Confusion or historical revisionism?

The history of the Mapuche is written by their adversaries

By Reynaldo Mariqueo – 7 January 2010

Over the last few months various groups and their representatives, along with individuals of racist tendencies and Argentinian nationalists, (some of whom have personal economic interests in the ancestral territory of the Mapuche nation), have stepped up their campaign to deny the historical inhabitants of Puelmapu their ancestral territorial rights through manipulating historical facts to their advantage. They sustain their arguments using pseudo historical theories drawn from colonial ideologies and based on assumptions of racial superiority.

However, there is one point I believe the Mapuche and these historical revisionists can agree on – that is when, following their ‘investigations’, they announce that the Mapuche do not originate either in Chile or Argentina, as if it were some incredible discovery. For us this is self-evident and should not come as a surprise to anybody, due to the fact that when the new republics of Chile and Argentina were founded, the original inhabitants of America’s southern cone already had a name with which they could all identify, and an ancestral territory dating back millennia – that territory was recognised independent on January 6th, 1641 by an international treaty formalised in Killen between the Mapuche nation and the Spanish crown.

What we definitely would not agree with, however, when examining the arguments of this particular Winka (3) current of opinion, is the notion that the Mapuche of Puelmapu or Gulumapu (4) (Araucanía and Patagonia) – as Wallmapu (5) was previously known – are not the original inhabitants of those territories. The assumptions of these historians seem to be entirely based on the stories of Creole spokespersons who promoted the occupation of the territory of the Mapuche nation and later justified the genocide of its population. It is possible that in the minds of these individuals there is also a dose of ignorance, some selective amnesia or that their ideas form part of a strategic economic collusion of a colonialist nature, because, as is public knowledge, the Mapuche territory was never part of the Captaincy General of Chile nor the Viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata. This is why the territorial rights inherited from Spain which both republics refer to, that is, the uti possidetis (as you may have, you can continue to possess) are not applicable to the territory of the Mapuche nation.

In other words, the argumentation of those Winkas who put into question whether the Mapuche are from Argentina or Chile is irrelevant because said territory is neither Argentine nor Chilean. Likewise, the border that the new republics erected in the Mapuche territory never existed between the Mapuche and we therefore do not recognize it as valid, because this border is illegal and because, in addition to having been arbitrarily imposed, it divides the Mapuche family.

Map published around 1830. This map illustrates that neither Argentina nor Chile had jurisdiction in the Mapuche territory because the Mapuche territory was neither part of the Captaincy General of Chile nor the Viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata.

When it comes to territorial delimitation, the only existing border at the time of the declaration of independence of the republics of Chile and Argentina in 1810 was the dividing line established in the aforementioned 1641 treaty of Killen. The border ran between those territories that Spain administered and maintained under de facto (in practice) jurisdiction and the territories that the Mapuche people possessed by natural and historical right or de jure (according to law); In other words, Spain did not have jurisdiction over Araucanía and Patagonia, neither in fact nor in law, and it was in this specific and clear context that the Mapuche and Spain signed the aforementioned treaty of 1641. Maps of the American continent drawn up by independent cartographers of European countries reflected that geographical reality (see map). They show convincingly that to the south of the dividing line, that ran from the Gulumapu south of the Bío-Bío by the Pacific to the Puelmapu south of the Colorado river by the Atlantic were Mapuche and/or Reche (6) (all people) territories, located in the extreme south of the continent. Whilst these communities had some regional characteristics of their own, they were, in general terms, indivisible among themselves as they were united by shared cultural values, including the use of Mapuzugun (7) as an overarching linguistic medium, with the natural regional idioms, as they are typical of politically organized nations anywhere in the world.

This is how the Mapuche national identity was forged

Mapuche nationality was promoted, not through oaths to the flag or tributes to the liberators and fathers of the country, and even less through civic indoctrination, approaches which incite the chauvinism and patriotism so typical of the new republics; Mapuche nationality was the result of the interaction and interdependence of the various communities, which for centuries had been forging a solid national identity, held together by a common language, spirituality, customs, the az-mapu (8) , az-mogen (9) and the ixofilmogen (10) which are principles and codes of conduct supporting the harmonious coexistence of individuals and their responsibility towards their community and nature. On the other hand, the military aggressions they had to face jointly and for centuries, by the Inka and Spanish empires, created unity and feelings of solidarity between the lof (11) (communities) of different regions. The invasions by foreign powers endowed them with the necessary ingredient of cohesion and so allowed them to fight effectively for their survival, in defense of their territory and freedom.

