Pangue hydroelectric plant (financed by a Swedish corporation) to be constructed on the Bio Bio river, 480 miles southeast of Santiago. They claim that the dam will dry up the river bed for 10 miles and flood hundreds of acres of farmland used by Mapuches. The dam was funded through a loan of $29 million by the Swedish government and a $120 million loan from the World Bank. The National Electricity Company (ENDESA), a private firm, was supposed to be responsible for the dam's construction. A petition was signed and presented to the government by the National Network for Ecological Action (RENACE), the Ecological Policy Institute, the Bio Bio Action Group, the Chilean Committee for the Defence of Flora and Fauna, and the National Amerindian Council.
Aug 1993 The Special Commission of Indigenous Peoples (CEPI) implemented a bilingual education program for Mapuche students to be taught in both Mapudhnquen and Spanish.
Feb 1994 It was reported that 10% of the population were brought out of poverty during the four year term of President Aylwin. However, the poverty and literacy levels of indigenous peoples remained the same.
Mar 1994 President Eduardo Frei, a Christian Democrat, was inaugurated. He was elected in December 1993.
May 1994 The Indigenous Peace Initiative (IPI) was founded by Rigoberta Menchu, and indigenous leaders from Chile, Mexico, Ecuador, Canada, Nicaragua, Panama, and the U.S.. This organization is intended to intercede in conflict resolution involving indigenous groups. It was formed in response the uprisings in Chiapas, Mexico.
Jul 1994 The UN Development Program funded Chilean indigenous groups to learn how to protect their eco-systems. The project started in Boyeco, improving water quality and soil conservation. The project continued in many southern regions, teaching conservation of natural resources.
Mar 1995 The U.S. Department of State reported that there is only one indigenous representative in the Chilean Congress and very few indigenous people participate in politics. Moreover, they report that assimilatation into the larger society is the focus of Chilean policies and that indigenous people have very little control over their lands and natural resources.
Apr 1995 A bilingual program sponsored by UNICEF (UN Children's Fund) was implemented which teaches very young indigenous school children (2-5 years old) their native languages, customs, and histories, and the Spanish language.
Oct 27, 1995 Aymara communities in the high plateaus of the Atacama Desert are protesting that mining companies are drying out salt pans and Andean lakes. The Indians have recently formed a cooperative in the hopes of exporting oregano. Indigenous peoples in general have not benefitted from 12 years of economic growth in Chile. Chilean Planning Minister Luis Mana said there is a great effort on the part of the government to help small producers and small businesses with credits, development programs, and access to markets.
Apr 28, 1997 Indigenous People occupied the headquarters of Conadi protesting the removal of its activist director Mauricio Huenchulaf. Huenchulaf was a staunch opponent of plans to construct hydroelectric plants on the Biobio river. President Frei backs the Endesa consortium which in March inaugurated the Pangue Dam on the upper Biobio. The consortium is in the process of building a second dam. The World Bank, which provided funding for the first dam, accused Endesa in February of failing to live up to environmental and social commitments which were to protect the Pehuenche indigenous community. In June 1996, Conadi rejected a land-swap involving the communities whose homes would be flooded by the second dam. The land in question is protected under Chile’s 1992 law on indigenous development. In all, Endesa plans to build five dams on the Biobio, and it has looked elsewhere for its funding after being rebuked by the Bank. Conadi has a national council made up of eight delegates of indigenous groups and eight governmental representatives. The proposed dams will cause flooding and displace hundreds of indigenous families.
Jun 1997 Serious desertification is occurring in Chile. The hardest hit areas also have the highest rates of poverty. Local Aymara communities in northern Chile have become increasingly poor because copper mines in the region require large amounts of water and other resources. The government approved funding for the second dam to be constructed on the Biobio river.
