Headlines, Human Rights, Indigenous Rights, Latin America & the Caribbean

Training Young Mapuche Filmmakers in Chile

Daniela Estrada

SANTIAGO, May 6 2010 (IPS) - “I want to film the few untouched natural resources we have left and show the injustices that have been committed against our communities,” Claura Anchio, who took part in an innovative free filmmaking course for young Mapuche Indians in Chile, told IPS.

Anchio was referring to a number of garbage dumps and water treatment plants installed near Mapuche lands in the southern Chilean region of Araucanía.

Because of these developments, Mapuche communities have accused the Chilean state of “environmental racism” before the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD).

The 27-year-old Anchio is one of 20 young Mapuche selected to attend the first course ever organised to teach filmmaking to members of Chile’s largest native group, in order to draw attention to their experiences and problems.

Taiñ Azkintun (“Our View” in the Mapuche language) is the name of this initiative organised by the non-governmental Citizen’s Observatory and the Mapuche newspaper Azkintuwe. The course is financed by the Canadian embassy and sponsored by La Frontera University and the Catholic University of Temuco, both based in Araucanía.

“The idea is to give them basic but essential tools so that they can inform and communicate from their communities, whether in the sphere of reporting wrongs, communicating culture or maintaining and recovering language,” Mapuche journalist Pedro Cayuqueo, the editor of Azkintuwe and one of the project’s coordinators, told IPS.

According to 2006 statistics, there are nearly one million Mapuche, the largest of the nine legally recognised indigenous groups in this South American country of 17 million people, where about seven percent of the population are indigenous people.

In the late 19th century, Mapuche lands covering the regions of Bío-Bío, Araucanía, Los Ríos and Los Lagos, over 500 kilometres south of the Chilean capital, were wrested from them by force by the state, which also attempted to annihilate their culture.

A century later, in the early 1990s, Mapuche communities and organisations began to lay claim to their ancestral territories through a strategy of occupying private lands they regarded as their own, which were often in the hands of lumber companies, and protesting logging and mining initiatives and garbage dumps with serious environmental impacts installed near their communities, while demanding respect for their political, social and cultural rights.

With respect to the landfills, the Mapuche complain that they are in breach of the International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) Convention 169, which stipulates that indigenous peoples must be consulted in advance on any measure involving their traditional territory — something the government had failed to do, on this as well as on other occasions.

As part of their struggle, many documentary films reflecting their complaints and demands have been made by indigenous and non-indigenous people, in addition to the creation of blogs and web sites.

The 20 young Mapuche Indians taking the course are from Araucanía and Los Ríos. The course will consist of four intensive theoretical and practical sessions, to be held May 8, 15 and 29 and Jun. 5.

Cayuqueo said this is the first of a planned series of courses, and highlighted the keen interest shown by the young people, more than 50 of whom applied for the course.

The idea is for some of the students to visit Canada, to learn from the experience of young Canadian indigenous people who are also working in communication.

“Rather than communicators or ‘reporters’, we want to educate communication ‘promoters’, young people who will use the new formats like internet and its social networks,” Cayuqueo said.

During the course they will learn to use film and video equipment and computer programmes for editing, and to write documentary screenplays.

In their fieldwork, they will try to document Mapuche ways of communicating, such as “nütram” (conversations), and record for posterity the “epew” (stories) told by elders to make a moral point.

“The communities involved in the conflict (over land and rights) have very few tools to convey a proper picture of the reality of their situation,” said Cayuqueo, who added that “we’re not trying to promote a kind of communication based on ethnic fanaticism; on the contrary, it’s about how to potentiate our own values and identity by appropriating the best of what modern technology has to offer.

“Those of us who work in communication in the area of indigenous rights in Chile feel that there really is freedom of expression and freedom of opinion. But when those freedoms are always exercised by only one side, another right is being violated — the right to plurality of information,” he maintained.

In his view, “only one voice is broadcast in Chile, one opinion across all the media. That’s why we think that this course, which we call ‘Our View’, will not only benefit the Mapuche but society as a whole.”

Erwin Quizulef, a 32-year-old resident of Panguipulli, a lakeside town in the southern Chilean region of Valdivia, told IPS he was motivated to apply for the course “by the irregularities committed by companies that have recently arrived in the area, which damage the environment of many Mapuche communities living there.

“These things are not brought to public attention in the media. At a meeting of our community we talked about the fact that there is no one who can get the story out there, follow it up, and record what happens, both good and bad,” he concluded.

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