The Ancestral and the Ritual territory in Caspana’s Landscape of Movement”

by Melisa Miranda Correa, 2018

Here I want to share the abstract of my MPhil research conducted between January 2017 and September 2018. Six members of Caspana shared with me their spatial and territorial knowledge on order to create a tenure map. This map is increasing their legal argument to claim for their ancestral land, today owned by the Chilean state in a considerable percentage. Indigenous communities are forced to conduct a complex legal and administrative process to legally own their lands. Today Caspana owns by a 30% of the land which they try to protect from different hazards. The 169 ILO agreement has been a powerful tool to legal protection against mining companies exploring their lands with the state authorisation, however it is not enough. This thesis aims to reflect on this issue and reveal how mapping becomes a useful tool to reflect on this tenency process. It also reveals a the self-representation of indigenous peoples by registering their tales and valuable spaces in their own setting rules. My role is to provide the materials, the base map and the pins, but they are who decide the scale, the extend and what lo locate on the map and why. At the end, this map is used by the community to teach others about the value of their territory, whaat and how to protect.


There is an increasing discussion in the north of Chile and the Andean region in Latin America associated with indigenous conflicts related to mining companies and resources extraction, which threaten historical cultures such as the ones surrounding the Inca roads by exhausting essential resources such as water for agriculture and grazing. The conflicts are rooted in the epistemological difference between the Indigenous land values and the priorities of the state, allowing industrial activities in indigenous territories through land management and conservation policies, which affect the self-determination of the communities. Although there is a recognition of the indigenous land ownership for some groups in Chile, the understanding of the indigenous landscape is not entirely evident within government organisations, which creates cultural distance and distrust. This research is rooted on understanding the indigenous perspective through landscape theory as a palimpsest between sacred places, resources and rituals, recreating the process of space signification in a ‘landscape of movement’. 

The primary aim of this investigation is to explore indigenous perceptions and representations of territory and how they could be integrated into the development of territorial strategies and policies regarding indigenous land management. In order to achieve this aim, it is required to articulate an indigenous spatial organisation, in addition to explore the territorial strategies and land management concerning indigenous lands.

To achieve the articulation between indigenous perception and policies, this research explores a case study in the Atacama region, the Caspana community. Two key research pathways articulate knowledge around the landscape of movement in this area. First, the understanding of indigenous perception of the landscape from academics to institutional representatives, including international perspectives as well as the local and national contexts. In addition to semi-structure interviews, the research reviewed conservation and management policies for indigenous lands, landscape of movement theory and the archaeological and historical research in the area, towards decolonised cartographies and tenure maps as a methodological approach for researching with Indigenous communities. A second research pathway focused on exploring the Indigenous narratives and epistemological distances through fieldwork. The narratives gathered from indigenous people through surveys and interviews allowed to articulate the first stage of a Tenure map arranging the space in two parts: an ‘ancient territory’, which is vast and legally assigned and a ‘ritual territory’ which is the space where the community today performs rituals and practices in memory of ancestors. The data analysis of the interviews with institutional actors permitted the identification of opportunities for intercultural practices in land management, such as the concept of ‘shared lands’, which are explored through this research. The articulation of the Caspana landscape of movement in a tenure map represents elements such as ritual spaces, geoglyphs, toponymy in the native language, memories of the past, ‘shared lands’, resources and roads. The process of making visible those threatened places could allow their inclusion in land management policies and raise awareness among politicians, mining companies and community members of their location. The research comprises an initial stage of engaging with communities in the co-creation of knowledge. The continuation of this research could contribute to a regional atlas of landscapes of movements, with the specific knowledge of the movement performed by Atacama communities in the Antofagasta region.

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