The Mapuche are the "people of the land", Mapu means land and che means people. They are also known as Araucanos, a name given to them by the Spanish colonialists. Before the "huincas" (Spanish) arrived in 1541, the Mapuche who numbered one and half to two million were the original inhabitants of the Southern Cone of the continent in a region which today covers half of Chile and half of Argentina. The Mapuche nation comprised of both sedentary and nomadic communities: hunters and gatherers, shepherds, farmers and fishermen. They lived in small family groups known as lof, which were under the authority of a Lonko (chief).

The Mapuche territory had its border with the Inca Empire south of the Maule river. This border was established after a long war and the failure of the Inca to conquer the Mapuche nation by the use of force. The Mapuche territory is divided into four main regions or wallmapu. These are known as: Puelmapu (land of the east), Pikunmapu (land of the north), Lafquenmapu (land of the Pacific coastal region in the west) and Huillimapu (land of the south). Therefore the Mapuche of those regions are identified accordingly, such as Puelche, Pikunche, Lafquenche, Huilliche. There are, however, other areas in which the Mapuche are known by their association with a particular eco-system or natural environment, for example Pewenche (people of the monkey puzzle tree) region, Waidefche (people from the cordillera), Ranquilche (people from the apple tree region), etc. Before the colonialists arrived the Mapuche people had and still have a distintive cultural identity, social organisation, language, religion and way of life. Inhabiting such a vast area the Mapuche had developed regional cultural diversity without a centralized power, but they nevertheless had a strong sense of unity. Their clear sense of nationhood and an unquestionable desire to maintain their self-determination and freedom, forced them into armed resistance, firstly against the Inca Empire and then for over 350 years against the Spanish, Chileans and Argentinians.


The traditional Mapuche organisation has its origin in the extended family structure, known as Lof. It is shaped by their socio-cultural, political and ideological concepts, complemented by their spirituality and religious beliefs, as well as taking into account the harmonious relationship between man, land and nature.

The community’s daily way of life was regulated in a code of practice known as Ad-Mapu. It was transmitted by the Ulmen (wise) who, as well as giving advice, also acted as negotiators in the prevention and resolution of internal disputes, or the formation of alliances with other Butalmapu in times of war. Ulmen in general were chosen to ensure that the communal law was respected, and acceptable standards of behaviour of its members were maintained. To this day, community Elders are still an important authority within communities. On the other hand the Lonko or chief is the highest authority of the community. In times of war the Mapuches organized themselves in Ayllarehue (8 rehue/lonko) and in addition a Council of Lonkos comprised of representatives of all regions (Butalmapu) used to choose a Toqui who was responsible and in charge of the army.


The Mapuche are a deeply spiritual and religious society, their belief system maintained that the world was created by a celestial family, who were the creators of all beings as well as holding the power of nature.

The religious organisation, which is formed by the Machi or spiritual leaders still plays an important role in the decision making processes regarding the internal affairs of each community. There are various ranks of Machi some of whom in addition to their spirituality, also have a profound knowledge of traditional medicine and psycho-therapy, most of these being women.

The Nguillatun is the most solemn civil and military religious ceremony in the Mapuche society. This sacred ceremony is conducted in an area specially allocated by the community known as Nguillantue. The ceremony, depending on the region may last two or three days and takes place in each region every two or three years. There, at the altar or Rehue in the open air, the Mapuche of all ages give thanks to Nguinechen, the Mapuche God. The ceremony is guided throughout by the Ngenpin, the chief of the ceremony, The Machi and the Lonko also play an important role in the preparation and conducting of the event.


The language of the Mapuche is called Mapu-dugun, which means the language of the land, an oral language passed from one generation to the next. According to our ancestral beliefs the language of the Mapuche emerges from listening to the land, and all earthly elements, sounds and movements, including the animals, birds, trees, wind, rain, and even the mountain springs. It is this deep rooted communicative relationship developed between the Mapuche and the land which has brought the language into being.