Dec 1997 A study in Santiago’s Cerro Navia municipality found that Mapuche Indians living there earn one-third the average salary of the rest of the population. Twelve Mapuche leaders are imprisoned in Temuco, capital of Araucania region. They are charged with destruction of logging trucks of a company that Mapuche’s claim operates on their traditional lands. The Mapuches continue to migrate to urban areas. As many as 75% of them now live in large towns or cities.
Apr 22, 1998 Chile’s government reached a truce with the indigenous communities occupying estates in the south. Two Mapuche communities occupied two timber producing estates in rural Galvarino commune in Araucania region calling for the return of their ancestral lands. Over the past week, indigenous people took over at least four estates in Traiguen and Lumaco communes as well. In Traiguen, the indigenous protesters agreed to withdraw peacefully after the process was started for it to be purchased by the National indigenous Development Council) which is in charge of a plan granting territory to indigenous communities through the assignment of state land or the purchase of private-owned real estate. However, private owners rarely agree to negotiate with Conadi. In Lumaco, 33 indigenous people were evicted by the militarized police. Only the leader, Alfonso Rirman, was in custody on charges of illegal occupation. Between 1994 and 1997, Conadi handed over 71,000 hectares of land to some 1500 indigenous families, most in the Araucania region. The indigenous communities feel the Conadi process is too slow and unproductive. The Council of All Lands proposes converting Chile into a binational state granting a certain independence to indigenous peoples within their territories. All Lands leader Aucan Huilcaman, a Mapuche, was jailed under the Internal Security Law for promoting land occupations. The Mapuches reject state laws and institutions as instruments of domination, and demand their own institutions be recognized as a co-power. The 1993 Indigenous Law purports to defend cultural and territorial integrity of indigenous peoples and to prohibit outside alteration of their way of life and properties, but at the same time, the Chilean government is also pursuing major highway and energy development programs in indigenous regions.
Oct 16, 1998 A British court ruled that former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet could be brought to trial in London on war crimes charges filed against him by a Spanish judge. The judge had taken advantage of Pinochet’s hospitalization in Britain to have him arrested, claiming that Chilean courts could not deliver justice. Charges related to the murder and disappearance of Mapuches were included in the list of crimes.
Feb 1999 Fourteen people, including a French student, were arrested when police tried to remove a group of Mapuche from a stretch of timber company-owned land that they had occupied. (Agence France Presse 3/4/99)
Mar 3, 1999 A group of Mapuche Indians opened fire when police tried to arrest them on suspicion of rustling cattle. Two people died and four were wounded in the shoot-out. (Agence France Presse 3/4/99)
Apr 27, 1999 Leaders of the Mapuche were briefed before the Araucania regional government about the eleven “territorial recuperation actions” occurring at the time. The Pangueco community of Galvarino entered and occupied a 400-hectare privately-owned farm. This became the eleventh occupation in the region, including four Pehuenche occupations in Curarrehue, some in Pucon by the Quepenco, and occupations of Mininco Forestry Company property by the Antonio Paillacon and Colihuinca Tori communities. Villarica National Park had also been taken over by indigenous groups. The protests were all nonviolent. (British Broadcasting Corporation 4/30/99)
Apr 30, 1999 More than 50 people were arrested in the Araucania region when police removed some 100 Indian protesters from forest lands they had occupied for three days. The group of Mapuche Indians were “reclaiming lands usurped” by timber companies that cut forests in the region near Traiquen and Temuco, 600 kilometers (372 miles) south of Santiago. Police were also questioning people in five other locations. (Agence France Presse 4/30/99)
May 10, 1999 One dozen protesters were arrested and a police officer injured when some 50 Mapuches staged a march through Santiago to press their case for the return of logging land. (Agence France Presse 5/26/00)
