Mapuche people in Chile demand land and self-determination

More and more people are asserting their Mapuche identity as the Chilean government struggles to address a century of land theft and discrimination.

Nearly 10 percent of the population in Chile claims Mapuche ancestry. Most live in the southern part of the country, which was originally reserved by treaty as tribal territory.

But European settlers started taking the land in the late 1800s, forcing Mapuche to work as laborers. The new governor of the region was among those whose family was the victim of theft.

“When my grandfather was born, we had 1,200 acres,” Francisco Huenchumilla told The Washington Post. “I have two.”

In one of his first actions, Huenchumilla issued an apology to the Mapuche on behalf of the government. He said President Michelle Bachelet is committed to a new era in tribal relations.

But some activists think the country is moving too slow. Some are taking land by force and others are fighting the paper industry, known for its heavy use of water.

“I have a Chilean identity card, sure. But we are inside this country against our will,” Mapuche activist Jose Quipal told the paper. “We want autonomy and self-determination.”

Get the Story:
Land-reclamation campaign by indigenous Mapuches scorches southern Chile (The Washington Post 6/9)

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