The patriotism of the Mapuche, that arose from that national identity and continues to this day, was the result of a long process which convinced them that they were a people rooted in a territory that was originally called the mapu (12) or rehue (13) (altar) and later known as Araucanía and Patagonia, today Wallmapu. The naming of the Mapuche territory as rehue captured the affection of the common Mapuche for their territory, because this name allowed them to identify it as a sacred heritage that had to be respected and which they would even defend with their lives, since the rehue, in the Mapuche culture, has the same symbolic value as an altar in western Christian culture.

The attachment of the Mapuche to their territory combines with their commitment to principles and values raised for centuries, such as freedom, the right to govern and manage their own affairs, the defence of their sovereign rights and opposition to tyranny, slavery and foreign interference; the combination of all these components shaped the Mapuche national identity, which today is under attack. This is why it is necessary to revitalize our national identity, through acts of celebration of our commemorative dates and national holidays. Our battle cries reveal that general feeling of the Mapuche: Marrichiweu! (ten times will shall win!); Mapu ñi Mapuche! (the land of the people belongs to the people of the land!).

All the Reche (Mapuche) are held together by iron cohesion, and have their respective communities, located in various regions, whose names describe the geographical location and the characteristic toponymy of the place. The inhabitants of these communities are known as: Williche, Lafkenche, Pewenche, Tehuelche, Pikunche, Wenteche, Puelche, Nagche, Mamulche, Ranquelche, etc, and together formed the totality of the Mapuche, or Aucas or Araucanians, as the Incas and Spaniards called them. The combined communities and regions constituted a uniform people with its own characteristics and an organizational structure at local, regional and national level. Its social organization starts from the very base, that is, from the lof under the command of a Lonko (14) (chief) and other authorities of the community.

As is publicly known, the republics of Argentina and Chile, in contravention of the international treaties signed with the Crown of Spain, and despite the fact that for more than half a century they had admitted the existence of the border with the Mapuche nation and therefore its validity, proceeded between 1860 to 1885 to invade the Mapuche territory, using their superiority in arms in a war not declared by the Creole governments, nor caused by the Mapuche. The “Pacification of Araucanía” and the “Desert Campaigns” were genocidal military operations aimed at exterminating the Mapuche as a people. The British arbitration of 1902 granted the aggressors the “legitimacy” of the trophy, by establishing the border and simultaneously “officially” creating the republics of Argentina and Chile whilst dividing the Mapuche territory. The division of the Wallmapu denied the Mapuche the right to move and settle freely within their territory, as they had done for hundreds and perhaps thousands of years.

The Mapuche are ‘invaders’ – foreigners to Argentina and Chile

The promoters of hatred, who try to convince Argentine public opinion that the Mapuche are invaders of Chile, base their arguments on the myth created by the current of opinion that follows the pseudo-historians I mentioned above, those who in practice fulfill the role of political agitators of a neo-Nazi ideological inclination. A second current of opinion of Winka historians seems to be focused on building a new national identity by over-emphasising patriotism and, without doubt, the promotion of a ‘national identity’ that includes the celebration of “Día de la Raza” – “Day of the (white) Race” to foster a Creole culture that is indistinguishable from the European. This intellectual leaning is in contradiction with another current of opinion of historians who promote a conciliatory vision, stating that Creoles and indigenous people have a common history and a united future to build, that the country is racially homogeneous, free from discrimination, etc. However, all these views are aimed at ignoring the territorial rights and destroying the cultural identity of the Mapuche people and other indigenous peoples of the Southern Cone through the assimilation process, which in the past was called civilization or Christianization, and today is hidden under the cover of integration, progress and modernization.

Reality shows us that there are two cultures, each with their own different historical development: One centred round the Mapuche people with their pre-Hispanic cultural roots and the other centred round the Creole people who copied their culture from Europe. The celebrations of these two cultures or the commemorations of their heroes and historical events have nothing in common, creating by definition irreconcilable antagonisms because many of the Creole heroes such as Trizano, Saavedra or Roca are considered genocidal by the Mapuche and the Creole flags are seen as symbols of oppression.

