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Butalmapu or Fütalmapu is the name in Mapudungun for "great land", which were one of the great confederations wherein the Mapuche people organized themselves in case of war. These confederations corresponded to the great geographic areas inhabited by the Mapuches in Chile.

Mapuche Ethnic group in South America

The Mapuche are a group of indigenous inhabitants of south-central Chile and southwestern Argentina, including parts of present-day Patagonia. The collective term refers to a wide-ranging ethnicity composed of various groups who shared a common social, religious and economic structure, as well as a common linguistic heritage as Mapudungun speakers. Their influence once extended from the Aconcagua River to the Chiloé Archipelago and spread later eastward to the Argentine pampa. Today the collective group makes up over 80% of the indigenous peoples in Chile, and about 9% of the total Chilean population. They are particularly concentrated in Araucanía. Many have migrated to the Santiago and Buenos Aires area for economic opportunities.

Chile Republic in South America

Chile, officially the Republic of Chile, is a South American country occupying a long, narrow strip of land between the Andes to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west. It borders Peru to the north, Bolivia to the northeast, Argentina to the east, and the Drake Passage in the far south. Chilean territory includes the Pacific islands of Juan Fernández, Salas y Gómez, Desventuradas, and Easter Island in Oceania. Chile also claims about 1,250,000 square kilometres (480,000 sq mi) of Antarctica, although all claims are suspended under the Antarctic Treaty.

At the beginning of the conquest of Chile it is thought that there was a Butalmapu among the Picunche from the Limari River south to the vicinity of the Mataquito River that was headed by a Michimalonco. [1] Also at the beginning of the conquest of Chile, a Moluche Butalmapu, (name unknown), existed south of the Itata River and north of the Bio Bio River. [2] It may have included the aillurehue of the Cauquenes north of the Itata, who occasionally fought with them against the Spanish in the sixteenth century and earlier against the Inca in the Battle of the Maule.

The Conquest of Chile is a period in Chilean historiography that starts with the arrival of Pedro de Valdivia to Chile in 1541 and ends with the death of Martín García Óñez de Loyola in the Battle of Curalaba in 1598, and the destruction of the Seven Cities in 1600 in the Araucanía region.

The Picunche, also referred to as picones by the Spanish, were a Mapudungun-speaking Chilean people living to the north of the Mapuches or Araucanians and south of the Choapa River and the Diaguitas. Until the Conquest of Chile the Itata was the natural limit between the Mapuche, located to the south, and Picunche, to the north. During the Inca attempt to conquer Chile the southern Picunche peoples that successfully resisted them were later known as the Promaucaes.

Mataquito River river in Chile

Mataquito is a river located in the Province of Curicó, Maule Region of Chile and formed by the union of rivers Teno and Lontué about 10 kilometers west of Curicó near the locality of Sagrada Familia and empties into the Pacific Ocean south of the town of Iloca, Licantén.

Among the Moluche south of the Bio Bio River there were by the seventeenth century, three Butalmapu, that conformed with the main territorial identities of the Moluche: Lafkenmapu , the coastal region, Lelfünmapu the plains of the Intermediate Depression and Inapiremapu the foothills of the Andes. One other Piremapu in the Andes mountain range, was inhabited by the Pehuenches. [3]

The Moluche or Nguluche are an indigenous people of Chile. Their language was a dialect of Mapudungun, a Mapuche language. At the beginning of the Conquest of Chile by the Spanish Empire the Moluche lived in what came to be known as Araucanía. The Moluche were called Araucanos ("Araucanians") by the Spanish.

Andes Mountain range in South America

The Andes or Andean Mountains are the longest continental mountain range in the world, forming a continuous highland along the western edge of South America. The Andes also have the 2nd most elevated highest peak of any mountain range, only behind the Himalayas. The range is 7,000 km (4,300 mi) long, 200 to 700 km wide, and has an average height of about 4,000 m (13,000 ft). The Andes extend from north to south through seven South American countries: Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile and Argentina.

Pehuenche are an indigenous people of South America. They live in the Andes, primarily in present-day south central Chile and adjacent Argentina. Their name derives from their dependence for food on the seeds of the pehuen or monkey-puzzle tree. In the 16th century, the Pehuenche lived in the mountainous territory from approximately 34 degrees to 40 degrees south. Later they became Araucanized and partially merged with the Mapuche peoples. In the 21st century, they still retain some of their ancestral lands.

