Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Chile on Indigenous land

In March, the Chilean Supreme Court had unanimously rejected arguments made by a family of Rapa Nui people (case No 9431-2011), regarding the return of ancestral lands on Easter Island. The action for restitution was filed by the Hito clan against the current owners of the Hotel Hanga Roa. For years the Hito clan has tried to regain control over land that was traditionally in their possession. However, the Supreme Court stated that: 1) 1888, all inhabitants on Easter Island became illegal squatters; 2) the land in question was legally transferred from ancestors of the Hito clan to non-indigenous people; and 3) the land in question no longer qualifies as “indigenous land” within the meaning of the law, and so, special protection is not needed.

The following facts were established in the case:
a) the plaintiff is an ethnic Rapa Nui – the indigenous people of Rapa Nui from the Polynesian island of Te Pito o Te Henua (Easter Island) has been legally recognised in Chile according to Indigenous Law No. 19,253 of 1993.
b) the State of Chile became owner of all Easter Island due to taken possession of it by the Chilean navy Policarpo Toro Hurtado on September 9, 1888, and since then, the Republic of Chile has full acts of sovereignty over the island. Because of this the people living there came to have the status of land squatters. c) Law No. 3220 of 1917 gave to the Minister of Maritime the care of the population of Easter Island -- the Directorate of Maritime Territory of Chile decided to put in charge of the Island to a Maritime subdelegation. d) in 1928 the above subdelegation gave a temporary assignment to Mary Anne Tepihe and their children, Richard and Stephen, a land of 9.8 hectares, to be fenced in a year awaiting the Supreme Government to arrange for the final possession, thus recognizing the persons named the domain in the land, becoming thus mere holders of the property.
e) in 1933, by judgment of the First Civil Court of Valparaiso, the Real Estate of said city proceeded to register the possession of the State of Chile on Easter Island land, and establishing that the mode of acquiring ownership was the one established in Article 590 of the Civil Code.
f) in 1970, Mrs. Veronica Atamu, widow of Don Ricardo Milestone, Corfo yielded to any rights it may have on land plot No. 40 of Hanga Roa, where he established the sequence of it, appearing before Don Pedro Villagra, Chief of the Land Office of Easter Island, with his son Isidro Landmark.
g) on 31 October 1970, the State of Chile, donated to the Corporation for Economic Development Agency public lands where is located the Hotel Hanga Roa, registration was fulfilled before the Real Estate of the island that year.
h) in 1979, was released on Decree Law No. 2885, which established standards for the granting of titles of ownership and administration of public lands in Easter Island, legal text that started the process of regulating land to its inhabitants.
i) on 2 January 1981, CORFO sold the Hanga Roa Hotel to Hugo Salas Roman.
j) in 1991, Hugo Salas Roman became a partner at the Hotel Inter-American Society (Chile SA) and granted the land domain and the hotel above-- signing this in the Property Register of the Real Estate Easter Island in 1991.
k) on October 5, 1993, Law No. 19.253 established rules for the protection, promotion and development of indigenous people and the National indigenous Development Corporation (CONADI) was created, with general rules for all ethnic groups and special rules for the Rapa Nui.
l) the defendant company owns the land on which they built the Hotel Hanga Roa. m) CONADI certified that there is no evidence that the land occupied by the defendant is Indigenous land, in accordance with Article 15 of Law N ° 19,253. 
The case appears to be straightforward since the applicant failed to established dominion over the land. Moreover, the matter raised the issue that the lands are not indigenous and therefore not subject to special protection. However I wonder: what does make a territory to be indigenous land? Additionally, when does a territory that has been occupied by indigenous peoples no longer qualifies as “indigenous land”?

Plenty to be serious about...
Having a look at Art 15 of Law N ° 19,253 it establishes that “The Corporation shall open and maintain a Public Register of Indigenous Land. In the Register it shall be entered all lands referred to in Article 12 of this law. The registration credits the status of Indian land.” That said, to register there is the need to have entitlement, right? So I went to read Art 12 of the said Law which establishes the following: “Indian lands are: 1 ° Those that people or indigenous communities currently occupy on property or possession from the following titles: a) Securities Commissioner under the law of 10 June 1823. b) Titles of mercy in accordance with the laws of 4 December 1866 to August 4, 1874, and 20 January 1883...” and so forth. Yet in section 2 ° the law establishes that Indigenous land are “those that have historically been occupied and have been in possession of people or communities Mapuche, Aymara, Rapa Nui or Easter Island, Atacama, Quechua, Colla, Kawashkar and Yamana, provided that their rights are registered in the Indigenous Land Registry created by this law, by application of the respective communities or indigenous property owners. The answer to my first question is: an indigenous land is the one that is registered as such! [no very helpful I would say]

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