In Chile as in Argentina the official language is Spanish and therefore Mapu-dugun is dying out. However, today in Chile there are a number of Mapuche organisations that are working towards the creation of a Mapuche alphabet in order to preserve and sustain the oral tradition.


In 1536, when the Spanish first set foot on Mapuche territory, they were welcomed by the Mapuche. Even when they came again in1541 with the intention of settling in our land they were well received. Only, when the real nature of their enterprise was disclosed did the Mapuche oppose them a fierce resistance which lasted for over 350 year. This war became known as "la guerra de Arauco" or "the Araucanian War".

The Spanish arrived from Cuzco, Peru, where they had their Viceroyalty, their main headquarters in South America. Pedro de Valdivia, the Captain General of the "Conquest" of Chile, set out from Peru to conquer the Mapuche land, and in February 1541 founded Santiago (Chile’s capital). The plans and objectives of the Spanish were fundamentally economic as well as ensuring that the geographical expansion of their colony was maintained. Their pretence of coexistence with their hosted nation, was soon to be exposed, when they invaded Mapuche land and began to enslave them, rape their women, pillage their communities and inflict horrendous torture and mutilation on those who resisted or tried to escape from the inhuman treatment inflicted in the mines or encomiendas. The first military action by the Mapuche took place in September 1541 when Toki Michimalongo who was in charge of the north part of the Mapuche territory liberated the Mapuche prisioners and in the process destroyed Santiago. The second encounter with the Mapuche army took place in the Quilicura locality in March 1546 when the Spaniards once against lost the battle, although some of their soldiers managed to escape back to Santiago.

In January 1550, the so called Conquistador of Chile, Pedro de Valdivia prepared a new military incursion deep into Mapuche land, during which his army built several military settlements and fortresses throughout the territory, at Tucapel, Puren, Angol, Imperial, Villarrica, Valdivia, and Osorno. By the end of 1553, however, much of this Spanish enclave had been destroyed and on New Year’s Day 1554, Valdivia and his troops were totally defeated by the Mapuche forces under the command of Toki Leftraru. Valdivia was taken prisoner, charged and sentenced according to Mapuche law. He was executed the next day by a blow on the head. The Mapuche forces, under the command of Toki Leftraru, then advanced north, towards Santiago, destroying one by one what remained of the Spanish enclave. In so doing the Spanish were expelled from Mapuche territory.

During the first century of the "Araucanian war" the Spanish tried stubbornly to conquer the Mapuche territory; unable to accept defeat from people they considered "inferior and uncivilised". Time and again they constructed new garrisons South of the Bio-Bio river into Mapuche territory, and the Mapuche responded by dispelling them from their land. In the process both the Spanish and Mapuche forces suffered considerable losses. The Mapuche lost powerful Toki (high chiefs); Leftraru was killed and Calfulican was taken prisoner, the Spanish, using their barbaric methods of execution, impaled him in the centre of the square in Cañete village. In 1598 another famous Toki called Pelantaru confronted the Governor Oñez de Loyola in Curralaba and defeated him in battle, leaving the governor dead. Pelentaru then proceeded to destroy all the latest Spanish enclave situated south of the Bio-Bio river.

During the war the Mapuche forces employed diverse military strategies and tactics which constantly surprised the invaders. The intelligence, creativity and determination of the Mapuche made it possible to defeat the, then, most powerful nation on earth. The Araucanian war has been widely documented by Spanish historians who recognize that the Spanish loss in soldiers and resources in this war was greater than losses through all other conquests throughout the Americas combined.

