Mapuches: People of the Land

Publisher:  Inter Church Committee on Human Rights in Latin America, Toronto, Canada
Year Published:  1980
Pages:  66pp   Resource Type:  Article
Cx Number:  CX2077

This report is the result of a North American fact-finding missions sent to Chile by the Inter-Church Committee on Human Rights in Latin America (ICCURLA) to examine the impact that the newly-passed Indian Law will have upon the Mapuche Indians. On March 22, 1979, the military junta under General Augusto Pinochet issued Drecree Law 2568, replacing Indian Law 17.729, ratified in 1972. The new law outlines major changes regarding the Chilean state's policies and objectives vis a vis the country's indigenous minorities. In particular, the law stipulates the conditions under which the division of Mapuche reserve land may occur. Under the new law, only one "occupant" need request the division of the land, and there is no effective appeal procedure if others on the reserve do not concent to this division.

Controversy over the new law quickly arose because the Mapuches believe it promotes the division of their reserve land into small, economically non-viable landholdings. They will also lose their Indian status when the reserves are divided. Mapuche leaders were never consulted in the formulation of the law, despite their overtures to the government requesting this. These leaders immediately protested that the law rang the death knell of he Mapuche people.

The new law comes as a harsh blow to an already impoverished and weakend people, the report indicates. For years the Mapuches have faced discrimination and have seen their lands illegally seized. Chilean governments have rarely recognized their right to a distinct and separate culture. However, in addition to this, the Mapuches were brutally repressed by both the military and the armed landlords at the time of the coup d'etat in September, 1973. The Mapuches predict that if the new law proceeds as it is now planned, it will only be a short period of time before they are culturally extinct.

The report concludes with documentation about the law and the actual text of the law. Also included are recommendations regarding therecognition and respect of the Mapuche people and suggestions for follow-up investigation of the law and its impact.

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