World Rainforest Movement

Mapuche conflict in Chile: The need for dialogue to address historic demands

Since 1881, the Chilean state has attempted to “Chileanize” the Mapuche indigenous people, maintaining them in a state of permanent colonialism. The Mapuche people have responded with a long, hard-fought struggle of resistance and defence of their self-determination, as well as demanding the return of their ancestral lands which are currently under the control of large landholders and tree plantation companies.

In the early morning hours of January 4, the already tense situation was exacerbated by a tragic event: landowner and farmer Werner Luchsinger and his wife Vivianne Mackay were killed in an arson attack on their home. They lived in an area considered a hotspot of the conflict, where the anniversary of the death of Mapuche student Matías Catrileo on January 3, 2008 is commemorated annually.

The couple’s death sparked widespread condemnation, and an investigation is underway. Mapuche organizations in general also spoke out against the attack, and the Arauco Malleco Coordinating Committee (CAM), considered the most militant Mapuche organization, denied any links with the incident.

In spite of this, the government called for the application of the Anti-Terrorism Law and even explored the possibility of imposing a state of emergency. Faced with this situation, 11 Mapuche organizations from the Araucanía region decided to convene an Indigenous Summit at Cerro Ñielol de Temuco, and invited the Chilean president, members of parliament, political parties, presidential candidates and civil society organizations to attend.

The participants in the summit called for effective constitutional recognition of the collective and political rights of indigenous peoples and the establishment of concrete mechanisms for Mapuche self-determination and self-government. The summit also opened the way for dialogue around the historical demands of the country’s indigenous peoples, urging the government to acknowledge the injustices committed against them and to grant the corresponding reparations.

Mapuche representative Natividad Llanquileo spoke in an interview about the problems caused for Chile’s indigenous peoples by multinational corporations, and their complex relationship with the government in the struggle for their lands. The full text of the interview is available at: