Indigenous collaboration from one end of the Americas to the other: Canadian expertise highlighted in Chile

Ruka, the Mapuche ceremonial centre

From left to right: Theresa O’Connors (Metis), Martine Paquin, Cristian Sandoval (Wekimun project), Ana Maria Olivera (Wekimun project), Mónica Araneda (Taiñ Adkimn Association), Luis Felipe Valenzuela (Taiñ Adkimn Association), Ambassador Marcel Lebleu, Pedro Valenzuela (Taiñ Adkimn Association), Maria Hueichaqueo (Taiñ Adkimn Association), Darlene Kanobi (Ojibway), Pedro Valenzuela (Taiñ Adkimn Association), Luan Hill (Iroquois), Tim Thomson (Mohawk), Hélène Mayrand (Embassy of Canada to Chile)

Recognizing ancestral culture, promoting indigenous education in an urban setting, and training indigenous youth while respecting their identity. These were the matters discussed by Canadian Ojibway, Metis and Iroquois experts and Chilean indigenous communities as part of the International Indigenous Symposium organized by Chile’s Taiñ Adkimn Mapuche Indigenous Association, which took place on October 26, 2016. The embassy supported this conference for the fifth consecutive year through the Post Initiative Fund (PIM) to foster links between the indigenous peoples of Canada and Chile and promote the sharing of best practices on the promotion of ancestral cultures and respect for the rights of indigenous peoples.

As Ambassador Marcel Lebleu mentioned during the inauguration, "there is nothing better than to have four real ambassadors among us to talk about the Canadian experience," referring to Canadian indigenous participants Tim Thomson (Mohawk), Darlene Kanobi(Ojibway), Theresa O’Connors (Metis), and Luan Hill (Iroquois). A Chilean indigenous representative thanked the delegation for participating, as "culture should not be reduced to museums or history of the past," but kept alive and active through the sharing of experiences.  The visit by Canadian experts also allowed helped to forge synergies with two Chilean partners collaborating on the Wekimun Rural Training Centre, a Canadian project in southern Chile devoted to the promotion of indigenous education. 

This annual meeting of indigenous peoples of the Americas also enabled Chilean indigenous youth to become involved in the enrichment of their education and ancestral know-how. One of the dozens of students attending the Symposium, Amalia Parra Palacios, of Mapuche ancestry, stated: "Education on different cultures is a priceless tool that helps us to respect diversity and achieve true multiculturalism."

Canada-Chile collaboration between indigenous communities and academic experts

Wekimun Rural Training Centre, a Canadian initiative financially supported by Partnerships for Development Innovation (PDI) (2012-2018), is a joint project of the University of Prince Edward Island (UPEI) and the Council of Williche Chiefs of Chiloé (WCC). It has helped to set up a unique training centre affording the Williche indigenous population the opportunity to continue their education and develop their skills in a program that respects and integrates the indigenous culture and identity. Williches are part of an indigenous group in Chile belonging to the Mapuche culture (the largest indigenous group in Chile) living on the Chiloe Archipelago in the southern part of the country.

The Taiñ Adkimn Mapuche Indigenous Association, based in a suburb of Santiago, promotes indigenous education in an urban setting and has been collaborating with indigenous communities and Canadian experts for more than a decade. To highlight the importance of respect for pluralism, the embassy financed the reconstruction of their Ruka, the Mapuche ceremonial centre destroyed by arson, through the Canada Fund for Local Initiatives (CFLI) last year. This community centre, located on one of the University of Chile campuses, is at the heart of the traditional life of this community and promotes intercultural exchanges, student training, and traditional Mapuche ceremonies.