The Pewen Project
The development of the research and bio-cultural conservation project ‘The Pewen Project; Ancestral Pewenche practices and land management for conservation of the Araucaria Araucana' has taken its first steps.
'The Pewen Project' aims to conserve the Pewen and its biodiversity hotspots through a process of cultural recognition and recuperation; a biocultural conservation project. It consists of socio-environmental research, artistic expression and on-the-ground conservation. The project was born out of several encounters between key Mapuche researches, Pewenche community leaders, artists and socio-environmental researcher Darko Lagunas, during the Valley of the Possible residency in 2019. The project departs from the ancestral Pewenche cultural ways of life, knowledge, values and cultural practices. It seeks a progressive approach to conservation that recognizes and honors the intrinsic relationships between nature (the Pewen) and humanity (the Pewenche).
From the Valley of the Possible side, the project is coordinated by Dutch-Chilean environmental sociologist Darko Lagunas. Considering the many socio-cultural dimensions and historical colonial relationships that western society has set towards Indigenous communities, the project is in a continuous process of alignment with priorities from Pewenche communities.
Due to the COVID-19 measures, this project is currently on hold. Project activities are expected to continue during the second half of 2020.
The Pewen, also known as Araucaria Araucana, is a tree descendant from Jurassic times. Under the right conditions in biodiversity hotspots these trees can grow up to 50 meters high and become approximately 1.500 years old.
In the non-human centered Indigenous culture of Pewenche people (People of the Pewen) the trees are sacred. They are the central axe of their spirituality and their main source of nutrition comes through the sustainable use of its chestnuts, the piñon.
However, from the early 19th century onwards the implementation of the Chilean State on Pewenche territory, has led to an indiscriminate exploitation of the Pewen. Together with climate change effects such as draughts, wildfires and environmental degradation, the Pewen has become an endangered species, now listed on the IUCN Red List. Pewenche people have defended the Pewen and its necessary biodiversity hotspots in different instances, from the beginning.
The aim of this project is to bridge diverse worldviews and develop an inclusive conservation action plan for the ancient and sacred Pewen (Araucaria Araucana) trees in La Araucanía in Southern Chile. Valley of the Possible will initiate and host intercultural dialogues, where diverse stakeholders collaborate and unite to develop an on the ground action plan for the araucarias, providing a platform where heterogeneous (indigenous, ancestral, modern and universal) knowledges come together.
During the beginning of 2020, this project made its first important steps:
Establishing relationships with a variety of local, regional and national stakeholders;
Aligning the program with grassroots priorities of Pewenche communities, identifying potential pathways for on-the-ground conservation action;
Generating a vision about the role of arts in biocultural conservation;
And, identifying key opportunities, challenges and necessities for focused capacity building and fundraising.
For the research and development of the project 'Bridging worldviews for the conservation of Araucarias', an inclusive conservation model for the ancient and sacred Araucaria Araucana tree, we have received support from the WWF INNO Fund.