VI century, the ancestors of the Mapuches settled in the lake area. They
were small groups who lived mainly on hunting and gathering. They also
cultivated potatoes in small lots. These settlements went from the river
Maullín in Chile to the province of Neuquén in Argentina.
When the Spaniards came, the MAPUCHES (the people of the land) lived in the region between the rivers Itata and Tolt‚n. The PICUNCHES ( the people from the North) and the HUILICHES (the people from the South) shared their language. The Mapuche language was spoken from the river Choapa in the North to Chilo‚ in the South. This region was called Arauco by the conquerors, and their inhabitants Araucanians. Nevertheless, even today they call themselves Mapuches.
the Spanish persecution and the atraction of wild cattle, the Mapuches
started migrating to Argentina in the XVII century. They gradually settled
on the region formed by the provinces of San Luis, south of Córdoba,
La Pampa, Neuquén and Buenos Aires. This migration came to an end
during the military outpost at the end of the XIX century. Then they settled
on the South of the river Limay.
This massive income of Mapuches into Argentina brought about a considerable change for native cultures and for themselves. A long process of crossbreeding and cultural exchange gave origin to the present peasant population in the provinces of Neuquén, Río Negro and Chubut.
The environment of the Mapuches in Chile was apt for a small scale agriculture. They cultivated maize, potatoes, beans, quinoa, marrows, peppers and other vegetables. To enrich their diet, they gathered wild plants, hunted, breeded llamas and other minor cattle in the North, and those who lived on the coast fished and gathered shellfish.
When they came to Argentina, the Mapuches kept practising agriculture and traditional manufactures, mainly in the North of Neuqu‚n. Everyday utensiles were made of wood. Their jewels, leather works and textures are outstanding. These activities together with cattle breeding were their basic resources. At the end of the XVIII century, the Mapuches controlled cattle rustling to Chile from the humid pampa through the paths in Neuqu‚n. Since loose cattle gradually disappeared and the white frontier expanded, the aborigines started to capture cattle in farms. These 'malones' became their main resource.
Their social organization was based in the family. Several families gathered in lineages related by masculine descendance. They settled in the same region and had a territory for agriculture, gathering and cattle breeding. When the territory became small, some of the men migrated with their families to form a new lineage. As generations passed, blood kinship dissipated, but they maintained the memory of a common mythical ancestor in their common name.. It could be an animal, like Nahuel, the tiger, Filu, the snake, or ¥ancu, the eaglet, or it could be an element in Nature, like Antú, the sun, or Cur , the rock. Relatives shared this kinship name.
The oldest man was the chief (TOKI). He distributed riches in ceremonies and executed power during war. With the incoming of the Mapuches to Argentina, the old social organization was modified. Because of the war against white men and the frequent 'malones', the power of the Toki grew and became permanent. In the XIX century, they formed "Big Congregations" and controlled enormous territories with the support of minor chiefs and leaders.
In ancient times, polyginy was allowed when the man could afford to buy several brides. Men and women could get married as long as they belonged to different lineages. The new couple settled in the husband's dwelling.
each couple, although the woman is submitted to the husband's authority,
she is economically independent. She posseses her own garden lot and animals
and these can only be sold under her consent. She is also the owner of
pottery and woven products. These labours are exclusively femenine, as
well as household tasks and the breeding of children.
The Mapuche mother gives birth at home, helped by midwives. The father does not help in the delivery, but he has to bury the placenta in a distant place.
Soon after birth, the parents give a name to the new child, but the kinship name is only given at the age of five in a ritual called LAKUTUN.
"The baby's craddle is kept against a wall in the house. The baby stands in the craddle and can see the mother as well as all the people going around in the house.
If it is sleeping, they put the craddle on the bedstead. In case it cries, they swing the craddle or drag it around so that the baby calms down. If it goes on crying, the mother takes the baby together with the craddle and nurses it. This is the way aboriginal offsprings are brought up."
From Recollections of a Mapuche Chief, by Pascual Coña.
The traditional Mapuche dwelling or RUCA is a big wooden hut with a thatched roof, for one family. Before the Spanish harassment, rukas were far from one another, but war made them gather in small villages sorrounded by a protective foss or palisade.
When the Mapuches settled in the pampa, they adopted the Tehuelche tent, except for permanent settlements, where they maintained their traditional dwelling.
In ancient times, men wore the CHAMAL, a rectangular piece of woolen cloth covering the body from the chest down and secured at the waist by a belt. The arms were covered by another piece of cloth. Women wore the QUIPAN, similar to men's chamal. It was a rectangular woven cloth pinned over one shoulder while leaving the other bare and secured at the waist by a belt. It reached from the chest to the feet. A shawl pinned at the breast by a silver TUPU covered their shoulders.
