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Mapuche people (Chile and Argentina)

Last modified: 2021-12-24 by rob raeside
Keywords: mapuche | drum | kultrun | kultrung | contest | disc (yellow) | star: 5 points (red on yellow) | crescent (red on yellow) | crescent: to fly | chakana | suns: 2 | starfish |
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image by António Martins, 16 Nov 2006

See also:

External links:

  • Indymedia Santiago webpage showing Mapuche flags in a demonstration
    reported by António Martins, 30 Jan 2006
  • chieftain Lonco Pinchen Mapu, holding a Mapuche flag
    reported by António Martins, 27 Sep 2005
  • Indymedia Chile webpage showing a demonstration of the Mapuches made on 12 October, in Santiago, Chile. There were a lot of Native American flags.
    reported by Francisco Gregoric, 16 Jul 2004

Origin and symbolism of the Mapuche flag

In 1992, in the V Centenary of the discovery of America, the Mapuche people adopted a national flag that was presented for the first time to the Spanish king in his visit to Chile. The flag is based on the Nagche regional flag, but is quite different in the border, the stripes (only three) and the central emblem.
Jaume Ollé, 08 Nov 1996

The Mapuche flag is essentially a horizontal tricolor of light blue, green and red with two additional black stripes, above and bellow, each charged with a row of “andean crosses” (or “incaic crosses”, a.k.a. chakanas), and on the center, overlaping the three main stripes, a yellow disc charged with the devices usually painted on traditional Mapuche drums (kultrun). These are divided in quarters by four cardinal radial segments forked at the tip and on each quarter an astronomical symbol.

In the spring of 1991 in Valdivia was celebrated a convention called Meli Witram Mapu of the Mapuche People. The adoption of a national flag was aborted and 500 projects were presented. Five projects were selectioned for the five regions of the Mapuches. The definitive national flag was approved in 1992. The Mapuche unified their traditional government in 1991 in the National Conference of Temuco (18-21 March). The Aukin Wallmapu Ngulam (Council of all the lands) dirige currently the Mapuche People.

The flags share a common symbolism:

  • red: blood spilled in the wars (against Spain, first, and after against Chilean Army and white Chilean people)
  • green: Natura, earth
  • sky-blue (celeste): sky, hope
  • yellow: sun, light
  • white: the Mountains of the Mapuche Land (snow some months of the year)
Some designs bear a central emblem named Cultrum, that represent the woman, the four directions (N, S. W and E), the perfect round of the Earth and the movement in the space.

Jaume Ollé, 16 Sep 1996

Kultrun surface image

image by António Martins, 16 Nov 2006

The central device (drum, in mpauche language Kultrun) of the flag.
Jaume Ollé, 09 Jul 2004

Trivero Mondovì’s Mapuche-Spanish online dictionary says that the word for drum is "kultrung", but other dictionaries include (also) "kultrun".
António Martins, 20 Oct 2008 and 16 Sep 2009

Use of the flag

There is evidence of use of the kultrun Mapuche flag also on the Argentine side of the border, see photos:

António Martins, 17 Sep 2007 and 22 Aug 2008


There are a lot of details variations from one Mapuche flag to another. For example the exact wide of the stripes and the kultrun, or the exact colors.
Francisco Gregoric, 16 Jul 2004

The Mapuche “national” flag has a star on the lower fly and crescent on the upper hoist, and a “starfish” sun on the other two quadrants. Other Mapuche flags show the kultrun with a “starfish” sun on all quadrants.
António Martins, 06 Jul 2004

We can see from the linked actual usage samples that several variants are in simultaneous use, apparently by the same people. These variations affect especially

  • the blue stripe, which can vary from medium-dark to almost white;
  • the width of the black stripes, which ban be as wide as the three main stripes or as narrow as half of them;
  • the space between each chakana, which can be as narrow as the side of each square “cell” or as wide as one whole chakana;
  • the eaxct shape of the chakana, which is usualy made of stacked squares (1+3+5+3+1), but can also have rounded corners (looking like a flower or a popcorn), or follow the precise construction prescribed by some andean sources
  • the colors of the kultrun, which is usually dark yellow with dark red elements — though some times the dividing lines and the symbols have different colors, the background is always lighter;
  • the dividing lines on the kultrun, which can be simple or double and vary in width, and also its forked tips, which can be straight and slanted (like an algiz "ᛉ") or curved outwards (like a trident or a psi "Ψ");
  • the astronomical symbols, which include five-pointed stars, crescents, and “turtle-suns”; the most usual arrangement seem to be a crescent on the top hoist quadrant, a star on the bottom fly quadrant and suns on the others.
António Martins, 16 Nov 2006

This flag, with very minor differences, is listed under number 201 at the chart Flags of Aspirant Peoples [eba94] as: «Mapu [Araucania] (Mapuche Indians) - Chile.».
Ivan Sache, 15 Sep 1999

The Santiago Indymedia website shows a lot of Mapuche flags in a demonstration in Santiago, Chile. The blue stripe seems to vary from medium to light blue, with no meaning in that variation.
António Martins, 30 Jan 2006

The newspaper today has a picture (can’t find it online) of a Mapuche protest in Chile. Flying is a Mapuche main flag, but with the border (the shapes looking more like diamonds, but that may be the picture) covered three (if not four; can’t see) sides, and no emblem on the stripes (possibly two, maybe three). It’s somewhat like the Nagche flag, but with no emblem and possibly less stripes.
Nathan Lamm, 11 Aug 2004

The white designs inside the black stripes are geometric and straight in all the Mapuche flags I have seen.
Francisco Gregoric, 16 Jul 2004

Use of Inca flag

Qullasuyu flag
image by Kjell Roll Elgsaas, 14 Dec 1997

This is the flag of Qullasuyu, one of the Inca “quarters”, the one including Chile.
António Martins, 17 Jul 2004

Mapuche do use the square rainbow Whipala flag as a kind of “symbol of Native peoples from South America”. The whipala flag is a symbol associated with the Inca Empire. However in ancient times, groups as Mapuches did not accept been part of empires as the Inca Empire. The Mapuche could keep their independence of the Inca Empire.
Francisco Gregoric, 16 Jul 2004