Summary: Mapuche Resistance1
A backgrounder on the situation facing Mapuche people in Chile and a look at
While the media floods the Canadian public consciousness with the horrifying story of 33
Chilean miners trapped underground, a lesser known, but still shocking event has been unfolding
elsewhere in Chile. At the same time as the mining accident, 34 Mapuche political prisoners
began a hunger strike in an attempt to bring attention to their struggle and to demand changes in
how they are treated by the Chilean government.
The primary demands of the hunger strikers and their supporters were that Mapuche prisoners be
tried in civil courts instead of in both civil and military courts, and that dictatorship-era anti-
terrorism legislation not be used against them. On October 02, after 82 days without food, 26 of
the Mapuche prisoners ended their hunger strike when the government agreed to withdraw
charges against them under the antiquated anti-terrorism legislation and instead bring them to
trial under standard criminal law. Those who remain imprisoned at Angol continue their strike.
The Mapuche struggle is, at its root, a struggle to defend territory and culture, and in that way is
similar to the struggles of Indigenous peoples around the world. The Mapuche are the original
inhabitants of Central and Southern Chile and the country's largest Indigenous minority. Their
fight to maintain freedom and independence dates back to the Spanish invasion of their territory
in 1541. Since then, their land base has been whittled down to a series of reserves, which were
broken up into individually held lands under the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet.