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Araucanians (əroukänˈēən), South American people, occupying most of S central Chile at the time of the Spanish conquest (1540). The Araucanians were an agricultural people living in small settlements. They are classified into three major cultural subdivisions, the Huilliche, the Picunche, and the Mapuche, the last being the largest group. The known history of the Araucanians begins with the Inca invasion (c.1448–c.1482) under Tupac Yupanqui, but Inca influence was never strong. Against the Spanish under Pedro de Valdivia the Araucanians offered resistance, notably under Lautaro and Caupolicán, and their stout fight was immortalized in the epic by Alonso de Ercilla y Zúñiga. They were successful in protecting S Chile and by 1598 had destroyed almost all Spanish settlements S of the Biobío River. Their struggle continued intermittently in the 17th–19thth cent. in a series of uprisings, sometimes ended by treaties that recognized native control. In the early 1860s a Frenchman sought to establish a Mapuche kingdom but was ousted by Chilean forces. White immigration southward brought on the war of 1880–81, which ended with Araucanian submission. As much as 90% of the Araucanian population died during the Chilean conquest of their lands. Earlier, especially at the beginning of the 18th cent., Araucanians fleeing white encroachment had gone across the Andes into Argentina. Capturing wild horses, they became wanderers on the plains and absorbed the Puelche. Gen. Julio A. Roca subjugated them in his campaigns (1879–83). The Araucanians, who number around 1.5 million in Chile and 200,000 in Argentina, are divided between assimilated urban dwellers and those who retain many of their traditional ways. Some of them began in the late 1990s to campaign for the return of forest lands in N central Chile that were once theirs; there have been instances of violence on both sides. The Chilean government has undertaken to secure some lands for the Mapuche and improve living standards, but the rural Mapuche of S central Chile remain largely poor and tensions have continued.


See L. C. Faron, Hawks of the Sun (1964) and The Mapuche Indians of Chile (1968); M. I. Hilger, Huenun Ñamku (1966); E. H. Korth, Spanish Policy in Colonial Chile (1968).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



(self-designation Mapuche), people constituting the bulk of the Indian population of Chile. Population, more than 300,000 (1961 estimate). They speak Spanish and the Araucanian language. Their chief occupations are farming and cattle breeding. Catholicism is the religion of a sizable number of the Araucanians, but old religious ideas have also been retained. Before the arrival of the Spaniards the Araucanians occupied all of the territory of what is now called Chile. The struggle between the Araucanians and the conquerors and colonizers lasted for more than 300 years. The present-day Araucanians are concentrated in the southern section of central Chile; a considerable number of them live on reservations.


Narody Ameriki, vol. 2. Moscow, 1959.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
He distinguished himself in Chile in the wars against the Araucanian Indians and while there began the poem based on his experiences.
The Chilean national epic, <IR> LA ARAUCANA </IR> (1569-89), was composed by Alonso de Ercilla (1533-1594), a participant in the struggle to subdue the Araucanian Indians. The poem celebrates the bravery of Spaniards and the fierce defense of tribal lands.
The Araucanian Indians had settled in territories that now belong to Chile and Argentina.