1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Araucanians

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ARAUCANIANS (or Auca), a tribal group of South American Indians in southern Chile (see above). Physically a fine race, their hardiness and bravery enabled them successfully to resist the Incas in the 15th century. Their government was by four toquis or princes, independent of one another, but confederates against foreign enemies. Each tetrarchy was divided into five provinces, ruled by five chiefs called apo-ulmen; and each province into nine districts, governed by as many ulmen, who were subject to the apo-ulmen, as the latter were to the toquis. These various chiefs (who all bore the title of ulmen) composed the aristocracy of the country. They held their dignities by hereditary descent in the male line, and in the order of primogeniture. The supreme power of each tetrarchy resided in a council of the ulmen, who assembled annually in a large plain. The resolutions of this council were subject to popular assent. The chiefs, indeed, were little more than leaders in war; for the right of private revenge limited their authority in judicial matters; and they received no taxes. Their laws were merely traditional customs. War was declared by the council, messengers bearing arrows dipped in blood being sent to all parts of the country to summon the men to arms. From the time of the first Spanish invasion (1535) the Araucanians made a vigorous resistance, and after worsting the best soldiers and the best generals of Spain for two centuries obtained an acknowledgment of their independence. Their success was due as much to their readiness in adopting their enemy’s methods of warfare as to their bravery. Realizing the inefficiency of their old missiles when opposed to musket balls, they laid aside their bows, and armed themselves with spears, swords or other weapons fitted for close combat. Their practice was to advance rapidly within such a distance of the Spaniards as would not leave the latter time to reload after firing. Here they received without shrinking a volley, which was certain to destroy a number of them, and then rushing forward in close order, fought their enemies hand to hand.

The Araucanians believe in a supreme being, and in many subordinate spirits, good and bad. They believe also in omens and divination, but they have neither temples nor idols, nor religious rites. Very few have become Roman Catholics. They believe in a future state, and have a confused tradition respecting a deluge, from which some persons were saved on a high mountain. They divide the year into twelve months of thirty days, and add five days by intercalation. They esteem poetry and eloquence, but can scarcely be induced to learn reading or writing.

The tribal divisions have little or no organization. Some 50,000 in number, they spend a nomad existence wandering from pasture to pasture, living in low skin tents, their herds providing their food. They still preserve their warlike nature, though in 1870 they formally recognized Chilean rule. In 1861 Antoine de Tounens (1820–1878), a French adventurer in Chile, proclaimed himself king of Araucania under the title of Orélie Antoine I., and tried to obtain subscriptions from France to support his enterprise. But his pretensions were ludicrous; he was quickly captured by the Chileans and sent back to France (1862) as a madman; and though he made one more abortive effort in 1874 to recover his “kingdom,” and occupied his pen in magnifying his achievements, nobody took him seriously except a few of the deluded Indians.

See Domeyko, Araucania y sus habitantes (Santiago, 1846); de Ginoux, “Le Chili et les Araucans,” in Bull, de la soc, de géogr. (1852); E. R. Smith, Araucamans (New York, 1855); J. T. Medina, Los aborjenes de Chile (Santiago, 1882); A. Polakowsky, Die heutigen Araukanen, Globus No. 74 (Brunswick, 1898).