25 november 2006
Chilean Tribe Sues Microsoft
Mapuches upset over unauthorized language software
Marcelo Mackinnon (pelarco)

During an interview given by Aucan Huilcaman to AtinaChile on Aug. 12, 2005, the leader of the Mapuche nation announced that he would sue Microsoft Corporation on behalf of his people since the software company planned to release a version of its "Windows XP" operating system in "Mapundungun" (the native language) without their authorization.

"We sent a letter to Bill Gates expressing our concern about this situation since we believe it is an act of intellectual piracy. We are the natural heirs of the Mapuche language and it is up to us to decide what we do with it. The Chilean government and Microsoft did not ask for our opinion on how to implement the Windows version, they just went ahead and did it," said Huilcaman.

The elders of the Mapuche Nation carried out a ceremony called "Kimkeche Nutramkan" (gathering of Wise Men and Custodians of the Mapuche Culture) after which they agreed on sending the letter to Bill Gates that included the following paragraphs:

"Mapundungun is a fundamental part of our culture and it is our right as an indigenous nation to preserve and develop our cultural heritage... Your decision to implement Windows in Mapundungun may be a good contribution to its technical-linguistic development, but the way it has been done has shown a total disrespect and lack of consultation with the Mapuche Nation."

Since there was no reply from Bill Gates, Aucan Huilcaman presented several legal actions at the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights in Washington D.C and also in the Chilean Courts of Justice.

"I am not against Internet, I am only defending our Nation's rights and culture. It is the speakers of Mapundungun that should decide whether our language is used in the Web or not." said Huilcaman.

On Nov. 23, 2006 the Appeals Court in the city of Temuco, the heartland of the Mapuche territory, declared the "Protection Order" admissible, and so the judges will study the case against Microsoft Windows XP and the Chilean Ministry of Education, which signed an agreement in October 2006 to launch the operating system in the Mapuche language.

The Mapuche are a native ethnic group that inhabit the south of Chile and Argentina. It is estimated that nearly 400,000 people speak Mapundungun at present. The Mapuches are an extremely warlike people that first resisted domination by the Inca Empire and later by the Spaniards. During the past five years there have been many armed clashes between Mapuches and Chilean police over ownership of large areas of land claimed by the natives.