On August 20, 2010 the Chilean government approved an application to essentially turn over control of more than 250 acres of coastal waters to the Altué community, which is located in southern Chile. These communities are part of the Lafkenche communities, which is one of the large Mapuche sub-groups.The approval was met with near silence on the part of the media, although the Identidad Territorial Lafkenche–a major Lafkenche organization which has been fighting for rights for nearly two decades–did release a statement expressing their satisfaction with the decision.
These rights were granted under Law No. 20.249, which was passed in 2008 after almost twenty years of pressure for such a law by the Lafkenche communities. This approval is the first to take place under this relatively new law.
Law 20.249 grew out of opposition to the Chilean Fishing Law passed in 1991, which infringed upon many coastal peoples’ rights. Opposition to the Fishing Law began immediately by multiple organizations and communities. Eventually, Identidad Territorial Lafkenche emerged as a leader in the reform movement and spoke for many of the communities in the area. Their reform efforts culminated in an agreement between the Chilean government and Identidad Territorial Lafkenche to work on a legal proposal to the problem. That proposal ultimately became Law 20.249, which recognized native peoples’ communal rights over traditional coastal areas.
An extremely thorough history of Law 20.249, in Spanish, can be found here.