Chile’s indigenous Mapuche people celebrate a new year

We tripantu, or the Mapuche New Year, marks the shift in seasons and the universe.

The beating of drums, the ringing of bells, the chanting of voices lifting above the din; Chile’s indigenous Mapuche are celebrating we tripantu across the country, giving thanks for all that has happened this past year and asking for prosperity for the next.

The traditional new year ceremonies and celebrations line up with the seasonal solstice, when the winter finally culminates in the longest night of the year in the Southern Hemisphere, and the hours of sunlight start to get longer. This year the primary day of celebration is June 24th, coinciding with the National Day of Indigenous Peoples. However, we tripantu is not limited to a single day, as the Mapuche see this shift of the seasons and the universe as a process lasting throughout the month.

The National History Museum,  located in Santiago’s Plaza de Armas, hosted a we tripantu ceremony, also written wiñol tripantu, as well as various discussions and presentations highlighting the Mapuche culture, medicines, and traditions. The director of the museum, Diego Matte Palacios, said the museum is proud to display the Mapuche culture as it is, “A rich and important part of Chile’s history and identity.”

The traditional ceremony at the museum was led by a machi, or Mapuche shaman, who led the group of native Mapuche and participating visitors in thanking Mother Earth for the past year, for both the good and bad that it brought, and asking for health and good fortune for the coming year.

At the center of the ceremony was a the sacred Canelo Tree, or a foye in the native mapudungun language, adorned with a Mapuche flag. In front of the tree was a line of homemade ceramic bowls filled with various traditional foods, including piñones, or pine nuts from the Araucaria tree, another sacred Mapuche tree found in the Araucanía region.

The machi gave inspirational, spiritual words, with the crowd responding with exultations, filling the small plaza with excitement and fervour. This was followed by the men and women forming two lines, led in a prayer to ask for future prosperity and health. The solemnity of this group moment was in stark contrast with the loud rambunctious drumming and dancing, accompanied by a horn, that followed. Everyone was moving, dancing from foot to foot, in a contagious celebration to end the ceremony.

Similar celebrations are happening across Chile throughout Mid-late June, particularly in the southern Araucanía region, where the majority of Mapuche currently live and make up almost a quarter of the population.