The Mapuche’s belief is fundamentally based on developing harmonic relationship with the mother earth, living according to her laws, and appreciating its sacredness. They believe on the co-existence of a spirit that unifies all living being on earth, so that they are against any human practices that can harm its harmony. They call the creator of the earth and its nature inside as Ngenechen, who is personified in four characters: an older man, an older woman, a young man, and a young woman. The spirit is recognized as the source of the power of life that comes with the godly grace which creates and sustains the life of human and nature.
The Mapuche’s conception of the world is represented in a symbol which represents complex information and explains the configuration of the Mapuche world. It perceives every human being as an integral part of nature that are interconnected with all the surrounding elements. They submissively follow their moral and ethical commitment to society and high respect to nature.
Therefore, when they want to use nature’s yields as spiritual offerings or for their daily needs, they would first ask for permission and then give thanks to Mapun Kuse-Fucha, the ancestors’ spirit. Moreover, they consume them only in a necessary amount according to their needs – not for their greediness satisfaction.
Mapuche’s Forest Conservation
One of their most useful practices is their daily activities in preserving the forest. They recognize themselves as spiritually part of the ecosystem, and thus the way they manage it is strongly linked with their cosmological concept and spiritual thought. Thora Martina Hermann – an Associate Professor in Geography and Culture from Canada who studies Mapuche community – learns that the Mapuche society always orientate their utilization of the nature by deriving the gain of the balance between every living being who are settling within the bionetwork.
The Mapuche communities has a distinct relationship with Araucaria Araucana, trees of which they perceive themselves to be part with. The plants is usually characterized with tall appearance (40 m tall with 2 m trunk diamater) and they is entitled as national trees of Chile. The Mapuche society considers it as a sacred being and put its preservation as priority to keep the balance of the ecosystem where they live.
The trees’ seed is usually planted along with other short trees, so that the young Araucaria Araucanas can have other plants to communicate with and do not feel lonely.
The whole process of Araucaria Araucana management does not only constitutes the Mapuche’s profound knowledge about the trees, but also represent the preservation social value and strengthens the bond of the society. Moreover, as argued in Hermann’s research, the cultivation of the trees gives benefit to the growth of other trees – and thus the forest conservation as a whole.
The spiritual knowledge which underlies the daily practices of the Mapuche has shown its contribution to nature preservation and it opens up the opportunity of knowledge merging between indigenous wisdom and scientific intelligence in improving forest conservation.