Each butalmapu was made up of several smaller confederations; aillarehues, that were made up of a number of familial clans of the same region, known as lofs. In case of an external danger or the beginning of a military campaign, the loncos (caciques) of all the lofs chose a supreme military leader of the Butalmapu, called the Toqui and Gran Toqui by the Spaniards. This leader had the right to make military decisions and usually only left his position when the campaign finished or he died. Butalmapus were not described as such in Spanish chronicles until the Cautiverio feliz y razón individual de las guerras dilatadas del reino de Chile, of Francisco Núñez de Pineda y Bascuñán, where an account of these confederations first occurred. They were called by Núñez “utanmapu”. [4]

Aillarehue or Ayllarehue ; a confederation of rehues or family-based units (lof) that dominated a region or province. It was the old administrative and territorial division of the Mapuche, Huilliche and the extinct Picunche people. Aillarehue acted as a unit only on special festive, religious, political and especial military occasions. Several aillarehues formed the Butalmapu, the largest military and political organization of the Mapuche.

Lof or caví ; formed the basic social organization of the Mapuche, Huilliche and the extinct Picunche peoples, consisting of a familial clan or lineage that recognizes the authority of a lonco (cacique). The lof or caví is formed by diverse families that share the same territory and they are considered mutually related, descended from a common ancestor. Several lof form a rehue, and nine rehue formed the aillarehue, that formed one of the 3 or 5 great territorial confederations of the Mapuches, the Butalmapu.

Toqui Mapuche leader in times of war

Toqui is a title conferred by the Mapuche on those chosen as leaders during times of war. The toqui is chosen in an assembly or parliament (coyag) of the chieftains (loncos) of various clans (Rehues) or confederation of clans (Aillarehues), allied during the war at hand. The toqui commanded strict obedience of all the warriors and their loncos during the war, would organize them into units and appoint leaders over them. This command would continue until the toqui was killed, abdicated (Cayancaru), was deposed in another parliament, or upon completion of the war for which he was chosen.

Among the Huilliche and Cuncos to the south of the Moluche there were two Butalmapu: Willimapu located in between the Toltén River and the Bueno River and the Chawra kawin located between the Bueno River and the Reloncaví Sound. [5] By 1805 these were consolidated into just one, Huillimapu. [6]

Toltén River river in Chile

Toltén River is a river located in the La Araucanía Region of Chile. It rises at Villarrica Lake, close to the city of the same name. Its major tributary is the Allipén River. From its confluence with the Allipén, the river follows a braided course.

Bueno River river in Chile

Bueno River is a river in southern Chile. It originates in Ranco Lake and like most of Chile rivers it drains into the Pacific Ocean at the southern boundary of the Valdivian Coastal Reserve. Its lower flow forms the border between Osorno Province and Ranco Province. The river passes through Río Bueno commune and city that takes name from the river.

Reloncaví Sound

Reloncaví Sound or Seno de Reloncaví is a body of water immediately south of Puerto Montt, a port city in the Los Lagos Region of Chile. It is the place where the Chilean Central Valley meets the Pacific Ocean.

Related Research Articles

Araucanía (historic region) Historic indigenously-inhabited region of Chile

Araucanía or Araucana was the Spanish name given to the region of Chile inhabited by the Mapuche peoples known as the Moluche in the 18th century. Prior to the Spanish conquest of Chile, the lands of the Moluche lay between the Itata River and Toltén River. Following the great rising of the Moluche and Huilliche after the Battle of Curalaba in 1598 during the Arauco War, the Spanish were expelled from south of the Bío-Bío River. After many decades of further warfare, the bounds of Araucania were recognized by the Spanish as being between the Bío-Bío River and Toltén River. This old region of Araucanía now is divided between the southern part of the Bío-Bío Region and the Araucanía Region, in southern Chile.

Arauco War Conflict between Spanish settlers of Chile and indigenous peoples

The Arauco War was a long-running conflict between colonial Spaniards and the Mapuche people, mostly fought in the Araucanía. The conflict begun at first as a reaction to the Spanish conquest attempt establishing cities and forcing Mapuches into unfree labour. It subsequently evolved over time into phases of low intensity warfare, drawn-out sieges, slave-hunting expeditions, pillaging raids, punitive expeditions and renewed Spanish attempts to secure lost territories.

