On Tuesday, March 8th, the Chilean Government announced that it is going to begin a series of consultations with Indigenous peoples to get their feedback and input on a piece of legislation that would, ultimately, result in the constitutional recognition of Indigenous peoples in Chile. The announcement was made by the Minister of Planning, Felipe Kast, who was accompanied by Sebastián Donoso, the Presidential Advisor on Indigenous Issues, as well as Jorge Retamal, the Director of the National Indigenous Development Corporation (CONADI).The announcement took place in the Araucanía Region of the country and was attended by government personnel as well as Indigenous leaders who, in recent months, had participated in round table discussion on the topic of constitutional recognition. At the event, Minister Kast stated that the Government was not deaf to what was discussed at those round tables and is now taking a major step towards giving Indigenous rights the respect they deserve (including those rights Chile is bound to under ILO 169).
Specifically, the Government’s announcement indicated that more than 150 consultation workshops will take place across the country in the next nine months. These consultations are designed to involve people from all eight Indigenous peoples recognized under Chilean law. The ultimate goal is to receive feedback on how Indigenous peoples can be recognized in the constitution; how a permanent consultation forum and/or procedure can be formed; and how a new Indigenous body can be created to replace CONADI (which has had legitimacy issues since its creation).
The announcement was initially met with positive reactions from other government representatives. Specifically, Deputy Gonzalo Arenas (UDI) called the announcement “historic” and said that, “for the first time, Indigenous peoples will be consulted on key issues for the future, making them part of their own development, rather than continue to develop public policies without considering their opinion.”
Additionally, Deputy Fuad Chahín (DC) also stated his support for the decision, but did have some concerns. Namely, Chahín publicly stated that in addition to consultation sessions, he wants a referendum to occur so that all Indigenous people have a voice. He also added that, while the consultations are going to address some very important issues, the issue of land–specifically public policy on land purchases–also needs to be addressed.
At the time of this writing, the Chilean media has made no mention of responses to this announcement from any major Indigenous organizations or leaders.