One hundred years after their arrival, on the 6th of January 1641 the Spanish were forced to sign a treaty in Quillin acknowledging their failure to defeat the Mapuche peope. With this treaty Spain recognised the independence of the Mapuche nation, an admission of the military capability as well as the determination of the Mapuche people not to accept defeat. It was agreed that the Bio-Bio river was the border and that the Spanish would dismantle the few remaining fortresses and retreat to the North of the river. The Mapuche on the other hand would return the Spanish prisoners of war and allow missionaries to continue with their work. Both sides agreed not to violate the settled borders. The Spanish however, did not stand by their obligations for long. They recognised the border of the Mapuche territory, but from time to time organized military incursions, to pilllage communities, kidnapping people who were sold as slaves to work in mines situated in the North of the country. Their actions maintained a permanent state of war, where the Spanish could not reconcile their demand for slaves and their agreement to keep the peace. In 1542 the Spanish formally declared Indian slavery illegal everywhere in the Americas, except in those regions where indigenous nations resisted and did not accept Spanish jurisdiction. However, a century after this declaration, slavery was still a fact of life everywhere in the Americas. The constant slave raiding in the Mapuche territory forced the Mapuche to retaliate and in 1655, once again the Mapuche forces swept through the Spanish resistance and destroyed the Spanish positions right up to the Maule river, originally the old border with the Inca Empire. The Spanish defeated and demoralised, their feelings of ‘human superiority’ chastised, realised that all they had constructed in over a century of hard work had been swept away. Furthermore, resistance to the Spanish grew overtime, as many indigenous peoples from the north of the continent, attracted by the strength of the Mapuche sought refuge in Mapuche land. The Mapuche welcomed these refugee families and gave them protection.

After the Treaty of Quillin, the Spanish promoted a number of parliaments in order to pacify the Mapuche people, as the "Araucanian War" became a military and economic burden to Spain, and therefore difficult to ignore. According to their own sources the Spanish lost, during the period 1603 to 1674, 42.000 Spanish soldiers, a similar number of indians auxiliares (*) and 37 million Pesos. As far as the Mapuche were concerned treaties became increasingly irrelevant as they were constantly violated by the Spanish. Nevertheless there were a number of well known parliaments, one of which took place in Negrete, in February 1726, and another in Lonquillmo January 1784 under Colonel Ambrosio O’Higgins. During this Parliament once again the border treaty of Quillin was ratified and an agreement made to release prisoners. It was also agreed that each side would appoint a permanent ambassador and a mutual security pact was also agreed. The last Parliament took place in Negrete in 1803 just before Chilean independence, under the administration of the governor Luis Muñoz Guzman.

These parliaments were called for and organized by the Spanish Crown usually when they suffered major losses in battle. They were designed to neutralize the Mapuche counter-offensive strategy. For the Spanish Governor in the colony such parliaments were not desirable Events Calendar to look forward to. They felt humiliated having to talk to their adversaries, especially since they knew their word was not being taken seriously by the Mapuche, who were dubious of their intentions and sceptical of Spanish honesty. These Parliaments were celebrated with grand solemnity; and serving as a symbol of their commitment to peace, the Mapuche obliged the Spanish to bury their weapons and on top of them a Canelo tree (Mapuche medicinal tree) was planted. In addition the Spanish had to invest a great deal of money, present gifts to the Mapuche, give parties and military parades. Both sides made speeches, the Mapuches who were great orators often spoke for hours during which time the word "huinca" (referring to the Spanish) was discreetly but effectively used. The Mapuche word "huinca" literally means thief.

The cost to the Spanish army during the Araucanian War was around 50.000 soldiers and an estimated 60.000 "indios auxiliares". These indians auxiliares were enlisted (sometimes by force) from others indigenous nations by the Spanish, who were driven ahead of their armies, acting as a sort of battering ram against the enemy. Many Spanish historians referred to Mapuche soil as the Spanish soldiers cemetery of The Americas.

The Mapuche losses are unknown but in addition to the losses in the battlefield they also suffered kidnapping and the Spanish brought with them diseases such as yellow fever, measles and smallpox against which the Mapuche had no defence. The effect of these diseases caused major epidemics throughout the Mapuche land, and by the beginning of the 1560’s had caused the death of hundreds of thousands of Mapuche people.

Treaties with the Argentinean……..


