Araucanians - Sociopolitical Organization

Social Organization. Prior to pacification, the Araucanians derived personal prestige and personal rank from martial prowess, wealth, generosity, and eloquence of speech. The modern Araucanians are divided into three loosely separated classes: the wealthy, the commoners, and the poor farm workers.

Political Organization. Kinship heads, called lonko , controlled agricultural labor and other cooperative (minga) ventures. A lonko's power extended only over his own household, and his prestige partly depended upon his generous hospitality. There was no overall chief in peacetime. When necessary, military commanders were elected by these lonko. After settlement in reservations, the political power of the chiefs was temporarily strengthened. The chief's role in land allocation gave him control over marital and postmarital residence. The consequent division of land and the inability of the original chiefs to transfer their reservation land title to their heirs decreased their newly acquired political power. Modern chiefs share their authority with councils of elders and heads of lineages. The chief's authority is restricted to inter- and intrareservational matters.

Social Control. During prereservation times, crimes of adultery, murder, and sorcery within the community were punishable by death. With the exception of sorcery, however, compensation was commonly made through payments. At present, troublemakers and people suspected of sorcery are usually evicted from the reservation as punishment. Since pacification, the Araucanians have been under the Chilean judicial system.

Conflict. Prior to settlement on the reservations, feuds and raids between Araucanians were common. Each household defended its farm lands against trespass and avenged death or sorcery by means of blood feud.

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