Centro de Documentación Mapuche Documentation Center


Mapuche letter to Bill Gates (Microsoft).

august 12, 2005

With our due respect.

Today, the traditional authorities of the Mapuche People, Lonko, Machi, Ngenpin and Werken, have met at the historic site of the Cerro Ñielol to carry out a KIMKECHE NUTRAMKAN - a Conversation among Wise People and Guardians of the Mapuche Culture - in order to talk about and analyze the matters affecting our culture and collective rights as a result of the agreement between Microsoft and the government of Chile with regard to our language Mapudungun.

From a human rights perspective, we would like to present to you our profound concerns regarding the scope of the agreement between Microsoft and the government of Chile which aims at creating a Windows operating system in our ancestral language, the Mapudungun. Mapudungun represents a fundamental part of our culture and our cultural heritage. On the basis of our right to self-determination as indigenous people, the Mapuche People is the main custodian and interpreter of its cultural heritage and only the Mapuche People must and can safeguard, maintain, manage, develop and recreate its cultural heritage.

The Mapuche People since its relation with the Spanish colonial system and thereafter with the Chilean State has been the object of a policy of permanent usurpation of the rights to our tangible heritage such as our territory, lands, resources of the soil and subsoil, the forests, biodiversity, rivers, lakes and seas, among others. As a result of systematic plunder, all these rights and resources are in the possession of national and transnational persons and organisms foreign to the Mapuche communities.

The Mapuche authorities and their traditional institutions are of the firm conviction that our rights to our intangible heritage such as our language, Mapudungun, spirituality and religious beliefs are the last resources that we possess and constitute the essential and fundamental basis of our identity and our collective rights which reside in our minds and our collective consciousness. However, we have observed that these rights are the object of acts of intellectual piracy.

The fact that non Mapuche organisms such as the Chilean State, through the Ministry of Education, the National Corporation on Indigenous Development (CONADI) and the University of the Frontier granted themselves the right to manage and develop our ancestral language constitutes a violation of our human rights on our cultural and collective heritage. As stated by the United Nations Special Rapporteur in her final report on the protection of the heritage of indigenous peoples (E/CN.4/Sub.2/1995/26):

"Indigenous peoples' ownership and custody of their heritage must continue to be collective, permanent and inalienable, as prescribed by the customs, rules and practices of each people. […] To protect their heritage, indigenous peoples must control their own means of cultural transmission and education. This includes their right to the continued use and, wherever necessary, the restoration of their own languages and orthographies. […] The free and informed consent of the traditional owners should be an essential precondition of any agreements which may be made for the recording, study, use or display of indigenous peoples' heritage."

The fact that indigenous peoples have the right to own, control and manage their cultural heritage, deriving from their right to self-determination and to their lands and resources, implies that elements of their cultural heritage cannot be used, transmitted, displayed or managed by other persons without ensuring the free and prior informed consent of the relevant indigenous people. Therefore, the appropriation of our language as fundamental part of our culture by researchers, linguists and public officials constitutes a violation of our inherent and inalienable right to our cultural heritage.

It also cannot be that intellectual property rights to parts of our collective heritage will pass to the hands of some individuals and multinational organisms, including yourself, via the creation of an informatics system in our language and the unification of its orthography and pronunciation through the creation of the Azümchefe alphabet. It is a paradox that so-called specialist, who count with the benevolence of the State, transcribe the Mapudugun and create a grammar for our millennium oral language while the Chilean education system maintains its policy of negation of the fundamental rights of Mapuche children to a culturally adequate education in their own language and furthermore the right of the Mapuche People to establish its own education system is not being recognized.

Mapudungun is being used as a folkloric object which is added in a decorative manner to the school curriculum without allowing the development of the cultural identity of our children on the basis of a true recognition of their fundamental rights. The main beneficiaries of this project will not be the Mapuche communities who need a culturally and politically sincere support to be able to continue using and developing their own language but it will benefit persons with the distinct resources to use the informatics.

Your agreement certainly represents a valid intent of good will to support in the linguistic-technical development of Mapudungun. However, we believe that the approach and way that have been taken are mislead because of a lack of respect, participation and consultation of the Mapuche People as the author and only holder of the right to our cultural heritage.

In light of the aforementioned, we urge you to revise your agreement and we are open to a dialogue with you at your earliest convenience in order to provide you with further background information regarding the consequences that your agreement will have.

The traditional Mapuche authorities believe in dialogue, in the good will of people, the rectification of the facts and in the respect for the human rights of every People. Therefore, we trust in obtaining a positive response from your side and in remedying this controversial issue.


Lonko of community Collimke Lonko of community Huaiquilao

Lonko Panguipulli Lonko community Toro Melin

Lonko community Toro Melin Community Toro Melin

Curaco Ranquil