The relationship of the Chilean State with the indigenous peoples has been characterized by a kind of relatively constant paradox, which manifests itself in a strategy of annihilation/invisibilization and another of recognition. This paradox is currently expressed from different perspectives and manifestations depending on the people concerned and the circumstances in which they find themselves, as well as on the institutionality of the State as it relates to the Aymara, Colla, Diaguita, Likan Antay, Quechua, Rapa Nui, Mapuche, Kawésqar and Yagán peoples. In this sense, it is important to remember that both bodies of the so-called executive, judicial and legislative power have a relationship with and impact on these peoples, but so do the armed forces and public order forces, where their presence has been evident not only in their repressive actions towards the Mapuche communities in the south of the country, but also in isolated and border areas in the north, in extreme areas in the south and on the Polynesian border, throughout the process of installing the State of Chile, acquiring subtle qualities as well.
The strategy of annihilation/invisibilization has been frontal and concrete through the usurpation of territories, the lack of compliance with international treaties and the compulsive use of resources through different companies linked to “development” (mining, forestry, salmon farming, industrial fishing, among others). These companies even led to the extermination of the ancestral inhabitants of this territory, as was the case with the colonization of the southern territories. This led to the fact that today we speak of “the last” – specifically “the last” representative – in the case of the Yagán and Kawésqar peoples.
The recognition strategy, on the other hand, is based on the ratification of international treaties – such as ILO Convention 169 – the Indigenous Law No. 19,253, the public policies implemented and the possibility of institutional recognition. Here, it is important that the State provides certificates for the recognition of the “quality” of indigenous people.
In other words, we are witnessing a strange scenario where the State makes indigenous people disappear and then makes them appear. What is really interesting about this situation is that through this black box of disappearances/invisibilities and appearances, it is expected that indigenous people will emerge in the same conditions in which they were made invisible, that is, as the incipient nation state of the 19th century found them, without considering the processes of transformation, adaptation and resistance that they have faced, leading them to the particular cultural expression that they are in the 21st century. What for some does not meet the expectations of the “indigenous”, since they seem very similar to Chilean mestizos.
In this paradox of elimination/invisibility and recognition, the State has had to respond to international standards on indigenous matters and also to the demands and the very development of the organizations of native peoples in different periods of its history as a nation state, which has become more pronounced in the last 20 years. However, this task is still unfinished and faces a constant tension between the advance of the demands and the reactive response of the institutions.
Within this framework, promoting knowledge and recognition of the rights of indigenous peoples is central, as is their existence as a legitimate group with a particular historical path and with the possibility of self-determination and the projection of their own way of being in the world.