Mapuche Foundation - FOLIL
Groningen, The Netherlands
Mapuche Foundation FOLIL (Folil means “ roots”) was founded in the Netherlands
on March 17th 2000. The founders of FOLIL are mainly Mapuches who left Chile
in the Pinochet era. In the Netherlands we continue to support the Mapuche
people in Chile. The main objective of FOLIL is to give information about
the Mapuche people. FOLIL organises exhibitions and lectures. Also initiatives
of Mapuche organizations or organizations who are involved with Mapuche
issues are supported.
The Mapuche people are the largest ethnic group in Chile and constitute
approximately 10% (more than 1.000.000 people) of the Chilean population.
Half of them live in the south of Chile from the river Bío Bío until the
Chiloé Island. The other half is found in and around the capital, Santiago.
There are also around 300.000 Mapuches living in Argentina. The Mapuche
people call themselves differently according to where they live, for example
the Huilliche, people from the south, the Lafkenche, people from the west
or the Nagche, people of the valley. Pehuenches, people of the pehuen tree
(auracaria) area, is one part of the Mapuche people, who live in the Andes
and alongside the Bío Bío River.
Today the situation of the Mapuches in Chile is still vulnerable. Chile
is a strongly pronounced class society where the Mapuches belong to the
lowest class. All through history, the State and the Church have carried
on strategies to assimilate the Mapuches into the Chilean society. During
the Pinochet era, all Mapuche land was privatised and to a large extent
sold out to wealthy landlords and foreigners. Pinochet also introduced new
laws, which declared that there were "no indigenous people in Chile, only
Chileans". The loss of a large quantity of their land resulted in migration
to the big cities. Mapuches who move to the cities soon forget their culture
in order to be able to get a place in the society. They face difficulties
in getting jobs, education and are less paid than their Chilean colleagues.
It is not an uncommon phenomenon to change a Mapuche name into a Chilean,
and avoid passing on Mapudungun to the children, in order to get a chance
to climb the social ladder.
The last years’ governments in Chile have taken another standpoint towards
the indigenous people. In 1993 the Indigenous Act, Ley Indígena (no 19.253),
was introduced, which will provide protection, promotion and development
of the indigenous groups in Chile. With this law the indigenous cannot be
forced to move from their land. If the Government or a company wants to
move indigenous from one place to another, they have to offer a piece of
equal land. This is called the permuta. If the owner does not accept the
permuta, no transfer can take place. According to the law, if only one single
person does not agree, there cannot be an agreement.
Besides establishing the Indigenous Act, CONADI (Corporación Nacional de
Desarollo Indígena) was formed. It is a state authority, with both Chilean
and indigenous representatives, which task is to control that the cultural
development of indigenous people is protected, provided and respected. Its
duty is also to conserve Mapuche land, so that it is being used in a proper
way, that will say maintain an ecological balance. For the first time in
Chile’s history, it is officially accepted that Chile is a multiethnic society.
At the same time however, Chile has a high pressure to develop fast according
to the neo-liberal model. Large-scale development projects, which were initiated
during the Pinochet era, go on today. There are roads being built through
Mapuche areas, the forest is being felled in at fast speed and big power
plants are being constructed in the rivers. When it comes to these large-scale
projects the Mapuches still feel infringed on their historical and cultural