The Abaucanian Race

Viceroyalty of Martin Loyola

In 1593 Don Martin Loyola, nephew of Ignatius, the originator of the order of Jesuits, arrived at Chili, in vested with the office of governor under the Spanish monarchy. During the period of his authority arose the renowned Paillamachu, next in regular succession to Paillaeco. He was an old man but endowed with singular energy and activity. For two years he kept aloof, recruiting and disciplining his forces at the old retreat among the Lumacan morasses, while the Spaniards had opportunity, unmolested, to restore their ruined cities, to work the rich mines of the mountains, and to strengthen their positions as they would. The Toqui, by an ambassador, gave Loyola distinctly to understand that he and his followers were, as firmly as their forefathers, determined never to be brought into subjection.


Paillamachu s first attempt against his enemies was by sending a detachment (in 1595) to destroy a fortification erected by Loyola at the southward of the Bio-Bio. From this time he continued to attack and plunder the Spanish settlements wherever opportunity offered, avoiding general engagements, and retreating with his booty to his inaccessible fastnesses. On the night of November 2d, 1598, he succeeded in surprising and slaying the Spanish governor, at his encampment (with a slender retinue) in the vale of Caralva. “It would seem,” (by Molina’s account) “that the Araucanian general had formed confident hopes of the success of this bold enterprise, since, in consequence of his previous instructions, in less than forty-eight hours after this event, not only the Araucanian provinces, but those of the Cunches and Huilliches, were in arms, and the whole of the country to the archipelago of Chiloe.”

Renewal of the War

The native armies met with unprecedented success; town after town fell before them, reduced by siege or carried by storm. Conception, Chilian, Canete, the Araucan fort, Valdivia, and other settlements, were destroyed, and the inhabitants slain, driven off, or carried away captives. Villarica, Osorno, and Imperial were conquered, in 1602, after protracted siege, in which the miserable citizens suffered every extremity from famine and terror. “Thus, in a period of little more than three years were destroyed all the settlements which Valdivia and his successors had established and preserved, at the expense of so much blood, in the extensive country between the Bio-Bio and the archipelago of Chiloe, none of which, have been since rebuilt, as what is at present called Valdivia is no more than a fort or garrison.” (Molina’s Civil History of Chili, written about the close of the eighteenth century.)

Great numbers of Spanish prisoners were carried home by the Indians, and experienced great diversity of treatment. Many intermarried with the natives, giving origin to a race of half-breeds, who proved as inimical towards the Spaniards as their dusky ancestors.

The Spaniards Driven from the Country South of the Bio-Bio

The brave and sagacious Paillamachu died in 1603. Repeated, but futile attempts were made by the Spaniards for several years ensuing, to recover their lost territory south of the Bio-bio. The Indians, fortunate in having brave and sagacious rulers, and with all their ancient pride and patriotic enthusiasm fully aroused, successfully resisted every invasion. About the year 1612, a movement was made by a Jesuit, named Louis Valdivia, to put an end to this hopeless warfare, that an opening might be made for the spread of the Christian religion among the independent tribes. The Spanish monarch, Philip the Third, highly approved of the plan, and proposals were forwarded to the Toqui and his council, by means of certain liberated prisoners.

While the treaty of peace was under negotiation, and flattering prospects of quiet appeared to the settlers, an event occurred which put a speedy end to all peaceful intercourse. Ancanamon, the Toqui, had a Spanish woman as one of his wives, who made her escape from his power, and sought protection from the Spanish viceroy. Two other wives of the Toqui, and two of his daughters, won over by her persuasions to embrace her religion, accompanied her in her flight.

The Spaniards refused to deliver up these refugees, with the exception of one who had not professed Christianity, and Ancanamon, enraged at the supposed injury, slew a number of missionaries who had been conducted into his dominions, and with renewed energy continued the prosecution of the war.

About the year 1618, a most fierce and dangerous enemy of the Spaniards had the dictatorship of the Araucanian tribes. This was the celebrated Toqui Lientur. A chain of military posts and strong fortifications had been erected by the Spanish authorities upon the Bio-bio, to prevent Indian incursions, but they availed nothing against the rapid and energetic movements of the native commander. Until his resignation, in 1625, he not only preserved his own country from Spanish occupation, but made continual inroads into the enemy s territory, plundering their villages and destroying the forces brought to oppose him. In his very first expedition, he is said to have seized and carried off no less than four hundred horses.

His successor, the young warrior Putapichion, who had been formerly a slave among the whites, proved a no less formidable adversary. He continued in authority until slain in battle about eight years from the time of his accession; a period marked by many extensive and bloody campaigns, in which the Spaniards, although more successful than during former administrations, could obtain no permanent footing upon Araucanian soil. At the last grand engagement, which, in consequence of his death, resulted favorably for the Spaniards, the manner in which this chief marshaled and brought his forces to action excited the admiration of his enemies.

