Editor’s note: So often, the story of the Kingdom of Araucania and Patagonia has been told from the perspective of the white people of Chile and Argentina. In this article, a Chilean Mapuche reclaims the history and tells the story as he understands it. This article was first appeared in Aukin magazine, and later reprinted in The Steel Crown.
History of the King Orelie-Antoine
by Huichacurha Marhique
In 1858 a French citizen came to Chile, attracted by the brave and heroic resistance of the Mapuche people in defense of their sovereignty and right to self-determination (resistance already known well in Europe). He traveled to the Mapuche territory (which was then independent) and became fascinated by the history, hospitality and good nature of her people. He was quickly integrated into their society, learning Mapudungun (the Mapuche language), wearing the poncho and Mapuche clothing and even letting his hair grow in Mapuche style. He was welcomed and entertained in the homes of the toquis (highest chief) and the loncos (local chief). He gained the confidence, respect and affection of the highest authorities of our people. As a lawyer familiar with western diplomacy he advised the most respected toquis of the time, Quilapan and Calfucura, amongst others, about the most effect form of negotiation with the Chilean and Argentine authorities, who were then plotting the complete occupation of the Mapuche territory.
His name was Antoine de Tounens. Showing loyalty not only in words but in practice, he was a consistent, faithful and true ally of the Mapuche nation. With the common agreement of our authorities, the toquis and loncos, the basis of a kingdom was installed which culminated on November 17, 1860, in the approval of a constitution which gave origin to the Kingdom of Araucania and Patagonia. Part of the document stated "Considering that Araucania is not dependent on any other state, finds itself divided by tribes and that a central government is required . . . we decree the following: Article 1: A constitutional and dynastic monarchy has been founded in Araucania. Prince Orelie-Antoine de Tounens is appointed King."
The constitution also contemplates the formation of a council of the kingdom, ministers, a legislative body nominated by universal suffrage, a council of state responsible for putting together bills, etc. It also guarantees with respect to human and civil rights, the freedom and equality of individuals before the law. The toqui Quilipan was appointed Minister of War, Montril Minister of Foreign Affairs, Quilahueque Minister of the Interior, Calfouchan Minister of Justice, and Marihual Minister of Agriculture.
The Loncos Lemunao, Huenchuman, Magnuil, Huentecol, amongst others, also participated actively in the creation of the Kingdom. While the Chileans and Argentine Creoles gave consent to the preparation by the army for the takeover of Araucania by force, Orelie-Antoine was getting ready to defend the land. He fought together with the Mapuches and openly defended them in public. He argued, justifiably, that the independence of Chile and Argentina did not affect the sovereignty of Araucania and Patagonia, as these were independent territories before and were still independent then. He denounced before the Chilean public and international opinion the cowardly genocide that the Argentinean and Chilean states were plotting against the defenseless Mapuche nation.
The authorities and the Creole media branded him "a lunatic," a "barmy visionary," an "adventurer," etc. Historians, anthropologists and sociologists agreed with this, continuing today with the same story, in a vain attempt to discredit the real historical significance of that event. Can we honestly expect anything different? It seems to me ridiculously naive to assume that the huincas [non-Mapuche people] would gratuitously insult and persecute a "lunatic," especially taking into account that the campaign against him was ordered from the highest level of authority of both governments. It seems doubtful to me that Colonel Cornelio Saavedra (the Chilean "Roca") would have offered the reward for his head from his own pocket.
The positive vision that the Mapuche people, culture and society have of Orelie-Antoine shatters the stereotypes created by the oppressor society, stereotypes necessary to justify the genocide they were plotting against the Mapuche people, that soon would bring them generous rewards. It was necessary to get rid of the "intruder," after all he could not be "normal" (they convinced themselves), a "white" claiming rights for the "savages," for the "barbarians." In the narrow-mind of the Creole, this constituted an absolute "anomaly," an "aberration," a "lunacy."
The following is an extract from a publication which ran a racist, poison-pen campaign and promoted the speedy occupation of Mapuche territory, that shows us the hysterical nature of the Chilean press at that time, which was similar to that of Buenos Aires. On May 24, 1859, the newspaper El Mercurio of Valpariso wrote, "The Araucanian of today is so limited, shrewd, fierce and cowardly, and at the same time ungrateful and vindictive, like his ancestors from the time of Ercilla, living, eating and drinking alcohol to excess as before, they have not copied nor invented anything since then, with the exception of the adoption . . . of the horse, which has singularly favored and developed their savage nature."
King Orelie-Antoine, protected by the Mapuches, avoided certain death, and finally in January 1862 he was taken prisoner by Cornelio Saavedra. The "trial" was made into a cheap publicity show, and he was insulted and offended. The "case" was portrayed by the "civilized" Creole society as the "great joke of the year." During the interrogation of Orelie-Antoine, he ran rings around the judges and psychiatrists who were brought to court to simulate an examination of his mental state in order to strengthen the propaganda (hardly characteristic of a madman). Imprisoned and eventually expelled from Chile, he was prohibited from entering both Chile and Argentina. Even so, he managed to return three times, the last of which was in 1876.
King Orelie-Antoine I, held this high office until his death in his birthplace of Perigord on September 17, 1878. His kingdom was recognized by numerous governments and monarchies of the world. His death meant a great loss for our nation. King Orelie-Antoine was without doubt an important ally and true friend of our people in the most crucial moment of our existence as an independent nation, on the eve of the most vile and inhuman genocide known in the history of the Americas, which in the name of "civilization" and "progress" was committed against our nation. The memory of King Orelie-Antoine should have an important place in the pages of our as yet unwritten history.
On his death, the successor in exile of the throne of the kingdom was his majesty King Achille I. Today, little more than a century since his death, Prince Philippe of Araucania keeps alive the tradition of his predecessors. With profound respect, affection and admiration for the capacity of survival of the Mapuche nation, and as far as he is able, he has made common cause with us in his campaigning for the future of justice and freedom for our people.
A Paris tribunal recognized Prince Philippe I, through a ruling on June 4, 1971, as the legitimate successor, with the tile of His Royal Highness, to the Crown of Araucania and Patagonia, in exile.
From Aukin, 14:37-40 (1988).
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