May 22, 1999 Over 1,000 protestors gathered outside the congressional building in Valpaiso while President Frei delivered his annual address to lawmakers. Police clashed with the group using clubs, tear gas and water hoses, leading to 180 detentions and hundreds of injuries. Among the protestors were Indians demanding the return of Mapuche lands taken over by lumber companies in the country's south. (Agence France Presse 5/22/99)
May 25, 1999 A group of gun-wielding Mapuche Indians attacked police and wounded five officers during a dispute over 100,000 hectares (247,000 acres) of land claimed by timber companies. Police were trying to prevent a robbery in a forested area around Collipulli when they walked into the ambush. Twelve Mapuches were being held in connection with the attack. (Agence France Presse 5/26/99)
Jun 9, 1999 Within several hours, unidentified persons set fire to forestry machinery close to the Chorillos farm owned by the Mininco Forestry Company, and police clashed with leaders of the Council for all the Lands in central Temuco. The day before, the police had clashed with the Temocuycuy community who had seized a sawmill and lumber plant in Ercilla. (British Broadcasting Corporation 6/11/99)
Jun 20, 1999 Three hundred Mapuches walked from Temuco to Valparaiso - a journey of 23 days - to ask the government to recognize their ancestral rights and to return to them lands in southern Chile, as well as constitutional reforms to give the Mapuche more autonomy, and their own congress. Leaders of the Council of All the Lands plan to delivered their demands to President Eduardo Frei on Wetripantu, the Mapuche new year. (Agence France Presse 6/21/99)
Jul 30 - Aug 2, 1999 Suspected Mapuche activists attacked Mininco installations in three separate incidents. First, two Mininco trucks were attacked by 70 masked stick-wielding and stone-throwing protesters. Later, a mob of 50 people throwing Molotov cocktails and firing guns attacked the company’s offices, destroying two wooden buildings and a warehouse in Collipulli. Finally, a group burned two diggers from the same company. The Mapuche were scheduled to discuss the ongoing land dispute with officials in Santiago on the fourth of August. (Agence France Presse 8/2/99)
Oct 12, 1999 The Chilean government cancelled plans for its annual Hispanic Heritage Day (in honor of the landing of Christopher Columbus), after twenty-five indigenous marchers and people protesting against Pinochet’s trial in Spain were arrested. (Agence France Presse 10/12/99)
Apr 30, 2000 Chilean President Ricardo Lagos announced 16 measures for the welfare of indigenous Indian communities, including a development program allotting 50, 000 hectares of land to the Mapuche Indians by December 2001. Under the measures, 10,000 Mapuche families would be granted $192 U.S. to buy seeds and other agricultural products while the government supported the development of the land plots. The measures provided for bilingual education among the indigenous people, establishment of 10 family health centers, as well as construction of roads, ports and irrigation systems in the areas inhabited by the Mapuche Indians. Indigenous people also won the right to be consulted about development projects to be constructed on their lands. (Xinhua News Service 6/1/00 and British Broadcasting Corporation 6/2/00)
Jun 4, 2000 While on a speaking tour in Spain, Mapuche Indian leader Aucan Huilcaman, stated that the Mapuche community had no option but to start an armed rebellion to defend its rights. (British Broadcasting Corporation 6/7/00)
Nov 4, 2004 Seven Mapuche defendants were acquitted of terrorism charges by a court in southern Chile just days after a Human Rights Watch Report was released that criticized the use of Pinochet-enacted anti-terrorism laws to prosecute indigenous peoples over land conflicts. (Latinnews Daily, 11/05/2004, "Chile: Mapuche protestors acquitted")
Nov 29 - Dec 2, 2004 Indigenous militants representing Canada, Chile, the US, French Guyana and Mexico participated in a hunger strike to demand recognition of indigenous rights. (Agence France Presse, 12/02/2004, "Hunger strike by indigenous militants ends at UN's Swiss HQ")
Sep 12 - 15, 2005 Aucan Huilcaman, spokesman for the All Lands Council, submitted his candidacy for president of Chile but had his application rejected three days later on the grounds that he did not secure enough notarized signatures to run as an independent candidate. (IPS-Inter Press Service, 09/23/2005, "Chile: Indigenous Leader Fights Hurdles to Run for President")


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Information current as of July 16, 2010