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Chilean Mapuche conference will feature South American issues

TIRU?, Chile - The Lafkenche Mapuche people of Chile will host an international conference on their home territory from Nov. 25 to 30, 2003.

The conference is intended to gather delegations from throughout South America, linking the currents of Native national expression from Ecuador, Bolivia, Argentina and other Andean and Cono Sur countries. Conference organizers are encouraging the participation of Native and other delegations from North America.

The Mapuche are among various South American Native peoples who have developed intense political movements in the past couple of decades. They are one of eight indigenous nations ("nationalities" is the term used in Chile) which, as usual, mirror the history of dispossession and marginalization that characterizes Indian peoples throughout the Hemisphere. The Mapuche identify as people of particular territories: Picunche, Huilliche, Pehenche, Puelche, Nagche, Huenteche and Lafkenche. They have important current issues over forest destruction, dams that would flood productive valleys and the persecution of their political leadership.

The Lafkenche territory is centered around the municipality of Tiru? on the southwest coast of Chile. Tiru? is approximately four hours by bus from Concepci?n, one hour by air from Santiago. Mapuche organizers say they intend the gathering to generate discussions on international development and its consequences. Indigenous delegates will address questions of ancestral knowledge, rights to land, democracy, productive intercultural relations and sustainable natural resource management. The problem of patents and commodification of collective intellectual property is also a focus. The Mapuche elders hope to gather Indian activists and thinkers from throughout the region, in the company of Nobel laureates, journalists and scholars.

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North Americans interested in attending may contact Mr. Abdon Mendoza at (206) 253-2707 or E-mail: