Collection Description

Culture Name


Culture Description

Historically, Mapuche or “people from the land” was the term used to designate the Mapuche occupying the south-central area of Chile but now is the term used for all Mapuche. The Mapuche speak a language called Mapudungun, composed of several dialects. Aboriginally the economy was based on a combination of food gathering, hunting, fishing, and horticulture, but by the twentieth century agriculture predominated with farming techniques learned primarily from the Chileans. Settlements consist of three to eight dispersed dwellings, each occupied by a patrilocal extended family.


Select the Culture Summary link above for a longer description of the culture.


South America --Central Andes



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Collection Overview

Documents referred to in this section are included in the eHRAF collection and are referenced by author, date of publication, and eHRAF document number.

The SG04 Mapuche collection consists of nine documents, all in English. Titiev (1951, no. 1), is one of the primary documents for this collection giving a good overall picture of Mapuche culture with special emphasis on sociopolitical structure and acculturation. This study, however, lacks ethnographic time depth, covering primarily the period from about 1930 to the late 1940s. Cooper (1946, no. 5), based on secondary documentation, supplements the data in Titiev, particularly in regard to diversity among the various tribal divisions, and adds more historical background information than Titiev provides. Latcham (1909, no. 4) is an account of Mapuche culture as it existed in the late nineteenth century. Although poorly organized, this document does provide many useful details on Mapuche life. Although its major focus is on childhood and child-rearing practices, Hilger (1957, no. 10), also provides a wealth of information on the life cycle, material culture, subsistence activities, religion, kinship, political organization, art, and culture history of both Chilean and Argentinian groups of Mapuche. Other major ethnographic topics deal with Mapuche social structure (Faron, 1961, no. 11); Mapuche religion and morals, in Faron (1964, no. 12); Mapuche ethnic resurgence in post-dictatorship Chile, in Baccara (2002, n. 13); and female shamanism among the Mapuche of Chile, in Nakashima Degarrod (1998, no. 15).

For more detailed information on the content of the individual works in this collection see the abstracts in the citations preceding each document.

Overview by

John Beierle

Admapu - customary law - use "LEGAL NORMS (671)"

Am - the soul - use "ANIMISM (774)"

Awn - burial ceremonies - use "BURIAL PRACTICES AND FUNERALS (764)"

Federacion Araucana - political pressure groups - use "PRESSURE POLITICS (664)"

Fundo - large land holdings - use "REAL PROPERTY (423)"

Kalku - sorcerers or witches - use "SORCERY (754)"

Kalkutun - the ceremony performed to detect witches - use "SORCERY (754)"

Konas - councils - use "COUNCILS (623)"

Konchotun - a formal and public demonstration of special friendship, involving the sacrifice of a lamb; a loose-binding blood pact - use "FRIENDSHIPS (572)" with ARTIFICIAL KIN RELATIONSHIPS (608)"

Kureyewen - the "stealing" of the bride-to-be from her kinsmen - use "MODE OF MARRIAGE (583)"

Lakutun - the naming rite - use "NAMING (553)"

Llangi-Llangi - a ceremonial altar - use "SACRED OBJECTS AND PLACES (778)"

Llani - the secondary altar in the nillatun ceremony - use "SACRED OBJECTS AND PLACES (778)"

Lofche - an extended family group - use "EXTENDED FAMILIES (596)" with "COMMUNITY STRUCTURE (621)"

Lonko - lineage head and chief - use "LINEAGES (613)", and "COMMUNITY HEADS (622)"

Machi - shamans (generally female) - use "SHAMANS AND PSYCHOTHERAPISTS (756)"

Mafutun - a ceremony connected with the distribution of bride price - use "MODE OF MARRIAGE (583)"

Mediero - a sharecropping system - use "RENTING AND LEASING (427)"

Mingaco - a cooperative labor venture - use "MUTUAL AID (476)"

Misha - the ritual sharing of food from a single bowl, symbolizing that the individuals so related are innocent of desiring to harm one another - use "SOCIAL RELATIONSHIPS AND GROUPS (571)" and "RITUAL (788)"

Nenechen - the Supreme Being (for most Mapuche) - use "SPIRITS AND GODS (776)"

Nillatufe - the ritual priest - use "PRIESTHOOD (793)"

Nillatun - the great agricultural fertility ceremony - use "ORGANIZED CEREMONIAL (796)" with "TILLAGE (241)"

Parcela - small land holdings - use "REAL PROPERTY (423)"

Peloten - diviners - use "MAGICIANS AND DIVINERS (791)"

Pillan - the spirit helpers of the shaman - use "SPIRITS AND GODS (776)"

Purun - a type of dance - use "DANCE (535)"

Radicacion - establishment of reservations - use "PUBLIC WELFARE (657)"

Rewe - a step-notched carved pole outside the shaman's house which the machi climbs during ceremonies - use "SACRED OBJECTS AND PLACES (778)"

Ruka[ - dwellings - use "DWELLINGS (342)"

Sociedad Caupolican - political pressure groups - use "PRESSURE POLITICS (664)"

Thungulmachin - an aide to the shaman who relates to him/her those things that she/he has spoken of while possessed by a spirit - use "REVELATION AND DIVINATION (787)" with "SHAMANS AND PSYCHOTHERAPISTS (756)"

Toldo - dwellings of the Argentine Mapuche - use "DWELLINGS (342)"

Toqui - district heads - use "DISTRICTS (634)"

Trokinche - lineages - use "LINEAGES (613)"

Union Araucana - political pressure groups - use "PRESSURE POLITICS (664)"

Wekufe - evil spirits - use "SPIRITS AND GODS (776)"

Werkens - official aides to the chief - use "LOCAL OFFICIALS (624)"

Weupin - formal orations, as at a funeral - use "ORATORY (537)"

This culture summary is based on the article "Araucanians" by Lydia Nakashima Degarrod in the Encyclopedia of World Cultures, Vol. 7, South America, 1994. Johannes Wilbert, ed. Boston, Mass.: G. K. Hall &Co. Population figures were updated in May 2008 with advice from Lydia Nakashima Degarrod. The synopsis and indexing notes were written by John Beierle in August 2007.

Indexing Notes by

John Beierle

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