Academic journal article Human Organization

Mapping the Past and the Future: Geomatics and Indigenous Territories in the Peruvian Amazon

Academic journal article Human Organization

Mapping the Past and the Future: Geomatics and Indigenous Territories in the Peruvian Amazon

Article excerpt

Since the early 1970s, indigenous Amazonians of Peru have received property title or other forms of government recognition to over 10 million hectares of tropical forested land. The largest single area is in the Rio Galvez Basin, east of Iquitos near the Brazilian border, where a 400,000-hectare native community was titled to the Matses peoples in the 1990s. Developing and implementing management plans and related economic initiatives for these areas is the next urgent chapter in the long history of their struggle for survival and recognition. The authors examine both conceptual and methodological steps to establish a map-based Native Communities Information System (SICNA) as the foundation for future land-use planning in Peru's indigenous territories. The information system includes two types of data for Peru's native communities: geographic data that include the hydrographic system with community boundaries among other elements, and tabular data on demography, ethnic affiliation, legal-administrative status, housing, education, and resource use. The two data types are interconnected digitally through a Geographic Information System (GIS). The authors describe two cases in which these mapping and data-gathering techniques are put to use: 1) for delimiting a proposed communal reserve to protect currently untitled resources vital to the survival of 23 communities in a large area in the northern Peruvian Amazon; and 2) for reaffirming historical and cultural links of the Amuesha people to a territory lost to colonists over the past century in Peru's central jungle region.

Key words: mapping, GIS, indigenous peoples, Peruvian Amazon

Development for the Amazonian Lowlands and the Piedmont of the Eastern Andean Slopes (Ley de Comunidades Nativas y de Desarrollo Agrario de la Selva y Ceja de Selva); these collective rights included the land and forest areas "traditionally occupied" by indigenous Amazonians as well as those areas used for hunting, fishing, and gathering (Beteta 1989; Garcia 1995; ILO 1997).

In 1978, the native communities law was modified to reflect changes in national forest policy that eliminated indigenous property rights over forest lands, even those within a recognized native community. In its stead, the revised law opened the possibility of creating communal reserves under local community management. Though a great number of such reserves have been proposed, only two have been established: 1) the Yanesha Communal Reserve (1987), with a total area of 34,745 hectares; and 2) the El Sira Communal Reserve (2001), with a total of 616,413 hectares.

The official recognition of over 1,400 and the titling of approximately 1,200 native communities in the Peruvian Amazon over the past 30 years is due in large part to a social movement that has pressured the state for collectively titled indigenous territories (see Table 1). From 1974 to 1984, the government titled hundreds of native communities in heavily colonized areas of the Peruvian lowlands near the foothills of the Andes Mountains. The total land and forest area of many of these communities, surrounded by colonist farms, was too small and densely populated to permit traditional resource-use practices such as the rotation of garden sites, hunting, and gathering. This is the case of the Amuesha and Ashaninka communities in the upper Paucartambo-Perene watershed: for example, Alto Churumazu with 113 hectares, Punizas with 71 hectares, El Milagro with 105 hectares, and Mayme with 110 hectares. (PETT 2000; SICNA 2002).

Beginning in the early 1980s, the Coordinadora de las Organizaciones Indigenas de la Cuenca Amazonica (Coordinating Body of Indigenous Peoples' Organizations of the Amazon Basin [COICA]) disseminated among its members a new discourse on aboriginal rights to a territory, defined as a large continuous homeland, including all forest, aquatic, and subsoil resources (Chirif, Garcia, and Smith 1991; Smith 1996). COICA also aggressively promoted its vision of indigenous territorial rights with the World Bank, the European Economic Community, the InterAmeriean Development Bank, government officials, and the conservation community. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.