In recent days, the Chilean government, through CONADI (Chile’s Indigenous development corporation) has returned title to lands in two different Mapuche communities. In the Mapuche community of Manuel Levinao (located in the Lautaro commune of the Araucanía region), 250 hectares (~1 square mile) were returned after being purchased by the Chilean government for nearly US$ 1.8 million. Meanwhile, the Mapuche community of Los Maitenes de Rihue (located in the Cañete commune of the Araucanía region) was given land title to a small parcel of land (~.04 square miles) valued at US$ 76,000. This small parcel increased the community’s land holdings to 265.3 hectares (~1.02 square miles), which the Chilean government has been slowly acquiring and returning to the community since 1997.
Both communities have been waiting over fifteen years for these land claims to be resolved, and both transfers took place as part of President Piñera’s policy to prioritize the top 115 Indigenous land claims in the country and resolve those claims before the end of his term. With only a few months left in Piñera’s presidency, the Chilean government claims that 110 of the 115 claims have been resolved.
The lonko (traditional leader) of the Manuel Levinao community indicated his happiness with the transfer and a desire for the land to be used for agricultural purposes. Los Maitenes de Rihue’s leader also indicated a desire to move forward with agricultural activities on the new land, but indicated that it may be difficult to do as the land rights received included no right to water on the land. Additionally, power lines run through a portion of the territory and there were concerns about nearby forestry companies polluting the region with various chemicals.
Both communities, according to the Chilean government, will have access to funds to improve the land for the communities’ desired use.