The UNESCO Memory of the World Programme’s Regional Committee for Latin America and the Caribbean (MOWLAC) has recognised the “Set of Documents from the Indigenous Settlement Commission, Law 4 of December 1866” as a Regional Memory of the World Register. These documents are preserved in Chile at the General Indigenous Affairs Archives, and they belong to the Corporación Nacional de Desarrollo Indígena de Chile (CONADI, the Chilean National Foundation for Indigenous Development).
The documents provide an account of the annexation of Mapuche lands by the Chilean government that began in 1884, and they constitute a valuable heritage describing the settling of the indigenous population and the boundaries and registration of their territory. The archives are a source of essential information for describing the Mapuche people over a period of almost 50 years and allow for historical studies comparing the settling of these people in Chile and Argentina, their kinship ties, descendants, territory and organisation.
These documents also provide a significant testimony of the transformation of indigenous property beginning in the second half of the 19th century and of the influence Europe and the United States had on colonisation and the ethnic, territorial and productive consolidation of Latin American nations.
Patricia Huenuqueo, Head of Chile’s Office of the National Government Archive System and President of the National Memory of the World (MOW) Committee, explained that “This new record is an enormous opportunity to recognise and appreciate our native peoples. As these archives describe the Chilean government’s annexation of Mapuche country over a period of almost 50 years (1884-1939), we see its inclusion in the regional registry as an opportunity to reread history as we know it and renew our understanding of the present time.” (Read the full interview with Patricia Huenuqueo).
History of the Documents
The set of documents from the Indigenous Settlement Commission, Law 4 of December 1866, which has been recognised in the Memory of the World Register for Latin America and the Caribbean, are original, authentic records from 1884 to 1930. Since the time of their origination, they have been in the custody of government institutions and have served to prove property rights recognised by the Chilean state toward the Mapuche people.
The oldest documents describe the Mapuche as settled on an area of some 500,000 hectares, as well as the expropriation and auction of the remaining 5 million hectares over a period of almost 50 years.
The resources consist of the following items organised into sets of documents of great historical value: 2,956 land grants (1884-1929), 15 books of registered documents (1884-1929), nine books from the Indigenous Property Registrar Records (1884-1930) and 22 bound volumes with records from the Indigenous Settlement Commission for Valdivia and Llanquihue (1907-1908). The documents are complete and are in fair condition. Due to their unique nature, many of the documents have been digitised.
The documents were drawn up under Law 4 of December 1866 by which the Chilean state declared the land between the Biobío and Toltén Rivers to be government property, and established and recorded its boundaries. These rivers were natural features that, since the mid-17th century, had served as a border between the Creole and Mapuche populations. The law stipulated the establishment of a commission appointed by the President of the Republic that would clearly and precisely set the boundaries of indigenous lands, record them in official documents and issue land grants to Mapuche families in the name of the Republic.
The basic purpose of this process of settling and recording lands was “to establish the indigenous people in delimited areas, called reservations, in order to have the rest of the territory free and unobstructed for colonisation” (Bengoa, 2008). Implementation of the process only began in 1884 when the Settlement Commission issued the first land grant, and it ended in 1930 when the process was halted by Law No. 4,802.
How was the application for the regional register made?
The nomination was prepared with the recommendation and support of the Chilean National Memory of the World Committee, which believed it was important to underscore the existence of this documentary heritage because it recognises the multi-ethnic nature of Chile and opens up an opportunity to debate current cultural policies in indigenous matters.
The certificate of registration in the Regional Memory of the World Register will be sent by Guilherme Canela Godoi, communications and information specialist for MERCOSUR (Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and Chile), who congratulated the Chilean National Foundation for Indigenous Development (CONADI) for its work in preserving these archives.
For more information:
- María Eugenia Queupumil Burgos
General Indigenous Affairs Archives of the National Foundation for Indigenous Development (CONADI), Temuco, Chile
Tel.: (56) 45 231-7293
- Juan Ñanculef Huaiquinao
Head of the CONADI Indigenous Heritage Programme
Tel. (56) 45 220-7544