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.