Women wore silver ornaments, specially for festivities. Men in general wore no ornaments, except old chiefs, who sometimes wore a crown.
According to the Mapuche, the cosmos is divided into seven levels overlapped in space. The four upper platforms are inhabited by deities, ancestors and benefical spirits. There is a platform for evil between the terrestrial and the four benefical ones, where the WECUFE or malefical spirits live. On the earthly platform, the land of the Mapuches, good and evil strengths affect human behaviour. The last underground platform is the residence of dwarf evil men called CAFTRACHE.
( doctor, sorcerer, shaman)
The machi is the mediator between men and the divinity, and maintains the equilibrium between good and evil forces on the Earth. In earlier times, this task was performed by homosexual men or women, but later it became almost exclusively femenine.
Having a deep knowledge of their beliefs and traditions, Machis act as priests and conduct ceremonies, specially in Chile. They prey for good luck and predict future events. They elevate their spirit to get in touch with protective beings in the celestial world. This trip takes place in a state of ecstasy or trance provoked by the sound of the KULTRUN, dances, ritual songs and occasional hallucinations.
and cure of the sick are specially important tasks. Disease is considered
to have a supernatural origin caused by evil spirits (WECUFE) at the service
of a sorcerer (KALKU) who induces evil to go into the human body.
The function of the Machi is to drive evil away. In ecstasy, she receives help from the good spirits, who also guide her in the administration and selection of herbs and other healing techniques to restore physical and spiritual fitness to the sick.
The NGUILLATUN is the main religious celebration of the Mapuches. They meet every year to thank and ask deities and ancestors for the common welfare.
In agricultural communities, the celebration takes place in harvest time during the full moon, at the moment when it gives fertility to farms. In Argentina, since the communities of R¡o Negro, Neuqu‚n and Chubut live basically on ovine and caprine cattle, prayers are generally offered in March to ask for the fertility of animals. Floods, earthquakes, long draught or other calamities may also be the reason to call for a NGUILLATUN.
The ceremony lasts four days. It is celebrated in a plain farm where they set a ritual space in "U" shape open to the West., the sacred part of the World.
celebration, they set up an altar or REWE made of canes (Chusquea culeou)
forming a ladder decorated with yellow, blue or white flags and also with
branches of maitenes (Maitenus boaria), lengas (Notophagus pumilia) , coihues
(Notophagus dombeyi) and other trees.
In Argentina, the ceremony is conducted by the NGUEMPIN, a lay celebrant, while in Chile it is directed by the Machi. During the celebration, there are alternate rituals, dances, prayers, sacred songs, riding on horseback around the sacred place (AWUN), and offerings to the Earth , where they spread MUDAI or CHICHA, mate, tobacco and the blood of sacrificed animals.
Traditional musical instruments like the KULTRUN, the TRUTRUKA and the PIFILKA play a very important role in the celebration of the NGUILLATUN.
To make the box of the KULTRUN, they generally use the bark of the VOIGUE (Drymis winteri), a sacred shrub for the Mapuches. The drumhead may be made of guanaco, sheep or colt skin.
The Machi "introduces her song" in the Kultrun before stretching the skin to leave her soul in it. She also introduces small sacred objects, like stones, feathers or healing herbs, which make it sound as a rattle.
On the head, they draw different symbols representing the Universe. A cross divides the head into four parts, the vertical line representing the cosmos and the horizontal one the Earth. The intersection is the centre of the World, the sacred place from where the Machi gets in contact with their Gods and ancestors helped by the sound of the Kultrun.
For the manufacture of this wind instrument, they select a colihue cane (Chusquea culeou) about 2.50 metres long and a diameter between 2 and 5 centimetres.
The dry cane is split longitudinally and hollowed up, the n both halves are tied with wool or leather to form the sound tube. They close it hermetically by introducing it in a fresh animal's intestine that seals the tube completely once it is dried. A bull horn at one end works as a cornet. They slice the sharp end, insert it in the cane and fasten it with a cord adorned with wool pompons or bundles of different colours.
During the NGUILLATUN, they pour MUDAY or CHICHA inside the tube, and the last day they pour in the blood of the sacrificed animals. They blow it as strongly as possible to get to NGUENECHEN and wake him up.
It is a wind instrument made of lenga (Notophagus pumilia), cipr‚s (Austrodecrus chilensis) or oak wood. The external part is carved first, then the sound tube is perforated with a hot iron rod and some fluid grease is poured into it to seal any possible pores or fissures.
