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Indigenous by grace
Latinamerica Press
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Legislation allows non indigenous persons to be able to self-identify as such.

Over the last 20 years, more than 15,000 people in Chile have received what is called the “indigenous status” despite not having that origin.

According to the Indigenous Peoples Act, enacted in 1993, “the State recognizes that Chile´s indigenous inhabitants are those who are descendants of human groups that have existed in the national territory since pre-Columbian times, who preserve their own ethnic and cultural manifestations, with the land for them being the main foundation of their existence and culture.”

Also, “it recognized as major ethnic groups in Chile: the Mapuche, Aimara, Rapa Nui or Easter Islander, the Atacama, Quechua and Colla communities from the north of the country, the Kawashkar or Alacalufe communities, and the Yamana or Yagan of the southern channels.”

However, the law also permits that people who are not descendants of native peoples may be recognized as indigenous. That is, “indigenous by grace.”

While the law determines that those who are children of an indigenous parent, father or mother, those having at least one indigenous name, and those proving their generational indigenous origin to be considered indigenous, it also takes into account those who, while not being indigenous, maintain the cultural traits of a native ethnic group (ways of life, customs or religion), or those whose spouse is indigenous, for which the spouses must identify themselves as indigenous.

According to press reports, 34 percent of beneficiaries live in the region of Araucania, where most Mapuche communities have for decades claimed their ancestral territories.

“Indigenous status”
To obtain the indigenous status, it is enough to go to the National Indigenous Development Corporation (CONADI), a body responsible for granting accreditation, with a notarized affidavit explaining their decision and a confirmation by a recognized indigenous authority that the person lives in the community.

If the order is rejected, the interested person himself, his heirs or assigns “may appeal to the respective judge; who then decides without the need of a trial” and having previously received a report from CONADI. Similarly, by the same procedure, “the indigenous status” requested could be challenged by another person.

Among the reasons given for identifying oneself as indigenous are the benefits provided by the State for the indigenous populations. Among these benefits is the granting of subsidies for the purchase of land to “individuals, families or communities that do not have enough land to develop sustainable projects,” and for specialization programs for indigenous technicians and/or professionals, in national and foreign educational institutions.

Carlos Llancaqueo, director of the Aitué Foundation, a nongovernmental organization based in the Araucania region, dedicated to the preparation and evaluation of indigenous public policies, said to the press that “the current standards are not enough and some irregularities may present. There are people who take advantage of this condition or this procedure with an objective that is not cultural, but for profit: to have access to benefits the indigenous receive, to the detriment of the indigenous people themselves that with more rights than them, could obtain.”

CONADI ensures that the accreditation process for indigenous status is quite rigorous through specialized personnel who see the appropriateness to grant or not to grant the certification, added to which is the reduced budget that it has to work with. —Latinamerica Press.

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