Indigenous movements in the Americas

Indigenous people under the nation-state have experienced exclusion and dispossession. With the rise in globalization, material advantages for indigenous populations have diminished. At times, national governments have negotiated natural resources without taking into account whether or not these resources exist on indigenous lands. In this sense for many indigenous populations, the effects of globalization mirror the effects of the conquest in the mid 16th century.

In response, indigenous political movements have emerged in various countries on the North and South America. These movements share similarities. Many seek specific rights for the indigenous populations. These rights include the right to self-determination and the right to preserve their culture and heritage. Aims differ. One of the main differences is the way in which they organize themselves to meet their objectives. There has been a movement in Latin America to unite indigenous populations that are separated by national borders. The following are examples of groups that have organized in order to be heard on a transnational level. These movements call for indigenous rights to become a universal right to be acknowledged by all countries with indigenous populations.

Transnational organizations

Coordinator of Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon River Basin (COICA)

This organization coordinates the following nine national Amazonian indigenous organizations:

Indian Council of South America (CISA)

The Indian Council of South America was founded in 1980. It is a non-governmental organization that works in consultation with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations. This council also seeks to maintain relations with international agencies such as UNESCO, FAO, and WHO. One of CISA’s objectives is to promote respect for the right to life, justice, development, peace, and autonomy of the indigenous peoples and Nations. CISA also coordinates an exchange of knowledge, experiences and projects between indigenous peoples and nations in respect to development that will improve their welfare.

International Maya League

One of the most important goals for the Maya League is to return to the Mayan balance that was interrupted with the Spanish conquest of 1524. This group, similar to COICA works to preserve and inform people about the culture of the Mayan people. This group has reached out to other states like Costa Rica and some of the states in the United States in order to carry out activities in the areas of teaching, research, and services. One of the defining factors about this group is that it does not have any formal leadership roles appointed to any one person. Rather, the Mayan League sticks to its ancestral beliefs that all can participate in decision making activity. Some of the problems that the Maya League seeks to combat are racism, repression, marginalization, and poverty. Currently, there is a large population of Maya living in Guatemala.

Mexico has the most adapted Modern Maya peoples today, they are from Mayan Yucatec branch, most of them totally integrated into the Mexican economy, from peasants, retail, handcraft or "Maquiladora" factory workers to Doctors, Engineers and Politicians.

Indigenous organizations according to country








Costa Rica


El Salvador









Puerto Rico



United States

Indigenous Movements In Latin America by Country

Latin America is primarily known for their growing indigenous rights movement. Groups within countries have done work to publicize indigenous rights in their respective countries.

Trans-national Movements

Transnational movements have helped publicize the indigenous rights movement in Latin America. Trans-national movements regarding indigenous rights could be seen as the whole being greater than the sum of its parts.[3] Many political related movements regarding the rights of indigenous peoples have took hold particularly in the 1990's due to "time and allies.[4]" Political collaboration has been integral for the progress of indigenous peoples. Multilateral agencies and NGO's have been helping to increase leverage for indigenous peoples rights. The first Peruvian President of indigenous origin, Alejandro Toldeo, was elected in 2001.[5] This marked the first time that someone of Indian descent was the ruler since the 1930's. Transnational organizations have been credited for contributing to Cué's victory in Mexico.[6] The Front of Binational Organizations (FIOB), one of the most active indigenous organizations, is credited for this feat. Trans-national movements like the FIOB "represents a broad network of relationships, organizational structures, and cultural traditions.[6]" Solidarity is one of the main attributes for the success of trans-national movements.

Global trans-national movements also influence regional movements. For example, after the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People[7] was passed, there has been progress made for the indigenous rights movement. Trans-national movements aim to enforce these policies through their work with domestic movements throughout the americas.

Transnational movements have shifted their focus towards environmental rights. As deforestation occurs in areas such as the Amazon, many movements aim to work in solidarity to bring these secondary issues to light. Amazon Watch is one non-governmental organization that aims to publicize the plight of deforestation in the Amazon in regards to the lives of indigenous peoples. Oil drilling is one issue that Amazon Watch fights against. A pipeline spill in the Peruvian Amazon highlights the plight of indigenous protests.[8] Five indigenous communities sought to remediate the polluted sites and compensation for damages to their land. This shift has helped to gain more awareness as environmental protection becomes more important in the rights for indigenous peoples. The Dakota Access Pipeline protests is one example of the fight for indigenous rights to sacred land in the United States. More than 40% of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe live below the poverty line[9] and this pipeline could negatively affect both the environment and well-being of the tribe.



Indigenous rights have largely been ignored throughout Brazil's history. They were considered "second-class citizens[10]" and much of their land was taken away for economic development. Brazilian is also historically known for the "physical and cultural extermination of the indigenous peoples.[11]" However, the indigenous movement in Brazil has largely grown since the 1980's.[10] Although policies have been changed to include the rights of the indigenous peoples, it ignores the collective right to their land.[11]


The 2002 Xucuru case in Brazil highlights the role of the state in the struggle of present-day indigenous peoples in Brazil. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights was asked to safeguard Marcos de Araújo, after they received death threats regarding their right to indigenous land.[11] The state rejected this request because of various reasons. Much of the Indian rights movement in Brazil focus on right to land, and not individual liberties. Although indigenous tribes are marginalized and largely unrepresented in government, Brazil's Articulation of Indigenous People's have staged protests around major cities in Brazil to focus on fighting for territorial rights of the native peoples.[12] The result of this issue shows that "constitutional recognition of indigenous human rights and a multicultural and collectivist perspective does not eliminate the legal and political obstacles to implementing those rights.[11]"

See also

External references


  1. WV. "CIMI - Conselho Indigenista Missionário". Retrieved 2016-11-16.
  2. "Articulação dos Povos Indígenas da Região Sul – Arpin-Sul - Fundo Brasil". Fundo Brasil (in Portuguese). Retrieved 2016-11-16.
  3. "Indigenous People and Political Transnationalism: Globalization from below meets globalization from above?" (PDF).
  4. Puig, Salvador Martí i (2010-01-01). "The Emergence of Indigenous Movements in Latin America and Their Impact on the Latin American Political Scene: Interpretive Tools at the Local and Global Levels". Latin American Perspectives. 37 (6): 74–92.
  5. "The Challenges of The President of Peru, Alejandro Toledo". PBS NewsHour. Retrieved 2016-11-15.
  6. 1 2 "The Power of Transnational Organizing: Indigenous Migrant Politics in Oaxacalifornia". NACLA. Retrieved 2016-11-14.
  7. "Indigenous Rights in Latin America: The Gap between Doctrine and Reality". Human Rights and Human Welfare.
  8. "Amazon Watch - Another Pipeline Spill Reported in Peruvian Amazon As Indigenous Protests Enter Eighth Week". Amazon Watch. Retrieved 2016-11-15.
  9. "The Dakota Pipeline Could Devastate Some of the Poorest People in America". Fortune. 2016-11-06. Retrieved 2016-11-15.
  11. 1 2 3 4 "Legal Dualism and the Bipolar State". Latin American Perspectives. Retrieved 2016-11-15.
  12. "Amazon Watch - Massive Indigenous Rights Movement Launches Across Brazil". Amazon Watch. Retrieved 2016-11-15.
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