SANTIAGO, Chile - Mapuche Indians vowed Thursday to keep seizing land in southern Chile despite the death of an activist who resisted an eviction by riot police.

The rebellion appeared to be growing despite efforts by the Chilean government to help the Mapuche buy land and timber companies to help ease their poverty. Hours after the activist was killed, an agricultural warehouse in the area was set on fire, destroying about $1 million worth of equipment, the interior ministry said.

President Michelle Bachelet said Thursday that the activists are harming their own cause.

"Nothing, absolutely nothing, justifies the violence in La Araucania. They must understand that the only path to a solution to the legitimate historical demands of the Mapuche people is dialogue," she said.

But Jose Santos Millao of the activist group Ad Mapu said the death Wednesday of Fabian Facundo Mendoza Collio, 24, will only inspire them to fight harder for their ancestral lands.

Police said at least eight of the Indians carried rifles, and that an officer fired at Mendoza Collio in self-defence as his body was hit by more than 80 pellets. Eight Indians and three officers were later injured in another confrontation as the Indians tried to recover the body outside the town of Collipulli, about 370 miles (600 kilometres) south of the capital.

Mapuches represent about 6 per cent of Chile's 17 million people. They resisted the Spanish conquest for 300 years before the government finally pushed them into communities in southern Chile. Most now live in deep poverty.

Patricio Rosende, a top interior ministry official, said the police officer who killed Mendoza was detained pending an investigation.