Indigenous peoples in Chile

According to the Ministry of Social Developments' 2013 Survey, the population that self-identifies as belonging to or descended from one of the nine indigenous peoples recognised under Chilean law, via parentage or surname, numbers 1,565,915 people, or 8% of the country’s total population. It comprises the following peoples:

In the Andeas valleys and highlands of the north, are the:

  • Aymara (0.59%)
  • Lickanantay (0.14%)
  • Quechua (0.07%)
  • Colla (0.06%)
  • Diaguita (0.06%)

On Easter Island (Te Pito oTe Henua),in Polynesia, is the: 

  • Rapa Nui (0.03%)

In the temperate and rainy Wallmapu in the south:

  • Mapuche (6.97%)

In the southern Patagonian canals:

  • Kawashkar (0.01%)
  • Yamana (0.01%) 

Increased indigenous population

The Mapuche population accounts for 84% of the indigenous population, followed by the Aymara, Diaguita, Atacameña and Quechua who, together, make up another 15%. Other peoples represent just 1% of the total.

According to these figures, the population that self-identifies as indigenous has therefore increased by 50% in the last 10 years. In fact, the 2006 national survey gave a total of indigenous population of 1,060,786 but, as of 2013, that number had increased by 505,129.

Urban and rural indigenous populations

Some statistics reveal that, of the country's total indigenous population, some 74% live in urban and 26% in rural areas.

This gives a total of 1,158,451 urban indigenous persons. Only the Mapuche continue to remain in rural areas in high numbers (23,8%) as other groups have largely deserted the countryside.

Poverty

Indigenous peoples suffer some of the highest rates of poverty in the country.

The 2013 survey shows that, while there has been a reduction in the percentage of indigenous peoples living in multidimensional poverty (income, housing, education and health) in relation to previous years, the gap between these people and the non-indigenous population remains the same.

Some 31.2% of the indigenous population but only 19.3% of the non-indigenous population live in multidimensional poverty.  

Legislation

Chile’s constitution, which dates from 1980, during the time of the military dictatorship, still fails to recognise indigenous peoples and their rights.

The planned reform of the Political Constitution and recognition of indigenous rights that has been before the National Congress since 2007-2008 continued to make no progress during 2014.

The indigenous peoples are governed by Law No. 19,253 of 1993 on the “promotion, protection and development of indigenous peoples”, a law that does not meet international legal standards on the rights of indigenous peoples.

Another regulation that recognises and governs the exercise of the rights of Chile’s indigenous peoples is Law No. 20,049, enacted in 2008, which “creates coastal marine spaces for native peoples” and which, to date, has come up against different institutional barriers to its implementation.

ILO Convention 169 was ratified by Chile in 2008, and came into force in September 2009.

However, its implementation has thus far been wholly insufficient, particularly in the case of the right to prior consultation.

Yearly Update

Download the 2016 yearbook article on indigenous peoples in Chile to learn about major developments and events during 2015.