Indigenous resurgence has gathered pace across the globe in the last three decades, and achieving formal recognition of the rights of indigenous peoples has been one of its major victories. Both the International Labour Organisation Convention 169 (ILO 169, 1989) and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP, 2007) are hailed as major milestones. Compliance with those is also significant with regard to the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals.
The Patagonian region played a particular role in the process of nation-building in Argentina. While the Welsh in Chubut were part of those populations who would eventually benefit from the process, indigenous peoples suffered widespread displacement, dismemberment and dispossession.
In challenging practices not aligned with international indigenous rights legislation, indigenous communities are prompting Argentina to comply not only with the legal framework and sustainable development goals which it has adopted but also with the indigenous rights enshrined in its own National Constitution.
The research contributes to heritage recovery in Patagonia in different ways. A British Academy/Leverhulme-funded project explores the usefulness of Settler Colonial Theory to reflect on colonisation processes in Southern Patagonia and their consequences for indigenous peoples in the present. Using a collaborative approach with members of the Mapuche, Tehuelche and Mapuche-Tehuelche peoples in the Province of Santa Cruz, as well as the Selk’nam in Tierra del Fuego, collective reflection has been encouraged on the basis of the individual, family and community experiences and trajectories shared by the workshop participants. A further aim of this 'dialogue of knowledges' is to contribute to theoretical discussions by co-theorising from the lived experience of Patagonia's indigenous peoples.
A complementary EPSRC/CHERISH-DE-funded project combines digital innovation and insights from ethnographic and historical research in the development of ‘Orígenes’ [Origins], a mobile platform co-designed with members of the Tehuelche Camusu Aike and Kopolke communities in Southern Patagonia.
By enabling indigenous peoples to reclaim and (digitally) repossess images of their ancestors, the project supports actions undertaken by indigenous peoples to recover their heritage, strengthen their community links and restore their collective memory.
Our work includes:
• The co-designed, open-source platform ‘Orígenes’ is freely available to Android phone and tablet users from around the world.
• Collaborative production of educational resources (in Spanish) for use in schools in the Province of Santa Cruz as well as for the indigenous communities (in partnership with Intercultural Bilingual Education Programme (MEIB), Education Council of the Province of Santa Cruz, Argentina).
• Key partnerships: we have collaborated with academics from Universidad de la Patagonia Austral Río Gallegos and Universidad Nacional de Tierra del Fuego (Argentina) in the organisation and development of the workshops; and a number of regional repositories have provided access to their materials, including Berlin's Ibero-American Institute (Germany), La Plata Museum (Argentina), Universidad de Magallanes’ Instituto de la Patagonia (Chile), Museo Regional de Magallanes (Chile), Museo Salesiano Maggiorino Borgatello (Chile), Museo Martín Gusinde (Chile).