Mapuche reconvene historic parliament
by Lisa Garrigues
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 Argentina.
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 parliament.
”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 1907 parliament.
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.
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