29 February 2012

Indigenous Focus: Chile’s Indigenous Peoples Seek Government Protection of Languages


Tuesday, February 21st, was the “International Mother Language Day,” although in Chile it is sometimes referred to as “International Day of Indigenous Languages.” International Mother Language Day is a creation of UNESCO and has been celebrated each year since 2000 and, as its name implies, the purpose is to promote native languages around the globe. In Chile, Indigenous peoples took time during the day to promote their own languages and cultures in a variety of ways, including celebrations, marches and public statements.

In Santiago, one of the largest organizations dedicated to Indigenous languages—Red por los Derechos Educativos y Lingüísticos de los Pueblos Indígenas de Chile (Red EIB)—released a public statement summarizing the current state of  Indigenous languages in the country and calling on the government to take concrete steps to preserve those same languages. Red EIB indicated that Chile originally had eight spoken Indigenous languages, but now that number has dropped to four, and none of those four languages are spoken by more than one-third of their respective populations. The statement went on to say that action was required to reverse this trend.
conadi langauges 270x141 Indigenous Focus: Chile’s Indigenous Peoples Seek Government Protection of Languages
CONADI meets with speakers of endangered Indigenous languages in Chile. Photo credit: Gobierno de Chile

Specifically, Red EIB made three policy suggestions. First, Red EIB asked that the national curriculum reinstate the Indigenous education units that used to be found in history, geography and social science classes, but that were cut out earlier this year. Second, Red EIB called for strengthening Indigenous language rights under Chilean law, which might include the creation of a “National Institute on Indigenous Languages.” And finally, the organization submitted a proposal to include intercultural education—including bilingual education—throughout the country.

Elsewhere, in the Araucanía Region of Chile, there was a march and several public statements requesting that the government make Mapuzungun—the language of the Mapuche people, and the most-spoken language in Chile outside of Spanish—an official language (along with Spanish) of the Region. For instance, members of the Mapuche organization Kolectivo We Newen, sent letters to local government leaders requesting that the change occur and that names of certain landmarks be expressed in Mapuzungun as well.  In Temuco—the largest city in the Araucanía Region—a peaceful march was organized in support of the Mapuche language being made official in that region of the country.

In other parts of Chile large celebrations were organized for International Mother Language Day. In Osorno, the main plaza held a two hour celebration during the afternoon which included singing and poetry readings in Indigenous languages. The celebrations were also a time to educate community memebers about Indigenous languages and provided an opportunity for Indigenous youth to hear the tongue of their ancestors. Similar celebrations took place in other Mapuche communities as well as Aymara, Quechua and Rapa Nui communities throughout the country.


Spokesperson for Rapa Nui family upset that hotel has opened on dispute site

Radio New Zealand International

A New York-based Rapa Nui man says he is saddened and disappointed by the opening of a luxury hotel on his ancestral land in Easter Island.

The Hangaroa Eco Village opened this month, a year after Chile sent police units from the mainland to end protests by Rapa Nui on several sites including the former Hangaroa Hotel.

Santi Hitorangi’s family staged a protest at the hotel over several months until being forcibly dispersed.

Their legal challenge against the use of their land by the Chilean/German consortium which owns the hotel is still in the courts.

However Mr Hitorangi says the government has done little to help resolve the issue:
“The government has been in bed with the owners of the Hangaroa Hotel and they’re in fact using their police, their local justice system, to criminalise my people, my family, and use the local police as the private guards to keep out any protest and any attempt to re-take the Hangaroa Hotel.”

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