February 05, 2007
Mapuche reconvene historic parliament
by: Lisa Garrigues / Today correspondent
Photo by Lisa Garrigues -- Cecilia Yaupe and Helia Carilao posed with the
Lafkenche Mapuche flag recently in Bolivia. The Lafkenche, who live along
the coast of Chile, were represented at the historic Mapuche Parliament of
Koz Koz, which drew almost 4,000 people.
PANGUIPULLI, Chile - One hundred years.
That's how long it's been since the call of the traditional Mapuche
instrument, the kull kull, has rung out in the Chilean valley of Koz Koz
to announce the beginning of a Mapuche parliament.
This year's parliament, which brought together almost 4,000 members of the
Mapuche Nation from Chile and Argentina, was held in the valley of Koz Koz
from Jan. 14 - 18. It commemorated the parliament of 1907, when Mapuche
longkos, or chiefs, came together for the last time after the Chilean
government invaded and took over their territory.
The objective of this year's event was ''to call upon our individual and
collective force, our connection with earth and territory, and from this
relationship to confront the work that we have to do as a people in the
sociopolitical environment,'' organizers said.
Participants were asked before the gathering ''to put aside petty
differences and come with an open heart and mind.''
The idea for the commemorative meeting occurred simultaneously in several
different Mapuche communities. The fall publication of an account of the
1907 parliament generated further momentum.
Participants began to arrive at the event on the afternoon of Jan. 14,
some sharing family stories that had been passed down to them about the
original 1907 parliament. They then met for four days of ceremony, discussion and planning.
Issues discussed included the recuperation of Mapuche territory and the
development of a plurinational state in Chile; the revitalization of
Mapuche social structure, education and traditional medical knowledge;
official state recognition of the Mapuche language, Mapuzungun; and the
creation of a Mapuche bank.
Participants also called for the release of Mapuche political prisoners
and a halt to the construction of megaprojects in Mapuche territory, which
currently include an airport, hydroelectric centers and multinational
logging and oil projects.
Last year, four Mapuche prisoners who are serving 10 years for allegedly
setting fire to a landed estate went on a hunger strike to call
international attention to their situation.
Other Mapuche have been jailed for protecting their land against oil and
logging companies, and several Mapuche families have been evicted from
their homes by the clothing company Benetton, which owns land in
Amnesty International recently investigated Mapuche complaints of human rights abuses by Chilean police.
The Mapuche people, the third-largest indigenous nation in South America, currently number around 1.5 million in Chile, roughly 10 percent of the
population, and 200,000 in Argentina.
They successfully fought off Incan attempts to incorporate them into their
empire, and defended their land against the Chilean and Argentine
governments until the late 1800s.
Currently, the Mapuche are pressuring the Chilean government to ratify
U.N. indigenous people's convention 169, as well as to rewrite the
constitution to give the Mapuche more autonomy.
Organizers said ''a strong spiritual sense'' infused the commemorative
''For the Mapuche people, our religious orientation is intimately linked
to our organizational activities for our lives as a nation/people.''
At the end of the event, a summary of the parliament was read out loud by
Olga Curipan, great-granddaughter of the Longko who convoked the original
The ramadas, or temporary shelters made of branches, were left up for the
next parliament, which organizer Jorge Weke said would take place in
another two years.
Weke said the event was a success.
''This was an historic moment, an important event to bring us together as
a people,'' he said.