People of Chile

Clifford J. Kamen
Grace L. Soderlund credited as educational collaborator
Production Date: 
Hollywood Film Enterprises, Inc.
Unnamed male narrator, refers to himself once in the film: upon being invited into Carl Neumann’s mansion/farm house in Valdivia.
Run Time: 

Please see the Sample Lesson Plan for this film at

Establishing shot: Opens with a map of Chile accompanied by a voiceover that declares, “It is hard to imagine a country with a shape as peculiar as this; yet, there is one.”  Proceeds to compare Chile with the United States by laying map of Chile over that of U.S.  First live action shot is a medium shot of a woman (Kawesqar?) bobbing on the water in a watercraft (a canoe?), looking off screen right.  Shot is accompanied by voiceover: “Dark-skinned Indians whose ancestors lived here before the white man."

Named locations: Chile’s central valley, Santiago, Valdivia, rural farmland in south central chile where the Mapuche live, Tierra del Fuego, archipelago and area where Kawesqar live, Punta Arenas, Chile’s northern desert.

Major themes covered:  The demography and geography, cultures and customs, history and colonization, economy and politics of Chile, including these practically-extinct oceanic people as of 1947.

Native activities shown: 
Mapuche activities shown in the film: A woman riding in a carriage pulled by oxen, followed by a man who places a child in same carriage (12:06); Apparently same woman in carriage parked in front of cement building (12:15); Bald man with beard looking straight into the camera, field of what looks to be corn in the background (12:17); long shot of young woman in dirt road dressed in black shawl and traditional silver breast ornaments, which are important parts of the chamal or kepal traditional Mapuche dress for women, followed by cut to close up of the ornaments (12:25).

Mapuche activities implied or alluded to in the film: intermarriage with European settlers; waging “fierce warfare” with same early settlers; gradual dying out (“Today only a few thousand of the Indians are left” [12:19]).

Kawesqar activites shown in the film: Extreme long shot of Kawesqar people rowing a boat (16:07); Large family sitting together in canoe (16:09); People talking, laughing, and smoking cigarettes in canoes (16:23); Children in canoes dressed in what is apparently seal skin or leather (16:27); Woman smiling and rowing canoe with girl seated in back (19:58).

Kawesqar activities implied or alluded to in the film: settlement long before “the coming of the white man” (16:14); living their whole lives in “dugo

Individuals Named: None
Audible Native language spoken: None



Crow, Joanna. The Mapuche in Modern Chile: A Cultural History. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2012.

This recent study offers a cultural history of the Mapuche that includes discussions of land debates, colonization, and Mapuche politics and political identities.  The focus of this book is the historical encounters and interactions between the Mapuche and the Chileans, beginning from the colonial period in the nineteenth century and proceeding right up to the present day.

Dillehay, Tom D.  “Mapuche Ceremonial Landscape, Social Recruitment and Resource Rights.”  World Archaeology. 22.2 (1990): 223-24.

This oft-cited article discusses the ceremonial and burial grounds in Mapuche culture, focusing especially on their construction, distribution, and history.  The article situates these ceremonial and burial grounds in the shifting cultural and historical context of the Mapuche, and draws some conclusions regarding political and familial power among the Mapuche.

Faron, Louis C.  The Mapuche Indians of Chile.   Prospect Heights, IL: Waveland Press, 1986.

---.   Mapuche Social Structure: Institutional Reintegration in a Patrilineal Society of Central Chile. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1961.

These somewhat dated studies by Louis Faron detail the value and belief systems, customs, ceremonies and social structures of the Mapuche peoples.


Aguilera, F O. Léxico Español-Kawésqar, Kawésqar-Español: Alacalufe Septentrional. Santiago, Chile: Centro de Investigaciones Linguístico-Antropológicas Rudolf Lenz, 1976.

---.  “Documenting Kawesqar, the last spoken Fueguian language.” <>.  2004. 

Both of these works are concerned with explicating the structures, grammar, and usages of the unique Kawesqar language.  Both works also encourage the preservation of that language, and detail the history of the preservation efforts up to the time of their publication.

---. “Los Relatos De Viaje Kawésqar, Su Estructura Y Referencia De Personas.” Magallania. 39.1 (2011): 119-145.

This more recent work focuses on some of the myths, stories and travel narratives of the Kawesqar people.  Includes some very interesting translations of Kawesqar oral narratives.

Online Resources:

Chilean Bureau of Indian Affairs:

Includes information about efforts to preserve indigenous communities and to develop equitable relationships between those communities and other Chilean populations.

Official website for international Mapuche organization Mapuche International Link (MIL):

Politically-oriented website includes lots of news stories about the Mapuche plight against prejudice and injustice perpetrated by the Chilean and Argentinean governments and other groups.  Focused on improving the conditions for Mapuche people around the world.  Not much cultural information.

Pais Mapuche website:  Online, Spanish-language newspaper covering stories pertaining to political and cultural struggles of the Mapuche peoples.

Museo de la Patagonia Argentinean website on the Mapuche: Very informative, English-language website that includes thorough descriptions of a variety of aspects of Mapuche life, including social organization and family of the Mapuche, religious beliefs and cosmogony, and silversmithing.

Mapuche page on Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization website:

Includes statistical data on population, languages, and religions of the Mapuche. Also features a great deal of informative historical and cultural background.  Also discusses current events and concerns pertaining to the Mapuche. 

University of Chile’s site on the Kawesqar:

This thorough, academic, and interactive website provides a wealth of information about Kawesqar life.  Topics covered include Kawesqar language, histories, and cultural practices, places where the Kawesqar currently live, Kawesqar mythology, and also analytical works about the Kawesqar.  The section on cultural practices and history (, details the interactions between the Kawesqar and the Chilean government and military.  The section proceeds to discuss the housing, domestic gender roles, and daily lives of the Kawesqar as they are known today.  The section also endeavors to explain the ideas of property, community, and governance prevalent among the Kawesqar.  The canoeing by which the Kawesqar have so often been identified is also mentioned.

Argentinean website on the Kawesqar:

Discusses some of the traditions, beliefs and customs of the Kawesqar.  Emphasizes organizational and symbolic roles of family life in Kawesqar culture.  Gives the typical ages at which Kawesqar individuals go through puberty get married.  This article makes the point that the family is the principal model of governance among the Kawesqar, and that each family functions independently of other families or organizational institutions.

Smithsonian Institution’s page on Kawesqar:

Identifies the Kawesqar as nomadic sea-faring peoples who navigate by canoe.  Also mentions that very few Kawesqar people remain, thereby making it difficult for younger generations to preserve their native culture.

New York Times article on the Kawesqar from 2004:

Focuses mostly on the dying out of the Kawesqar language, but also includes some interesting historical and cultural background.

--Adam Iddings, 2013