Mapuche - History - Occupation of The Araucanía

Occupation of The Araucanía

Chilean population pressures increased on the Mapuche borders while the Mapuche population and economy had stagnated. The Chilean state extended since its inception both to the north and south of the Mapuche heartlands. Based on the uti possidetis juris principle the Chilean state claimed sovereignity over the Mapuche lands in Araucanía. The first effective moves into the core lands of the Araucanía Mapuche begun in the 1860s. As a result of its preparation for and victory in the War of the Pacific against Bolivia and Peru, Chile had a large standing army and relatively modern arsenal. Finally, in the early to mid-1880s, partially on the pretext of crushing a French adventurer, Orelie-Antoine de Tounens, who had declared himself King of Araucania, Chile overwhelmed the Mapuche in the course of the so-called "pacification of the Araucanía".

Using a combination of force and diplomacy, Chile's government obliged some Mapuche leaders to sign a treaty agreeing to the absorption of the Araucanian territories into Chile. The disruption of war caused widespread disease and starvation to many villages. It has been claimed that the Mapuche population dropped from a total of half a million to 25,000 within a generation. Noted historians of the period have argued that the latter figure is exaggeratedly low. In the post-conquest period, Chile interned a significant percentage of the Mapuche, and destroyed the Mapuche herding, agricultural and trading economies, while also looting Mapuche property (real and personal - including a large amount of silver jewelry to replenish the Chilean national coffers). The government created a system of reserves called reducciones along lines similar to North American reservation systems. Subsequent generations of Mapuche live in extreme poverty as a result of having been conquered and having lost their traditional lands.

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