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Araucanians(əroukän`ēən), 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 ValdiviaValdivia, Pedro de
, c.1500–1554, Spanish conquistador, conqueror of Chile. One of Francisco Pizarro's best officers in the conquest of Peru, educated, energetic, somewhat less cruel and avaricious than his fellow conquerors, Valdivia obtained permission from Pizarro to
..... Click the link for more information. the Araucanians offered resistance, notably under LautaroLautaro
, c.1533–57, leader of the Araucanians in their nearly successful attempt to reconquer S central Chile from the Spanish. He was captured by the Spanish conquistador, Pedro de Valdivia, but escaped and returned to his people in 1553, when they began the struggle for
..... Click the link for more information. and CaupolicánCaupolicán
, d. 1558, leader of the Araucanians who fiercely resisted the Spanish conquest of Chile. He attempted to carry on the reconquest begun by Lautaro and won a victory over the Spanish conquistador Pedro de Valdivia.
..... Click the link for more information. , and their stout fight was immortalized in the epic by Alonso de Ercilla y ZúñigaErcilla y Zúñiga, Alonso de
, 1533–94, Spanish poet. In Chile (1556–63) he fought against the Araucanian, and while there he began the epic poem La Araucana, considered the finest Spanish historical poem.
..... Click the link for more information. . They were successful in protecting S Chile and by 1598 had destroyed almost all Spanish settlements S of the Bío-Bío River. Their struggle continued intermittently in the 17th and 18th cent. in the uprisings of 1723, 1740, and 1766. White immigration southward brought on the war of 1880–81, which ended with Araucanian submission. 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 PuelchePuelche
, name for various hunting groups of nomadic Native Americans who roamed the Argentine Pampa, hunting guanaco and rhea. Little is known of the Puelche prior to the 18th cent.
..... Click the link for more information. . Gen. Julio A. Roca subjugated them in his campaigns (1879–83). The Araucanians, who number around 1 million in Chile, 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, 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).
(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.