Perhaps the accounts of the contemporary “historians”, Sergio Villalobos from Chile and Rodolfo Casamiquela from Argentina, are the best examples of that particular current of thought. They illustrate the contemporary colonialist mentality, because, I believe, they faithfully display the mentality of the dominator. Presumably this is the reason why their theories or ‘academic works’ are awarded by the ‘establishment’ and also officially transmitted by educational institutions which contribute substantially to the ingredients used to aid the transculturation of indigenous peoples. This is the reason why they can unashamedly sustain their absurd theories, in the knowledge that they are positively interpreting the policy outlined by the establishment, whilst at the same time confirming the folkloric vision that has been created around the historical facts of indigenous peoples. They do not worry about violating professional ethics as they launch theories into the world that maintain that the Mapuche are foreigners in their own land or even deny their very existence, because they know that their theories will not be questioned, because they can count on the pernicious silence of the intelligentsia of those countries who are indifferent to aberration.

Villalobos’ affirmation that “the Mapuche are inferior and that they deserve to be dominated” (a), raises the Nazi theory of pure race and racial segregation as a formula to preserve the rights and identity of a people, implying that, because of the genetic mix, the Mapuche (who he insists on calling “Araucanians“) no longer exist; he therefore argues that “the Chilean State does not maintain a historical debt” with non-existent people. Casamiquela, for his part, stated that the Mapuche had no right to claim territory in Argentina because they were Chileans and he was enraged with all those Mapuches who, according to his theory, should call themselves Tehuelche. In statements to the press, he shouted: “If they define themselves as Mapuche, they are Chileans and if they are Chileans, they have no right to Argentine land” (b). Casamiquela defended his theory with gratuitous insults of the Mapuche and Tehuelche, pointing out that they had no “analytical capacity” and that they possessed a “particular incapacity […] for abstractions and generalizations”. These comments aroused (with good reason) the anger of the Mapuche of Puelmapu who treated him as a racist. His response is revealing: “They tell me that I am a racist; if being racist means saying that the Mapuche come from Chile, then I am a racist.”(c)

As mentioned earlier, these arguments are, of course, used by racist elements, in particular from Argentina, to spread anti-Mapuche sentiments. Using media sympathetic to their ideology of hatred, they claim that the “Araucanians” invaded the “Argentine territory”, exterminated or araucanized the Eoniken or Tehuelche, who they call “indigenous Argentines”, whilst, for its part, the Chilean Sovereignty Defence Corporation claims that the Mapuche came from the Argentine side and “displaced the local tribes of Chincha-Chileno (15) origin” *(Translator’s Note: in what is now Chile). According to the Argentine version, the Araucanian attack is supposed to have occurred upon the Spanish arrival and settlement in 1541 in what is now northern Chile. The Chilean entity, on the other hand, claims that the Mapuche invaded “Chilean territory” one or two centuries before the arrival of the Spanish. Perhaps it is worth mentioning that in both historical periods the republics of Chile and Argentina did not exist, therefore the Spanish could not have had territory, that is to say in both cases they could not have invoked possession of territories of countries centuries before they were founded.

What is unusual about these theories is the fact that both supposed Mapuche offensives, against the aforementioned indigenous peoples, would have occurred in the midst of the expansion of the Incan Empire, the aim of which was, as we know, to conquer the Wallmapu. The Mapuche put up fierce resistance against this, and, as far as the Argentine version of the supposed extermination of the “indigenous Argentines” is concerned this would have happened during the so-called “Araucanian War” waged by the Spanish Empire (1541-1803) against the Mapuche people.

The Argentinean Winka’s version lacks credibility because it creates scientifically false episodes without any tangible basis: As we know, the Spanish war of aggression started immediately after the arrival of the Spanish in the Mapuche territory and, despite temporary periods of peace, kept our people in a state of permanent war. Winka historians define the Mapuche civilisation as backward, primitive, basic and its inhabitants as savages, barbarians and uncivilised, but then they transform them into super humans who were not only supposed to have sustained victorious wars, in different periods, against two of the most powerful empires of their time, the Inca and the Spanish, but were also supposed to have had the luxury of being able to open a second military front, allowing them to simultaneously sustain a war of extermination and one of cultural assimilation, against other indigenous peoples.

The Mapuche must be demonised to make the public accept these negative views

The publicity blitz by these minority groups, aimed at demonising the Mapuche, seems to have the support, or at least the approval, of local government authorities. The Mapuche are presented as aggressors and expansionists, as bad or worse than the Spanish, only more effective, since, if we accept their version of history we will see that at present there are no traces of the existence of the peoples “conquered” by the Aucas or Araucanos as the Inka and Spaniards called the Mapuche (in the past). It should be noted that the peoples who the Mapuche are accused of having subdued do not exist; the Chincha-Chilenos and Aokena are not known to anyone except that they appear in the historiography of dubious Winka historians.

