The Chilean Supreme Court unanimously rejected arguments made by the Hito clan of the Rapa Nui people in a case about lands on Easter Island. The Hito clan has been trying for years to regain control over a parcel of land that was traditionally in their possession, but that currently is the site for the Hotel Hanga Roa — a luxury hotel on the Island. The Supreme Court’s rejection included statements that, in 1888, all inhabitants on Easter Island became illegal squatters; that the land in question was legally transferred from ancestors of the Hito clan to non-indigenous people; and that the land in question no longer qualifies as “indigenous land” within the meaning of the law, thus special protections are unnecessary. A spokesperson for the Hito clan has indicated that they will continue to fight for their land rights in the political arena. The option of approaching international tribunals also remains open.
The land claim in question has a long history that includes peaceful protests and police violence. Below is a rough timeline of the major events as covered by IndigenousNews.org.
- July 29, 2010: Rapa Nui demand return of ancestral lands and begin occupying buildings on Easter Island.
- August 2010: Government officials try to meet with Rapa Nui leaders and police presence is increased on Easter Island.
- August 30, 2010: Thirty-six Rapa Nui leaders sign and send letter to President Piñera stating their land demands. A few days later the Chilean government responds.
- September 7, 2010: Chilean Special Forces forcibly evict more than 20 Rapa Nui individuals from the Hanga Roa Hotel. Later that day, the Rapa Nui return to occupy the building again. Chile sends a representative to engage in talks.
- September 30, 2010: The Human Rights Commission of the House of Deputies calls on the Executive branch to take no more violent action to evict the Rapa Nui people from occupying their ancestral lands.
- October 1, 2010: The Rapa Nui seek injunctive relief from the Organization of American States. Their request is that no more violence be used against their people during their land demonstrations.
- November 12, 2010: Rapa Nui win case in Valparaíso Court of Appeals. The case was an attempt by the owners of the Hotel Hanga Roa to have the Rapa Nui protestors ejected from the premises.
- December 3, 2010: More violence breaks out on Rapa Nui as individuals occupying buildings are forcibly removed. Politicians criticize the President’s handling of the situation as the ruling government defends its decisions.
- December 2010: Evictions continue throughout Easter Island.
- December 29, 2010: Additional Rapa Nui individuals are injured in evictions that take place on this date.
- January 12, 2011: U.N. Rapporteur calls on Chile to resolve Rapa Nui land claims situation peacefully.
- February 4, 2011: Two U.S. Congress people speak out on the Rapa Nui land claims issue.
- February 6, 2011: Members of the Hito clan forcibly evicted from occupying the Hotel Hanga Roa. The Hito clan announces their intentions to utilize the Inter-American system for their land claims.
- August 2, 2011: Criminal case against Rapa Nui protestors suspended pending the outcome of land rights case.
- February 18, 2011: The owners of the Hotel Hanga Roa agree to donate their land to the Rapa Nui people in thirty years.
- May 28, 2011: Rapa Nui hold protest on one-year anniversary of forceful evictions from their ancestral lands.
- August 16, 2012: Valparaíso Court of Appeals rejects the Hito land claim.
- May 28, 2012: Supreme Court rejects Hito clan’s land claim. Our coverage of that decision can be found here on I Love Chile News.