The Mapuche remained an independent nation long before and after the period of the Spanish conquest of the American continent, who were expelled during Latin America’s independence movement in the early Nineteenth century. In fact the Mapuche have always been an independent nation, it has never formed part of any colonial power or states. The Mapuche has its own common descent, history, social organisation, a self sufficient economy, cultural identity, its own language, and a set of unique cultural and spiritual values. The Mapuche originate and remain in a particular region of the Americas, which they regard as their ancestral territory. The Mapuche has its own sense of identity and a proud feeling of nationhood.

The Mapuche independence was further recognised, when the Spanish in 1641, a century after their arrival, signed the Treaty of Quillin which formally defined their frontier with the Mapuche nation.



In 1810 a new generation of Spanish decendents, creole and anti-royalists from Chile and Argentina declared their independence from Spain, followed by a war against Spain which last almost 10 years. During that time the Mapuche society evolve and it was a diferent one of that the Spanish found 269 years early. before of confrontantion with the Spanish in which most of the time were in constant war, the Mapuche society evolve, they took a number of people adopt During this period the Mapuche nation was ...........


With the final defeat of the Spanish by the newly formed states, the original treaties of 1641 between the Spanish Crown and the Mapuche nation were abrogated and by decree they declared the Mapuche territory as theirs. At the same time these new Republics, instigated new treaties leading to the gradual takeover of the Mapuche territory. Under the same pretext of that of the Spanish of "promoting civilization and Christianity" the Mapuche people suffere territorial conquests, military aggression, persecution, and the genocide of entire communities.

At the end of the 19th century Chilean and Argentinian armies seized the Mapuche territory, a dispossession recorded in Chilean history as the "Pacification of Araucania", and in Argentina as the "Campaign of the Desert".


It is known to most Mapuche people as ‘La Ultima Matanza’ - The Last Massacre.


Since the defiet of the Mapuche forces in Patagonia, in 1885, legislation brought about by successive governments whether democratic or dictatorship, are indistinguishable in its objective, to undermine the Mapuche nation. The huincas (mestizo) using their legislation, reserve the right to modify it, if it prevented them from confiscating or appropriating Mapuche territory. Their laws tend to favour them and also envelope the "complicity of the "authorities" which, after one hundred years continues as standard practice, resulting in the Mapuche people constituting the most deprived sectors of the Chilean and Argentinean society today. The gradual loss of their cultural identity, insufficient land and resources, a lack of technical and financial help, and widespread poverty.


In 1858 Orelie Antoine de Tounens (a French lawyer) came to Chile, attracted by the historic, brave and heroic resistance of the Mapuche people against attempts by the Kingdom of Spain to colonise them over a period of nearly 300 years. He travelled to the Mapuche territory to get to know, as he put it, ‘this noble race of heroes’, and became fascinated by the history, hospitality and good nature of her people. He was soon integrated into their society, learning Mapu-dugun (the Mapuche language), wearing the poncho and even let his hair grow in the Mapuche style. Welcomed and entertained by the Lonko (local chief) and Toki (highest chief), he gained the confidence, respect and affection of the highest authorities of the Mapuche nation.

This extraordinary event took place in a time when the Chilean and Argentinean republics were plotting the complete occupation of the Mapuche territory. The Chilean and Argentinian Republics, ever since their independence from Spain in 1810, had claimed the Mapuche territory as their own; and to "legally" justify this used the means of their own judicial systems. In other words, authorities of foreign powers made decrees over yet unconquered land and tried by means of communiques, to extend the jurisdiction of their domestic laws to people and territories over which they had no right. During the next 50 years these new republics began to consolidate their territory and prepare to take control of the Mapuche territory by force. Military activities on the frontier, either side of the Andes were intensified. The Mapuche nation and its Toki could see that a new colonisers’ invasion was imminent. New weapons had been introduced into the republics’ army increasing its strength relative to the Mapuche forces. Faced with this reality, the Mapuche leaders felt that the time had come to employ a new tactic in the promotion and legitimisation of their nation. On the brink of the demise of the Mapuche nation’s independence, the kingdom of Araucania and Patagonia was created. This new governing system presented them with a fresh opportunity to seek support, alliances and international recognition.

The basis of a Kingdom was established after prolonged deliberation and consultation throughout the Mapuche territory. This process culminated on the 17th November 1860, with the approval of a constitution which gave origin to the Kingdom of Araucania and Patagonia. Part of the document stated:

"Considering that Araucania is not dependent on any other state, it finds itself divided by tribes and that a central government is required…. We decree the following":

Article 1: A constitutional and dynastic monarchy has been founded in Araucania; Orelie Antoine de Tounens is appointed King: the Constitution also contemplates the formation of: Council of the Kingdom, ministers, a legislative body nominated by universal suffrage, a Council of the State, responsible for putting together bills, etc. According to the Mapuche way of life and Ad-Mapu it also guarantees with respect to human and civil rights, the freedom and equality of individuals before the law. The Toki Quilapan was appointed Minister of War; Montril, Minister of Foreign Affairs; Quilahueque, Minister of the Interior; Calfouchan of Justice, Marihual of Agriculture.

The Chilean and Argentinian governments organised a well orchestrated propaganda and diplomatic campaign to discredit the formation of the Kingdom. In addition the Chilean security forces infiltrated it and offered 250 Piastras reward to whoever could capture the King dead or alive.

King Orelie Antoine was taken prisoner by Cornelio Saavedra with the help of his spy Rosales who was working as one of the servants of the King, Rosales was Second Corporal of the Civil Squadron of Nacimiento and one of his roles was to keep his superiors informed of Orelie’s movements in his territory. On the 5th January 1862, taking advantage of the King’s visit to an area close to the border, a military platoon seized him. The platoon had entered Mapuche territory disguised as merchants (priests and traders were allowed into Mapuche land). He was imprisoned in Los Angeles where he was confined to a damp, dark cell, deprived of food and medical care. His testimony reveals that he developed serious illnesses which almost took his life. However, King Orelie summoned enough strength in order to act as his own advocate, and proceeded to discard one by one the charges against him. The government could find no legal charges to hold against him: to declare him insane was their only solution. (Insanity was the version that has been continually portrayed by the official historians, anthropologists, etc.). It was argued that it could not be normal for a ‘white’ person to claim rights for the ‘savages’. This constituted an absolute ‘anomaly’ and ‘lunacy’. He was sent to the lunatic asylum in Santiago, Chile, and on the 16th of October 1862, was released and expelled from the country, forbidden to re-enter either to Chile or Argentina. However, he returned three times, where he was always welcomed by the Mapuche.

King Orelie Antoine was without doubt an important ally and true friend of the Mapuche people in the most crucial moment of their existence as an independent nation, on the eve of the most vile and inhuman genocide known in the history of the Americas. An atrocity which the creoles, like their ancestors the Spanish, committed in the name of ‘civilization’ and ‘progress’.

The formation of the Kingdom of Araucania and Patagonia in 1860 is a clear and irrefutable historic statement that then, from the Bio-Bio river to the South was independent territory under the political jurisdiction of the Mapuche people.

The legitimate successor today is Prince Philippe I. He lives in Paris, France, and hold the title of His Royal Highness to the Crown of Araucania and Patagonia, in exile.


In 1885, in Patagonia, the Mapuche nation was finally defeated by both armies, and many people were either killed or forced from their homes to live impoverished lives in small rural communities and in the cities. During this campaign many children were taken from their families and given to white people to be trained as servants.





In Chile the Mapuche communities are concentrated in the provinces of Arauco, Bio-Bio, Malleco, Cautin, Valdivia, Osorno, Llanquihue and Chiloe, though many have migrated to the cities. In Argentina, the Mapuche live mainly in the Provinces of Neuquen, Rio Negro, Buenos Aires and Santa Cruz.

According to the last census (1992), 44.1% of the total Mapuche population live in the capital of Chile Santiago.

Their main source of income comes from agriculture, predominantly grain and cattle.

The official Mapuche history written is yet to be written by the Mapuche themselves and this account is an small contribution. This short version of the Mapuche history has been compile and it will be extended in a booklet to be printed form in the near future.

R. Marhiquewun