It can be assumed that the term Aokena (16) was invented by some Winka (foreign) chroniclers to name the Tehuelche, with the intention of creating the notion of the existence of peoples different from the Mapuche, thus serving the same purpose as the names used by the Spaniards or Inkas to name the Mapuche. This conclusion does not seem so absurd if we consider that the term ‘Tehuelche’ is a Mapuche word, as are the names of the places, the mountains, the rivers and the flora and fauna of the territory that the ‘Aokena’ supposedly inhabited. We must not forget that 30 years ago we were taught in schools that the Williche, Wenteche and Pewenche (among others) were different from the Mapuche and that they supposedly had little or nothing in common with them. *(Translator’s Note: In reality all three are Mapuche)

The other objective of these pseudo-historians is to emphasise negative episodes, that have not been corroborated by independent sources, to give the Mapuche a bad name: The supposed inter-tribal wars, the action of the ‘Indian friends’ * (Translator’s Note: Term used by non-Mapuche historians to describe Mapuche who were friendly with the Spanish/Chileans/Argentinians- but not always by choice), the ‘collaborators’ and the Yanakonas (17) (indigenous traitors) all serve as very useful arguments against the Mapuche in order to tarnish their image and create non-existent regional resentments amongst them, in other words, to ‘divide and rule’ and thus facilitate dispossession and oppression.

It is significant that the Chilean and Argentinean states, which for 150 years have implemented all kinds of policies against the Mapuche, including the use of extermination methods, have so far neither been able to Chileanise nor to Argentineanise the Mapuche. The military invasions known as: “Pacification of Araucania” and “Desert Campaigns” led by General Roca and Colonel Saavedra, did not succeed in completely exterminating the Mapuche. Today those who survived the holocaust of that genocidal war are fighting more vigorously than ever for their rights as a people and for the recovery of their territory. The strategy of cultural assimilation that has been used for more than a century and that includes the imposition of cultural values from the oppressive society and the distortion of historical facts, has also failed, because the Mapuche today, as in the past, proudly reaffirm their cultural identity.

The alarmist propaganda that equates the recognition of the rights of the indigenous peoples with the disintegration of Argentina as a national state only temporarily succeeds in deceiving some gullible people. However, behind this conjecture lies something much more sinister, which can be no other than an attempt to dissuade Creole and international support for the just claims of the Mapuche communities, thus giving its supporters licence to continue violating human rights and dispossessing the Mapuche of their ancestral lands with impunity.

This anti-Mapuche propaganda is also echoed in the courts of justice in Argentina, which are always very keen to protect the interests of the large landowners and powerful economic consortiums. The fact that today they are considering as valid Rodolfo Casamiquela’s discredited and unscientific theory about the supposed ‘Chileanness’ of the origin of the Mapuche of the Puelmapu, is proof of the effects of this campaign, which seeks to justify the passing of negative verdicts against indigenous communities who are demanding the restitution of their territories.

The speed with which the Argentine courts come down in favour of Casamiquela’s arguments, treating these as if they were a serious theory of law, despite the fact that history and anthropological science have dismissed them, shows that these courts are ready to transgress national and international laws related to the rights of indigenous peoples, and is, therefore, evidence of the mediocre performance of Argentine justice, which may well be interpreted as complicit and corrupt conduct, where independence and impartiality are conspicuous by their absence. The effects of this campaign of historical distortion have to be faced today by the communities of Lagunita Salada, Gorro Frigio and Cerro Bayo de Chubut (to name just a few), whose land restitution disputes went as far as the Supreme Court of Justice. The main argument used against these communities seems to be the theory of the “Chileanness” of the Mapuche, despite the existence in the area of a cemetery of the Mapuche community’s ancestors that dates back hundreds of years.

These and other historians seem to be unaware of the universally recognised principles compiled in a series of international instruments of the United Nations, such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the ILO Convention 169 on indigenous peoples, the right to choose one’s nationality or the basic right to self-identification. Nor do they attach importance to the principles which state that “All individuals and groups have the right to be different, to consider themselves as different and be considered as such by others”(d), or the right of all peoples to self-determination.

For these historians, the commitments taken on by Argentina and Chile at the level of international law have no place in their theories. An example of such a commitment would be the following article that appears in of the above mentioned instruments: “The States Parties to the present Covenant, including those having responsibility for the administration of Non-Self-Governing and Trust Territories, shall promote the realization of the right of self-determination, and shall respect that right, in conformity with the provisions of the Charter of the United Nations. (e)

However, we are confident that sooner or later truth and decency will prevail in both republics and, in particular, we hope that the Argentine government will adapt its indigenous policy to international standards by implementing appropriate legal measures to punish those who promote racism and intolerance.

