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Mapuche (Mapudungun; Che, "People" + Mapu, "of the Land") are the Pre-Hispanic Amerindian inhabitants of Central and Southern Chile and Southern Argentina. In the Spanish language they are also known as araucanos (Araucanians). Contrary to popular belief, the Quechua word arauco (rebel), is not the root of araucano.
The Mapuche had an economy based on agriculture; their social organisation consisted of extended families.
The Mapuche are a wide ranging ethnicity composed of various groups which shared a common social, religious and economic structure, as well as a common linguistic herritage. Their influence extended between the river Aconcagua and the Argentinian pampa. They can be divided into the Picunches who lived in the central valleys of Chile - these integrated with the Tawantinsuyu (Inca Empire) and later with the Spaniards. The Mapuches who inhabited the Valleys between the Itata and ToltÚn Rivers. As well as the Huilliches, the Lafkenches , and the Pehuenches . The northern Aonikenk , called Patagons by Ferdinand Magellan, were and ethnic group of the pampa regions that made contact with some Mapuche groups, adopting their language and some culture; they are the Tehuelches .
Mapuches successfully resisted attempts by the Inca Empire to subjugate them, in spite of lacking a nationwide organization.
The Mapuche fought against the Spaniards, and, using the Bio Bio River as a natural frontier, they resisted colonization; this war is known as the War of Arauco , and is immortalized in the epic poem La Araucana. When Chile split from the Spanish crown, some Mapuche chiefs sided with the colonists. After Chile's independence from Spain, Mapuches coexisted and traded with their neighbors .
The Chilean Army put an end to the War of Arauco by the 1880s, and, using a combination of force and diplomacy, Chile's government and some Mapuche leaders signed a treaty to incorporate the Araucanian territories into Chile.
Mapuche descendants now live across southern Chile and Argentina; some maintain their traditions and continue living from agriculture, but a growing majority have migrated to cities in search for better economic opportunities. In recent years, there has been an attempt by the Chilean government to reddress some of the inequities of the past, by, for example, validating the Mapudungun language and culture by including them in the curriculum of elementary schools around Temuco.
According to Chilean statistics, most Chilean Mapuche possess some non-aboriginal ancestry, and more than 90% of Chile's non-aboriginal population possess Native American ancestry in varying degrees - deeming them mestizos - though very few Chileans would admit their Native American admixture. See also: Demographics of Chile.
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