Battle of Tucapel battle

The Battle of Tucapel is the name given to a battle fought between Spanish conquistador forces led by Pedro de Valdivia and Mapuche (Araucanian) Indians under Lautaro that took place at Tucapel, Chile on December 25, 1553. This battle happened in the context of the first stage of the Arauco War, named the "offensive war" within a larger uprising by Araucanians against the Spanish conquest of Chile. It was a defeat for the Spaniards, resulting in the capture and eventual death of Valdivia.

Tucapel Town and Commune in Bío Bío, Chile

Tucapel is a town and commune in the Arauco Province, Bío Bío Region, Chile. It was once a region of Araucanía named for the Tucapel River. The name of the region derived from the rehue and aillarehue of the Moluche people of the area between the Lebu and the Lleulleu Rivers, who were famed for their long resistance to the Spanish in the Arauco War. Tucapel is also the name of a famous leader from that region in the first resistance against the Spanish mentioned in Alonso de Ercilla's epic poem La Araucana. Formerly belonging to the Nuble Province, in the Department of Yungay. Near the town of Tucapel is the Plaza de San Diego de Tucapel. The capital of the commune is the town of Huépil, moving the municipality from Tucapel in 1967. In mapudungún its name means "To seize or to take by force".

The Battle of Mataquito was fought in the Arauco War on April 30, 1557, between the Spanish forces of the governor, Francisco de Villagra, and Mapuche headed by their toqui Lautaro. It was a dawn surprise attack on Lautaro's fortified camp between a wooded mountain and the shore of the Mataquito River. The battle is notable for ending Mapuche pretensions to expulse the Spanish from Santiago, while also avenging the death of former governeor Pedro de Valdivia who had been killed by Lautaro's warriors four years earlier.

Gualemo was the name by which the Spaniards knew the tribe of Promaucaes inhabiting the Lontué River valley of Chile and was the name early Spaniards gave to that region. Gualemo is also the name of one of the arms of the lower Lontué River that created several islands of fertile alluvium that existed near the confluence with the Teno River as late as 1899.

Vilumilla was the Mapuche Toqui elected in 1722 to lead the Mapuche Uprising of 1723 against the Spanish for their violation of the peace.

Millalelmo or Millarelmo was a Mapuche military leader in the second great Mapuche rebellion that began in 1561 during the Arauco War. Probably the toqui of the Arauco region, he commanded the Mapuche army of that area at the siege of Arauco from May 20 to June 30, 1562.

'Loble, also known as Lig-lemu or Lillemu,(d. ca. 1565) was the Mapuche vice-toqui of the Moluche north of the Bio-Bio River who led the second Mapuche revolt during the Arauco War.

Malloquete was Mapuche toqui that led an army of Moluche from the region north of the Bio Bio River against Pedro de Valdivia in the 1546 Battle of Quilacura.

Pilmaiquén or Pilmayquen is a riachuelo in the commune of Cañete in Arauco Province in the Bío Bío Region of Chile that flows southwest towards the coast of the Pacific Ocean, to the northwest of the city of Cañete. Its course is short but of great volume and traverses a small valley between wooded mountainous areas where it joins the Licauquén River. This valley was a Moluche rehue of the Tucapel aillarehue and the homeland of the Toqui Caupolicán who commanded the Mapuche in the first revolt against domination by the Spanish Empire.

Turcupichun was the toqui of the Mapuche Aillarehues in the vicinity of Concepcion, Chile and the Bio-Bio River valley from 1557 to 1558. García Hurtado de Mendoza landed in early June 1557 on the island of La Quiriquina at the mouth of the bay of San Pedro. Soon afterward he sent out messengers to the local Aillarehues to come and submit to the Spanish. Turcupichun gathered them in a great coyag where he advocated resistance to the death and elected him as their toqui replacing the dead Lautaro.

Lemucaguin a native of Andalicán was the successor to Turcupichun as toqui of the Moluche Butalmapu north of the Biobío River in 1558. He organized a detachment of arquebusiers from weapons captured in the Battle of Marihueñu. He continued the war against García Hurtado de Mendoza after the executions of Caupolican and Turcupichun. Establishing pucaras at Quiapo and other locations to block Spanish access to the Arauco region. He was the first toqui to use firearms and artillery in the Battle of Quiapo However he was killed in this battle and was replaced by Illangulién. The later historian, Juan Ignacio Molina, calls the toqui that led at Quiapo Caupolicán the younger, son the executed toqui Caupolican

Llanganabal was a Moluche toqui who led the Mapuche army that defeated the Spanish led by Martín Ruiz de Gamboa in the Battle of Catirai in 1569. In 1560 Llanganabal is listed as one of the caciques heading an encomienda along the Bio Bio River. Shortly after began the outbreak of the 1561 Mapuche revolt. By 1569 Llanganabal had risen to command the Araucan army with Millalelmo and other captains as his subordinates. To resist the Spanish who had been burning the fields and houses on the south bank of the Bio Bio, Millalelmo had built a strong fortress on a hill in Catirai in a difficult position on steep wooded slopes. Despite the warnings of Lorenzo Bernal del Mercado who had reconnoitered the position, Spaniards new to Chile and the Arauco War prevailed on Governor Melchor Bravo de Saravia to order Martín Ruiz de Gamboa to take his command and attack the place. Meanwhile, Llanganabal had gathered all his army there to resist the attack. Gamboa's force was badly defeated while attempting to attack up the steep thickly wooded hill into Llanganabal's fortified position.

Rere is a town located in the commune of Yumbel, Province of Biobío, in the Bío Bío Region of Chile. It takes its name from the Moluche language of the indigenous confederation, or aillarehue, that occupied both sides of the Claro River and made up the greater confederation, or Butalmapu, between the Itata and Bio Bio Rivers. In 1603, then Royal Governor of Chile under Spanish ruleAlonso de Ribera was to declare the erection of the areas first fort naming it Nuestra Señora de la Buena Esperanza. Later, in 1765, the town of Villa de San Luis Gonzaga de Rere was founded on that site by governor Antonio de Guill y Gonzaga. Today Rere sits 21 km west of the town of Yumbel.

The Mapuche were a bellic culture, and their history has been plagued by wars and conflicts since they began to settle in the Araucanía, they believed that history was created through warfare, and thus engaged in many military conflicts.

Quilacahuín was a Huilliche aillarehue, that is a confederation of familial clans, of the Chawra kawin Butalmapu located south of the Bueno River, between the Rahue River and the sea, in southern Chile.

Mapuche medicine is the system of medical treatment historically used by the Mapuche people of southern Chile. It is essentially magical-religious in nature, believing disease to be caused by supernatural factors such as spells and curable by treatments based on rituals, thermal waters and herbs. Knowledge of medicinal herbs is one of the best-known elements of Mapuche medicine and is still used today., One of the most striking aspects of historical Mapuche medicine was the use of surgery as a treatment, which was developed to treat wounds and traumas suffered in the frequent battles between tribes. Fractures and dislocations of bones were treated by immobilising and covering the limbs with pastes and ointments made of medicinal herbs. As in Europe, the practice of the bloodletting was also commonplace and used as a treatment for many conditions. In Mapuche culture, it was done by making small cuts with a very sharp stone called a "guincubue" to draw blood, then covering the cut with an astringent or herbal mix. Bloodletting was also used by parents on children to make them lighter, more agile and more capable of working and fighting, as it was thought that their blood was salty and heavy. Hygiene was very important in Mapuche life. They were very clean and tidy, bathing every day in nearby streams or rivers, regardless of weather conditions. The bark of the Quillaja tree, which is very common in the local area, was used as soap.


  1. Informe de la Comisión de Trabajo Autónomo Mapuche, Capítulo II Tierra y Territorio. 2003
  2. Ricardo E. Latcham, La organización social y las creencias religiosas de los antiguos araucanos: Apendice I. Las Divisiones Geographicas De La Araucania, En El Siglo XVI, pg. 598.
  3. Ricardo E. Latcham, La organización social … pg. 599-602.
  4. Ricardo E. Latcham, La organización social …, pg. 139.
  5. Ricardo E. Latcham, La organización social …, pg.602-604 .
  6. Francisco Xavier Ramírez, Cronicon Sacro - Imperial de Chile, Fuentes para el estudio de la colonia; transcripción de Jaime Valenzuela M., Dirección de Bibliotecas Archivos y Museos, Centro de Investigaciones Diego Barros Arana, Santiago, 1994, páginas 67 -71.


Ricardo Eduardo Latcham Cartwright was an archaeologist, ethnologist, folklore scholar and teacher. He is known for his work on Mapuches, Diaguitas and Changos. His work earned him membership in the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland.