UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Restitution of Mapuche lands : challenges and enabling conditions for adaptation to a changing context Arias-Bustamante, José


Mapuche people are claiming rights to their ancestral territorial spaces, including the ownership of land and control over the territory, in order to exercise the right to set their development priorities and to have the natural resources to ensure their existence as a people. However, settlers and commercial companies have legal access to the same lands and, therefore, can develop the land by the means they consider best for their own interests. The state has supported unfair practices by providing subsidies and militarizing claimed spaces (e.g., using heavy weaponry, armoured vehicles, and tear gas). On top of this, Mapuche communities, like other Indigenous communities around the globe, are experiencing the impacts of climate change (e.g., drought and forest fires combined with the impacts of introduced forest plantations). The main purpose of this study is to understand the process that Mapuche communities experience in their quest for land restitution in a constantly changing context. To accomplish this aim, I approached the issue through a specific research question: How do Mapuche people navigate the challenges and opportunities provided by a rapidly changing context to secure land restitution and their cultural survival? An inductive qualitative case study approach was adopted, informed by Indigenous methodology and constructive grounded theory. Data-collection methods were tailored to respect Indigenous protocols, values, and beliefs important to the Mapuche communities. I show that the different understandings of the land respond to an ontological conflict that affects the efforts of Mapuche communities to rebuild their ancestral territories. While navigating CONADI’s land restitution process, communities witness how settlers, seeing the land as a commodity, take advantage of the process and inflate land prices. When prices are too high, communities are asked to find alternative estates. The lack of access to capital and knowledge to maintain the control of access gained through the CONADI makes tenure security insufficient to drive climate change mitigation. If the law does not bundle land restitution and financial support for the communities to establish living conditions and conserve or restore their native forests, it will be hard for communities to avoid subscribing to environmentally detrimental agreements.

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Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International