The obstinacy, with which these wars were carried on during a period of little less than a century, until the peace concluded in 1640, is almost without parallel. The history of the times does not record a series of petty skirmishes, but a succession of desperate campaigns, in which the known valor and obstinacy of the Spaniard were no less conspicuous than the utter carelessness of life and enthusiastic self-devotion of the Indian. The success of either party would, from time to time, seem to threaten the utter extermination of their rivals, but defeat only compelled a retreat, on the one hand within the fortified towns, and on the other into the impenetrable wilderness, until new forces could be raised and new plans of assault concocted.

In the year last mentioned the Marquis of Baydes, Francisco Zuniga, came out to Chili as governor, and exerted himself successfully to obtain an interview with the Toqui Lincopichion, and to conclude terms for a lasting peace.

An immense concourse of both races attended at the time and place appointed for the solemn ratification of the treaty, and days were passed in feats and congratulatory ceremonials. Prisoners were exchanged, trade was established, and free scope was given to the exertions of the devout ecclesiastics who assumed the duty of converting the Indians. These missionaries were well and respect fully treated, but met with no marked success in the propagation of their doctrines.

Ten Years War

The peace lasted until about 1655, when it was succeeded by a ten years war, the particulars of which are only recorded in the most general terms. It is certain that during this season of hostility the Spanish colonists met with such terrible losses, and were, upon many occasions, so signally defeated by the Araucanians, that the preservation of a true history of events would be little flattering to their national pride.

Subsequent Treaties and Hostilities

A new treaty was brought about in 1665, by the governor, Francisco Meneses, and the country was comparatively at rest for more than half a century. The Spaniards began to settle in the Araucanian territory, and, in consequence of their naturally overbearing disposition, became objects of dislike and suspicion to the native inhabitants. Certain Spanish officials denominated the ff Captains of the Friends,” whose nominal duty was the protection of the missionaries, but who assumed unwarranted powers, were especially odious.

In 1722 the discontent of the Indians led them to a renewal of hostilities. They appointed one Villumilla, a bold and ambitious man, to the office of Toqui. This chief exerted himself to rouse up an insurrection through out Chili, but, failing in this, with undiminished resolution, he collected what forces could be mustered, and fell upon the Spanish settlements. He met with no little success, gaining possession of the fortresses of Tucapel, Arauco, and Puren. In the words of the historian, “The war afterwards became reduced to skirmishes of but little importance, which were finally terminated by the celebrated peace of Negrete, a place situated at the confluence of the rivers Bio-bio and Lara.” The more important grievances complained of by the natives were redressed at the settlement of the terms of treaty.

Further difficulties arose under the administration of Don Antonio Gonzago, in consequence of an absurd and futile attempt by that officer to induce or compel the Araucanians to build and inhabit cities in certain prescribed localities. A war ensued in which some bloody battles were fought, and in which the roving Pehuenches were involved, first in behalf of the Spaniards, but afterwards as firm allies of their own countrymen. Peace was concluded in 1773; and among the articles of stipulation, it was agreed that a native minister should be stationed at St. Jago to keep watch over his nation s interests.

This pacification produced the happiest results. Relieved from the danger of hostile incursions, the Spanish settlements north of that natural boundary, the Bio-bio, increased and prospered, while the free tribes at the south were left to the exercise of their own system of government and the enjoyment of their well-earned liberty.

Present Position of the Araucanians

The proud distinction of being the only aboriginal Americans, who have maintained their independence when brought directly in contact with Europeans, still belongs to the Araucanians. They occupy much of their old territory within the modern republic of Chili, a district set down as covering an area of twenty-eight thousand square miles.

It may well be doubted whether the world has ever produced a race of men, who, with no greater advantages, from numbers, and advancement in the arts, have accomplished military exploits worthy to be compared with those record ed in Araucanian history. The different aims and purposes of the contending parties throughout the long and terrible contest with the colonists, enlist our warmest sympathies with the natives. On the one hand, the insatiable thirst for gold, the pride of conquest, or the scarcely less detest able spirit of intolerant bigotry, were the ruling motives and how powerful they have proved, let the history of Spanish America portray while, on the other, the whole end and aim of the rightful owners of the soil, individually and collectively, seem to have been directed with unflinching self-devotion towards the one object of the preservation of liberty and independence.

The principal benefit derived by the modern Araucanians from intercourse with foreigners is in the introduction of horses and cattle. These, with the vicuna and guanaco, constitute their principal riches: they still live in a state of primeval simplicity, and freedom from most of the artificial wants of civilization.


Brownell, Charles De Wolf. Indian Races of North and South America: Comprising an account of the principal aboriginal races; a description of their national customs, mythology, and religious ceremonies, the history of their most powerful tribes, and of their most celebrated chiefs and warriors; their intercourse and wars with the European settlers; and a great variety of anecdote and description, illustrative of personal and national character. Hartford, Conn., Chicago,E. B. & R.C. Treat; [etc., etc.]: Hurlbut, Scranton & Co. 1864.

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