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Indigenous Mapuche Play Key Role Protecting Chile's Environment

IN PICTURES: On World Environment Day, let's recognize the important role Indigenous communities play in environmental conservation

The Mapuche Indigenous peoples of south-central Chile and Argentina have long preserved and guarded their forests, which are increasingly under threat from extractive industries like mining, pulp and timber.  

Studies show that the Chilean model of forest development is a key driver of forest and biodiversity loss. This is having devastating impacts on campesino and Indigenous communities that depend on forests. 

Strengthening the rights of Indigenous communities over their territories is fundamental to the conservation and protection of native forests and ecosystems around the world. 

On World Environment Day, teleSUR takes a look at Mapuche community conservation and practices with this photos essay by Carolina Lagos, Global Forest Coalition and Colective VientoSur.

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Forests in Chile are an essential part of the Mapuche way of life. Pictured here is a native forest in Chanlelfu in the Araucanía Region, Chile. The Mapuche have for long struggled to protect their forest territories against invasions by forestry and timber companies. The forest is an essential source of sustenance, livelihood, food, medicine, identity, and spirituality for the Mapuche.
Forests in Chile are an essential part of the Mapuche way of life. Pictured here is a native forest in Chanlelfu in the Araucanía Region, Chile. The Mapuche have for long struggled to protect their forest territories against invasions by forestry and timber companies. The forest is an essential source of sustenance, livelihood, food, medicine, identity, and spirituality for the Mapuche. Photo:Courtesty / Carolina Lagos, Global Forest Coalition and Colectivo VientoSur
Don Mauricio Caquilpán, is a Mapuche and community leader of the Chanlelfu community in Chile.
Don Mauricio Caquilpán, is a Mapuche and community leader of the Chanlelfu community in Chile. Photo:Courtesty / Carolina Lagos, Global Forest Coalition and Colectivo VientoSur
Don Mauricio explains the best way to harvest “changles”, an edible wild mushroom, in a way so as to not damage them ensuring they grow back year after year.  Changles are native to southern Chile and grow under the native forest canopy on the forest floor. They are harvested for food and are an important Non-Timber Forest Product. NTFPs play a central role in the economy and livelihoods of local-Indigenous communities.
Don Mauricio explains the best way to harvest “changles”, an edible wild mushroom, in a way so as to not damage them ensuring they grow back year after year. Changles are native to southern Chile and grow under the native forest canopy on the forest floor. They are harvested for food and are an important Non-Timber Forest Product. NTFPs play a central role in the economy and livelihoods of local-Indigenous communities. Photo:Courtesty / Carolina Lagos, Global Forest Coalition and Colectivo VientoSur
Changles (Ramaria flava) are commonly enjoyed in Mapuche cuisine. They are sautéed, fried, added to soups, in empanadas, and many other forms.
Changles (Ramaria flava) are commonly enjoyed in Mapuche cuisine. They are sautéed, fried, added to soups, in empanadas, and many other forms. Photo:Courtesty / Carolina Lagos, Global Forest Coalition and Colectivo VientoSur
“Digüeñes” (Cyttaria espinosae) another edible wild mushroom grows on Oak trunks in springtime. There are at least seven types of wild mushrooms present in these native forests.
“Digüeñes” (Cyttaria espinosae) another edible wild mushroom grows on Oak trunks in springtime. There are at least seven types of wild mushrooms present in these native forests. Photo:Courtesty / Carolina Lagos, Global Forest Coalition and Colectivo VientoSur
An Oak tree trunk covered in local mushrooms.
An Oak tree trunk covered in local mushrooms. Photo:Courtesty / Carolina Lagos, Global Forest Coalition and Colectivo VientoSur
Women initiating the “Trafinktu” ceremony, an ancestral Mapuche gift exchanging ceremony for sharing knowledge and seeds. Such exchanges strengthen the community, and deepen solidarity. In this picture, women are welcoming each participant asking what they have brought with them to share and exchange with others.
Women initiating the “Trafinktu” ceremony, an ancestral Mapuche gift exchanging ceremony for sharing knowledge and seeds. Such exchanges strengthen the community, and deepen solidarity. In this picture, women are welcoming each participant asking what they have brought with them to share and exchange with others. Photo:Courtesty / Carolina Lagos, Global Forest Coalition and Colectivo VientoSur
Mapuche community members engaging in barter and exchange.
Mapuche community members engaging in barter and exchange. Photo:Courtesty / Carolina Lagos, Global Forest Coalition and Colectivo VientoSur
Moss used for dying wool. This particular moss is used to make red, orange, and brown color dye.
Moss used for dying wool. This particular moss is used to make red, orange, and brown color dye. Photo:Courtesty / Carolina Lagos, Global Forest Coalition and Colectivo VientoSur
Despite their immense social and ecological value, native forests are fast being replaced by monoculture tree plantations of eucalyptus and pine.
Despite their immense social and ecological value, native forests are fast being replaced by monoculture tree plantations of eucalyptus and pine. Photo:Courtesty / Carolina Lagos, Global Forest Coalition and Colectivo VientoSur
A pile of logs with a warning and logo of the Arauco company.
A pile of logs with a warning and logo of the Arauco company. Photo:Courtesty / Carolina Lagos, Global Forest Coalition and Colectivo VientoSur
Don Pedro Suarez, a Mapuche, observing the deforestation and plantations surrounding his community in the Bio-Bío region. These are causing biodiversity loss and water shortages making the future uncertain. Along with his community, Don Pedro has been in a long struggle against forestry, pulp and hydropower companies in order to protect their sacred sites and their way of life. They are actively engaged in conserving local biodiversity through their traditional practices and traditional pesticide free agriculture.
Don Pedro Suarez, a Mapuche, observing the deforestation and plantations surrounding his community in the Bio-Bío region. These are causing biodiversity loss and water shortages making the future uncertain. Along with his community, Don Pedro has been in a long struggle against forestry, pulp and hydropower companies in order to protect their sacred sites and their way of life. They are actively engaged in conserving local biodiversity through their traditional practices and traditional pesticide free agriculture. Photo:Courtesty / Carolina Lagos, Global Forest Coalition and Colectivo VientoSur
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