Museo Chileno de Arte Precolombino

Native peoples > Mapuche

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Organización Social

Up to the 16th century, Mapuche society was organized in a polygamous kinship system that was patrilineal—lineage was passed down through the male line. In the first half of the 17th Century, the figure of Cacique became more prominent, with groups organized during wartime into a military hierarchy. At this time the wartime leaders or tokis emerged to play a strategic role in Mapuche society, while colonial authorities attempted unsuccessfully to bolster the role of the lonkos, local community chiefs. After the Mapuche were defeated in 1881, a protectorate system was introduced and the authorities began handing over land to family based communities, identifying each estate with the name of the corresponding cacique or lonko. The establishment of these communities did little to integrate the Mapuche into Chilean society, as their society had no similar concept or practice prior to the establishment of the reductional regime. Today, a Mapuche community is a primarily patrilineal consanguineous group that was established when an indigenous land title was granted to a chief and his family. These communities had little internal social stratification, but did impose some limits on loyalties, with family coming first and the community second. Today, however, most Mapuches reside in the working class neighborhoods of large cities and identify more with cultural centers that seek to reestablish the ethnic identity of the urban members of this indigenous group.