Intercultural bilingual education, indigenous knowledge and the construction of ethnic identity: an ethnography of a Mapuche school in Chile

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Ortiz, Patricio Rodolfo, 1952-

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The purpose of this research was to explore and understand the current development of an Intercultural Bilingual Education (IBE) program in a rural Mapuche-Lafkenche community (reservation) school in the south of Chile, and especially its impact on ethnic identity construction processes among its indigenous students. By using an ethnographic field research method and a cultural studies theoretical framework, I intended my work to explore the processes of recovery of Mapuche ancestral knowledge (Kimün) and its incorporation into the school IBE program, through indigenous traditional community educators (Kimches), hired as teachers. I gave special attention to the Kimches' role, which, by linking the indigenous knowledge, culture and Mapudungún language of the community with the school, created culturally-relevant instructional environments in the IBE classrooms, while simultaneously developing spaces for resistance and cultural production through counter-hegemonic narratives to the official knowledge of the school, thus enabling a space in the classroom for the emergence and validation of Mapuche students' identities as hybrid and negotiated constructs blending their Mapuche, Chilean and Global persona. This work also explores the main issues concerning the school's community within the larger historical and socio-political context of the Mapuche people in Chile and their interactions with the two main social agents historically involved in indigenous education: the State and the Church. Important consideration was given to place current IBE programs in the context of today's cultural and linguistic revitalization projects which move parallel to demands for land rights, political autonomy and nationhood proposed by Mapuche political and intellectual leaders. Finally, I explored the complex variables and issues both within and without the Mapuche communities, which oppose and make difficult the development of IBE programs in schools. Being a Chilean by birth, but not Mapuche, I gave important consideration to the complexities of the construction and politics of representation of the "Indigenous Other." This story is, in many ways, another complex story of the resistance and resilience of indigenous people in Latin America, and their long struggle for cultural and linguistic rights.