According to narrations from the XVI century, PIFILKAS were manufactured with the long bones of dead Spanish enemies and they used to play them to express victory during ceremonies and before battles. Then it was used as a religious instrument in the NGUILLATUN.
Weaving is an exclusively femenine task. Skilled weavers or DUWEKAFE are the only ones who know the symbols hidden in colours and designs.
They generally use llama or guanaco wool to weave, but since the arrival of the Spaniards, they use mainly sheep wool. It is washed, disentangled and combed in such a way that threads are stretched.
They use a spindle ( COLIU ) consisting of a stick with a heavy stone or a piece of ceramics in one end called CHINQUED.
LOOM "STANDING ON THE FLOOR"
The Mapuche vertical loom is called HUICHA HUICHAHUE, which means "standing on the floor". The most rudimentary one is formed by four sticks of varying thickness, while the size of the frame depends on the cloth they are going to make.
A more evolved form of the same loom is made of square sticks. The vertical ones have holes carved at a distance of 20 centimetres from each other, where the pegs support the separator.
Parts of the
Vertical sticks: WICHAL OR UCHA
Crossbar: KELO, KILO or KELOU.
Warp thread: TONON or TONONWE.
Separator: RAMIÑELWE or RAÑINWE.
Shovel: ÑEREWE or ÑIREWE.
Warp: UTRAL or WITRAL
generally use vegetal and mineral elements, like dusts of several colours
to dye wool, and in earlier times, they used fermented urines to fix colours.
Yellow, green and gold are obtained from the roots and stems of MICHAY (Berveris darwini); deep red from ROBLE PELLIN (Notophagus obliqua); purple from MAQUI, dark brown from the bark of RADAL
There are "negative" dyeing techniques practised on a set warp or on a woven cloth. The IKAT is the technique used to preserve a part of the wool from dyeing by a tie-and-resist dyeing of the white warp
lived in the Northern and central part of Neuqu‚n, and even West of the
Andes. The name PEHUENCHES in Mapuche language means "people from the Araucarias
forests". They lived basically on pi¤ones, the seed of these trees.
Each group gathered the seeds from its own territory. Apart from this, they hunted guanacos, ¤and£es and huemules and fished to complete their diet and help their economy.
Pehuenches received an early influence from Gunun-a-kuna groups, also called Northern Tehuelches, and from the Mapuches, whose language they adopted .
Their economy was deeply transformed by the incoming of European cattle. During the XVIII century, the Pehuenches played a very important role in the commercial circuit of cattle traffic, because the main paths across the cordillera were located in their territory. For this new resource, those hunters and gatherers turned into equestrian shepperds, although they did not give up hunting, gathering and agriculture.
Piñones are gathered between March and May.They drop the seeds by hiting the pine with a long cane or climbing the tree wrapped in leather or matras. Chilean Pehuenches waited for the seeds to fall spontaneously when ripe, since they believed that on the contrary, the spirits of the araucarias might become offended.
Seeds are eaten raw, toasted or boiled. Several kinds of flour for bread are also made with a flat friction mill and a drink called CHAVID is prepared by fermenting pi¤ons in special wood or ceramic receptacles.
Seeds are stored dry in long necklaces called MENKEN. Silos or DOLINKO consist of big underground storage places with a drainage system that enables to store between 400 and 500 kilos of clean seeds during three or four years. Dehidration ( KUNARKEN) is another storage technique. It consists of a hole where they deposit hot stones and on top of them they place the pi¤ons, then they cover them with canes and dirt.
The CHUECA is a Mapuche game. There is a ritual celebration accompanied by prayers, dances and feasting meant to fortify both individual and communal relationships. It can be played between two friendly communities or sometimes to settle differences between antagonistic tribes, thus avoiding the armed conflict.
gambling is forbidden among aborigines in Santiago de Chile.
"The Captain General, don Martín de Mujica, proclaims the prohibition of the chueca, game practised by the Araucanians according to their tradition, by hitting a ball with sticks curved at one end in a field sorrounded by green branches.
Those who disobey will be punished with one hundred lashes and the others will be fined, because the vile "chueca" has been widely spread among Creole soldiers.
The edict of the Captain General dictates the prohibition "in order to avoid sins so much in against the honour of God Our Lord", and because the Indians train for war running after the ball. "Disorder arises from the game and then they shoot arrows amongst themselves".
It is indecent, he says, that for the chueca, men and women gather almost naked, "dressed only with feathers and animal furs, in which they base the chance to win". At the beginning, they invoke the Gods for the ball to be farourable to their prowesses and races , and finally, embraced, they drink chicha by the bucketful.
