It was reported yesterday (01-15-2015) in Mapuexpress that the Mapuche-Huilliche Community of Wente Caulín was granted rights over coastal waters in Chiloé. Specifically, the coastal area near the community was designated an “Indigenous Peoples’ Marine Coastal Area” under Chilean law, which grants the community the right to use and administer the coastal region. The Mapuche-Huilliche Community of Wente Caulín is comprised of approximately 500 families and has fought for eight years to gain these rights.
The larger struggle for Indigenous coastal rights began in the early 1990s when a number of Mapuche-Lafkenche and Mapuche-Huilliche communities worked together to change Chilean law. After nearly two decades of sustained effort, Chile passed what has become known as the Ley Lafkenche (“Lafkenche Law”) in 2007. The Ley Lafkenche went into effect in 2008 and opened up the possibility of Indigenous communities taking control of their traditional coastal regions. Despite the successful passage of the law, the Chilean government has been extremely slow in granting rights to communities. In the more than five years the law has been on the books, the community of Wente Caulín is only the second community to be granted rights by the Chilean government.