The pseudo-historians, are embarking on a revision of history to destroy every trace of the historical presence of our plundered people, of their traditional authorities, of their social organization, to erase their collective memory of their battles, their heroes and heroines and their commemorative dates. They deliberately ignore that the Mapuche were an independent and sovereign nation, that they exercised their self-determination for a period longer than the existence of the republics of Argentina and Chile which are getting ready to celebrate their bi-centenary this year; they try to ignore the existence of the border that divided the Mapuche nation from the territories administered by Spain and later the new republics.

The official history only touches upon or simply avoids by omission the details of how tens of thousands of Weychafe (18) and Kona (19) (soldiers and their helpers) lost their lives in hundreds of battles in defence of their nation. Little is reported about the devastation, the massacres of the civilian population, the slavery, the rapes, the abductions of children or the scorn and humiliation faced during centuries of foreign aggression. This genocidal policy is still being applied today, using other pretexts and methods, but with only one objective: To make us disappear as a people. These revisors of history do not believe in historical reconciliation, reparation or justice, nor in building a multicultural and multilingual country, but merely in their petty economic advantages and their racist and xenophobic theories that sow hatred against the indigenous people.

They also forget to mention that it was the unity of the Mapuche people which enabled the latter to develop various strategies to successfully confront the invaders for centuries, to negotiate peace, establish borders, sign international treaties (more than thirty), appoint ambassadors and, in 1860, create a hereditary, constitutional and parliamentary monarchy with a view to achieving international recognition of their independence. Government spokespersons avoid valuing the legal importance of these agreements and instruments bequeathed to us by our distinguished and wise political authorities; they are legal weapons of great caliber that we, the Mapuche, have at our disposal as they are of international importance and recognised within the norms of international law. Sooner or later the Mapuche people must use these instruments in their defence.

On the other hand, these pseudo-historians aim to convince the Mapuche that all the inhabitants of the country are citizens with the same rights and equal before the law, but daily practice indicates that the opposite is true: They are ‘citizens’ but… of the lowest category. The degrading treatment of our people has led to a situation where nowadays many Mapuche renounce their nationality and make it known in the United Nations conferences that they wish to travel with their own Mapuche passport, since they do not want to travel with a passport of an oppressive state. The simple reason is that we Mapuche find it totally counterproductive that the Creoles force us to adopt the nationality of their states, as these very states are responsible for the genocide of our population, and today’s Creoles arrange the theft of our lands and resources, and ensure that we are impoverished, discriminated against and repressed.

It is therefore morally unacceptable that they claim the right (which they clearly do not have) to treat the Mapuche people with such disregard by using a discredited rule of law and the forces of their arms. From the very moment that the inhabitants of Wallmapu reaffirm their nationality by publicly identifying themselves, continuously and everywhere, as Mapuche, this is a clear demonstration that we have never renounced our own nationality nor have the slightest intention of doing so. Similarly, this also shows that we have never renounced our territorial rights, nor our autonomy and self-determination which is now recognised in international law.


a) Leslie Ray (2007). Language of the Land. The Mapuche in Argentina and Chile. Copenhagen. International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs, Document No. 119. p. 231

b) Source: El Chubut Newspaper / Azkintuwe Noticias – http://

c) As above.

d) International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (Part I, Article 1.3)

e) Ibid.

Mapuche words used:

  1. puelmapu = Mapuche territory between the Andes and the Atlantic Ocean in the extreme south
  2. killen = name of the place where the treaty was concluded
  3. winka = white person, foreigner
  4. gulumapu = Mapuche territory between the Andes and the Pacific Ocean in the extreme south
  5. wallmapu = name of the ancestral territory of the Mapuche nation
  6. reche = all people, only people
  7. = language of the land, Mapuche language
  8. ad-mapu or az-mapu = set of principles and rules that govern Mapuche society
  9. az-mogen = principles or norms related to looking after the environment
  10. ixofilmogen = rules governing the coexistence of the Mapuche with living beings and nature
  11. lof = community
  12. mapu = the land
  13. rehue = altar
  14. lonko = political authority
  15. chincha-chileno = name invented by Chilean historians to refer to the Mapuche
  16. aokena = name invented by Argentine historians to refer to the Mapuche-Tehuelche.
  17. yanakonas = servile indians, traitors
  18. weychafe = military or warrior
  19. kona = army helpers

Translated from the Spanish by Barbara Chambers