Their advance to the south was checked by the indomitable opposition of the Araucanians, but from the southern Andes the Spaniards overflowed on to the great plains which now form the interior of the Argentine Republic. The first permanent settlement at the mouth of the river Plate at Buenos Aires dates from 1580.
The tribes of Peru are said to have adored great snakes in the pre-Inca days; and in Chile the Araucanians made a serpent figure in their deluge myth.
Their laws were merely traditional customs. War was declared by the council, messengers bearing arrows dipped in blood being sent to all parts of the country to summon the men to arms. From the time of the first Spanish invasion (1535) the Araucanians made a vigorous resistance, and after worsting the best soldiers and the best generals of Spain for two centuries obtained an acknowledgment of their independence.
The Araucanians believe in a supreme being, and in many subordinate spirits, good and bad.
Smith, Araucanians (New York, 1855); J.
The semi-independent Araucanians, whose territory is slowly being occupied by the whites, are concentrated in the eastern forests of Bio-Bio, Malleco and Cautin, all that remains to them of the Araucania which they so bravely and successfully defended for more than three centuries.
The name of the Araucanians, the most powerful of the tribes, came to be applied to the whole confederation of Indians living south of the Bio-bio river.
Up to 1800 the peace was broken by three wars, in 1655, in 1723 and in 1766, the last ended by a treaty which actually gave the Araucanians the right to have a minister at Santiago.
The Araucanians, however, continued to preserve their independence; they jealously resented the introduction of Spanish influence, and the missionary efforts of the Jesuits met with little success.