Last week, Jorge Retamal, the new National Director of CONADI (Chile’s Indigenous Development Corporation) visited Easter Island for the first time since taking office. During his time on the Island, Retamal made at least two major announcements about programs for the Rapa Nui people — one related to health and the other to language education. In addition to the director’s visit, in the past few days the Rapa Nui people have also held a large protest and elected their representatives to the Easter Island Development Committee.
On Friday, June 10th, came an announcement from CONADI’s National Director that additional funds are going to be made available to improve intercultural health experiences at the Rapa Nui Hospital. Retamal emphasized the importance to Indigenous peoples of maintaining and incorporating cultural health practices. He also indicated that part of the money would be used to send from the Rapa Nui Hospital to the Intercultural Hospital of Nueva Imperial to learn from Mapuche intercultural health experiences.
On that same day (June 10th), it was also reported that Retamal visited a school on the Island where the Rapa Nui peoples’ language is being taught. At the school, he announced that additional funds would be made available to hire two new native speakers to assist in the program. He also stated that additional monies would be available to purchase items necessary for cultural activities. And finally, that members of the fourth grade class (and their teachers) would be sent to Tahiti to attend an annual Polynesian cultural exchange that occurs there. The announcements seemed to be well-recieved. As teacher Jackeline Rapu Tuki put it, “For the first time we are seeing some promises fulfilled, and we are seeing coordination between institutions like CONADI and the rest of the Government to support us, especially the Rapa Nui language. We are very happy and looking forward to working together.”
Although the announcements related to health and education were received well, the past few days have also seen the Rapa Nui people show their displeasure with other areas of the Government’s policies towards the Rapa Nui people. Specifically, on Saturday, June 11th, more than 300 people marched to show their dissatisfaction with the Government’s attempts to implement ILO Convention 169. The peaceful protest emphasized land rights and self-determination issues, particularly with respect to natural resources on the Island.
Finally, on Monday, June 13th, the Rapa Nui people held elections to select the five individuals who would represent their people on the Easter Island Development Committee (CODEIPA). This body exists under Chile’s Indigenous Law (la ley indígena 19.253) and is in charge of protecting the interests of the Rapa Nui people, as well as interacting and assisting the Chilean Government with the implementation of any development policies. According to the Retamal, more than 50% of the Rapa Nui people participated in the electoral process (an increase of 37% from the election held in 2007), and the vote resulted in José Rapu Haoa, Osvaldo Pakarati Arévalo, Jorge Emilio Pont Chávez, Anakena Manutomatoma, and Mario Tuki Hey being elected. Their term of service on the Committee will last through 2015.