Chilean Armed Forces Encourage Indigenous Persons to Join Their Ranks
By Dialogo May 02, 2016
With the support of the National Corporation for Indigenous Development (CONADI), the Chilean Armed Forces and the Ministry of Defense are encouraging indigenous persons to join the Military through a series of initiatives, including the creation of a dictionary in Mapuzugun, the native language of the Mapuche people. Drafted by the Army's Educational Division, School of Languages, the reference tool facilitates cultural exchanges between the Army’s “Tucapel” 8th Regiment, the “Húsares” 3rd Regiment, and the Mapuche, who live in the country's south.
Of the 64,200 Military members currently serving their country, about 3.5 percent come from an indigenous background. According the Ministry of Social Development, Chile is home to 1,369,563 indigenous persons: the Aymara, Quecha, Atacameño, and Diagüita communities that live in the north; the Rapa Nui and Mapuche communities in the central and southern areas, respectively; and the Yagán, Colla, and Kawésqar communities spread across the deep south.
The Army, Air Force, Navy, Ministry of Defense, and the Office of the Undersecretary for the Armed Forces and Defense worked with the Ministry of Social Development and CONADI to form the Indigenous Commission in 2014. Its goal is to increase the number of indigenous persons in the Military. “We want young indigenous persons who are interested in joining the Armed Forces to have the chance to do so,” Defense Minister José Antonio Gómez told Diálogo
After the Indigenous Commission conducted an informational survey to explore ways to increase the number of natives in the Military, it worked with the Ministry of Defense to draft policies that were carried out by the Armed Forces. For example, the Military is stressing communication and education by promoting the recognition of the indigenous communities and their legacy through conferences and workshops for Armed Forces' personnel. The Armed Forces are also working with indigenous leaders about possibly changing the courses offered at Military academies.
The Armed Forces are creating a registry of indigenous persons and new Military units to cover indigenous territories and assist residents, in addition to the medical operations the Army and Air Force carried out throughout the country last year. Additionally, the Executive Secretariat of the National Demining Commission, which is under the Joint Chiefs of Staff, posted warning signs that include the indigenous language of the area where the mines are located. In the northern part of the country, for example, the signs are in Spanish, Aymara, and English.
Working with indigenous youth
Authorities are studying special enlistment vehicles and scholarships, in addition to campaigns focused on indigenous communities, to motivate indigenous youth to join the Military. “The great majority of indigenous service members in the Armed Forces are serving in lower enlisted ranks," said Alberto Pizarro, CONADI's national director. "It would be very challenging to help them rise to higher ranks among officers."
Authorities are also studying cultural and symbolic activities that will help indigenous persons identify with the Military, including possibly allowing indigenous service members to wear their hair long, which is emblematic of a warrior in certain indigenous communities. The inclusion of indigenous symbols on Military uniforms, the adoption of certain rites and ceremonies, and the integration of ancestral traditions into Military duties also are among the initiatives being discussed.
Last year, the Navy provided support to an intercultural project to preserve the Kawésqar language, in which 50 students and descendants from that indigenous community sailed aboard the barge “Elicura” through the Straits of Magellan to the San Isidro lighthouse in El Águila Bay. The young men and women learned about the culture and customs of their ancestors, a canoeing community from the 19th century that inhabited the country's southern tip. “Thanks to the Navy, we were able to navigate these waters like our ancestors did,” said María Álvarez, a Kawésqar descendant who monitored the project.
The Indigenous Commission’s work is also highlighted by Law No. 20.249 on Maritime Coastal Spaces for Indigenous Communities, which for the first time cedes coastal space for indigenous communities to conduct sustenance activities. This year, the Indigenous Commission will work on the requests for coastal space made by the Kawésqar and Yagán communities.
Meanwhile in the northern part of the country, authorities – backed by the Office of the Undersecretary for Telecommunications – will work with the Aymara and Atacameña communities to reinforce their sovereignty and install internet connectivity points.
“We have made progress, but there are still challenges before us to open more doors so that indigenous persons are better represented in the different branches of the Armed Forces,” Pizarro added.
In August, the Ministry of Defense will organize the third “International Seminar on Indigenous Communities and the Armed Forces,” which will be held at the Joint Peacekeeping Operations Center's facilities in the nation's capital of Santiago. The event, which will include representatives from the Chilean Armed Forces General and Admiralty staff, the Training Academy, the CONADI, the United States, and Australia, will feature discussions about mechanisms to include indigenous persons.
In 2015, service members from Brazil, Colombia, and Mexico shared their experiences after Military personnel from Canada and New Zealand discussed how they helped indigenous persons join their Armed Forces. “[Activities such as these are intended] to move forward from a non-discrimination policy to a policy of effective inclusion,” Defense Minister Gómez said.
It would be an honor itâ€™s pure indomitable, warring blood! Ah! I hope MANDATORY military service is reinstated. that way, there wouldnâ€™t be so much crime, drug addiction, alcoholism; Iâ€™m saying! I found it really interesting