Friday, August 8, 2008

PS 75-52: Comparing the conservation discourses of indigenous peoples throughout America

Jose Nicolas Cabrera-Schneider, University of Nebraska-Lincoln


In recent years, the revival of the idea that Indigenous groups identify themselves with the principles of environmental stewardship has sparked a debate among ecological and anthropological scientists. This debate centers on whether indigenous peoples have cultural practices that are intentionally aligned with and promote conservation. The majority of recent arguments suggest that cultural characteristics of the indigenous peoples are not actually aligned with conservation. The same scientists mention that the set backs suffered by certain conservation efforts are due to the presence of indigenous peoples in reserve areas. The emergence of this debate has encouraged me to analyze some of the discourses that come form the indigenous peoples through out the American Continent. My objective is to identify and compare the common characteristics of the conservation discourses that come from the indigenous peoples in order to point out if the discourses have something similar that encourages them to think that they are associated with conservation.  I have reviewed the literature from peer reviewed journals that mention indigenous conservation, sustainability, and resource management in the discourses of different indigenous peoples that live in the American continent.


There are three main characteristics that many of the indigenous peoples conservation discourses share. The first commonality is that the conservation discourse it is used to attract the attention of third parties (e.g. international NGO, foreign governments) to their problems. The second characteristic shared is that their problems involve a lack or impediment to access resources that previously they had access to. And the third common characteristic is that their conservation discourse is usually tied to a human rights discourse. The conservation discourse of indigenous peoples is a way to call to our attention the injustice that is happening this should be taken in to consideration when conservationist thinking about conservation plans and strategies, they need also to think also of human rights and equality in the access to resources.