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The Mapuche are the pre-Hispanic inhabitants of Central and Southern Chile and Argentina.

They are also known as the Spanish denomination of Araucanos.

Mapuche means people of the land. They had an agricultural based economy and their social organisation consisted of extended families.

The Mapuche denomination encloses different ethnic groups which shared a common social and religious structure with language and economics as a basis. Their influence were extendend between the river Aconcagua and the Argentinian pampa. There are:

Also the northern Aonikenk (called Patagons by Magellan) ethnical group of the pampean regions took contact with some Mapuche groups, adopting language and some habits: they are the Tehuelches.

Altough they didn't have a national structure, they succesfully resisted the Incan colonization.

As the Spaniards arrived, Mapuche fought against them and, situating the Bio Bio river as natural frontier, they resisted colonization; this situation is known as War of Arauco. As time went on, there was a statu quo and they traded with Chilean colonial authorities.

When Chile was emancipated of the Spanish crown, some Mapuche chiefs took part of colonial side.

In the 1860s the Chilean Army put an end to the War of Arauco and, using force and diplomacy, signed with some Mapuche leaders the incorporation of the Araucanian territories to Chilean sovereignty.

Today there are Mapuche descendants in Southern Chile and Argentina. Some of them live on reservations, but the majority of them live in cities.

According Chilean official statistics, 100% of Chilean Mapuche have any non-Mapuche ancestor; also the more than the 90% of Chilean population have Native American (mostly Mapuche) ancestors.

Mapuche languages are spoken in Chile and to a smaller extent in Argentina. It has two branches - Huillice and Mapudungun.

See also