" Extracted from Eduardo Galeano, Memoria del Fuego, I. Los Nacimientos.
ordinary game is the Chueca... They hit a ball with some twisted sticks
curved in one end... which have a natural curve at one end and is used
as a mallet. They form two gangs to fight against each other to carry the
ball, placed in the middle of a hole., to their own team until they take
it out from the line, marked on both sides.... They get a poit when the
ball goes through the line on their side. The game is over after six or
four lines, and they can play a whole afternoon.
After the game, they sit down to drink chicha and get completely drunk. Sometimes during these meetings, they come to agreements for uprising, because they call for other Indiands from the whole Earth, and at night, they talk and agree on rebelions. Thus governors sometimes forbid this game and these meetings for the damages experienced.
In order to be comfortable while running, they play the game naked, wearing only a loincloth to cover their indecency. Women sometimes play this game, but they wear some cloth, and they all attend to the field to see them play and run."
By Diego de Rosales, Historia General del Reino de Chile, Flandes Indiano. Written approximately between the years 1652 and 1673.
Silversmithing is one of the cultural manifestations that best represents the Mapuches. All their symbolic world is expressed in those shapes, those carved silver planks, as well as in the use they make of jewells.
During the prehispanic period, the Mapuches worked with metals such as copper, gold and silver. After the conquest and until the XIX century, they obtained silver from commerce with the Spaniards. In exchange for their manufactures or cattle, they received silver coins that they later used as raw material for silversmithing.
Their outstanding art was important for them to make commerce with other aboriginal groups as well as with the white. In the XIX century, when the Mapuche society from the pampas suffered a remarkable social and economical discrimination, the accumulation of silver objects was a sign of wealth and prestige.
made small šCU stone crucibles and tempered them on the fire. Inside those
receptacles they threw pesos and and silver beans and settled them on the
coil burning in the forge. They also used the bellow to poke the embers
around the crucible full of silver. The container got red hot and silver
They also used a small box full of sand to mold the pieces Y do no know what ingredient they added to make the sand consistent, but there they molded any artifact they wanted to manufacture. In the sand, they printed the model shape, then covered the box, and through a hole, they poured in the melted silver. When they estimated that it was cold, they dismantled the box and took the solid silver with the same shape as the model. They took it out of the mold and finished it on the anvil with a lime and hammer."
By Pascual Co¤a, Memorias de un Cacique Mapuche.
SEQUIL or SIKEL ( tubes and plaques): They are pinned to the silver necklace or TRARIPEL or from the clasp called TUPU.
SEQUIL ACUCHA: It has got a pin and an eye at the back to replace the TUPU.
TRARILONCO: It is fastened around the head by joining both ends.
TRAPELACUCHA: TAPEL means "to tie" and ACUCHA means "needle" It has an only chain with a pending cross of different shapes, according to the epoque.
TUPU: It is a mantle's pin with an espheric or a flat discoidal adornment.
CHAGÜAI : They are ear pendants.
CHAGÜAI-CHAPEL: Squared or trapezoidal ear pendants.
CHAGÜAI-ÜPÜL : Bell-shaped pendants.
This leather belt with silver tacks and Hispanic beads belonged to the wife of Chief Cipriano Catriel. In the Mapuche pampas, they wore an embeded leather belt as well as the traditional woven sash to secure the QUIPAN ( femenine dress) .
Chaquiras, shell beads or stones made by the aborigines, were early replaced by European glass and ceramic beads they obtained through trading the Spaniards.
The reins are called HUITRUN; the headstall, CAPEZATU; the stirrups, ISTRIPU and the spurs, ISPUELAS.
"All the men were proud to adorn their horses. They had silver spurs, stirrups and adornments, and also silver decorated headstalls with pendants made of the same metal. They also had silver incrustations in the lower jaw and bridles were adorned on both sides with silver plates. Reins were also plated with silver. Thus, horses shone when they went to their festive mmeting. All these adornments were made by Indian silversmiths."
By Pascual Coña, Memorias de un Cacique Mapuche.
"In ancient times, aborigines did not have many silver jewells; they only had the TUPU clasp and pendants, but nothing else.
Chaquiras adornments were more numerous. They strang them in threads and wore them around the neck, wrists and ankles. They also wore another necklace called MAIMATU CHAQUIRAS. They fastened their plates with other strings. These chaquiras had various names. The Spaniards sold those beads. But later those beads were not appreciated and jewellers appeared. The Mapuches themselves were silversmiths."
By Pascual Coña, Memorias de un Cacique Mapuche.