Environment, Equality, and Indigenous Peoples’ Land Rights in the Inter-American Human Rights System: Mayagna (Sumo) Indigenous Community of Awas Tingni v. Nicaragua (J. A. Amiott)


Jennifer A. Amiott


indigenous communities, Nicaragua, Mayagna, sumo, environmental protection, equality, land rights, America, human rights systems, Awas Tingni, international law, logging, preservation of culture, natural resources, developing nations, displacement, sustainable development


Through history, indigenous peoples have been assaulted physically and suffered discrimination; they have seen their cultures undermined, their lands stolen, and their economies plundered; moreover, their very existence as distinct communities has been threatened. International law has evolved, however modestly, to challenge the legacy of this history and the forces that would see it continue. 
Throughout the world, and in the developing world in particular, many indigenous peoples live in and use forests and other areas rich in natural resources. However, developing nations – often transitioning to democracy, fighting poverty, and under pressure from multinational corporations – may promote the “development” and exploitation of the resource-rich lands used and occupied by indigenous peoples living within their borders. This push for growth and lack of recognition of indigenous property rights can result in the degradation of ancestral landholdings, the displacement of indigenous peoples, the disintegration of traditional cultures, and the loss of biologically diverse forests. The struggle of the Mayagna (Sumo) Community of Awas Tingni (Awas Tingni Community or Awas Tingni) to protect its lands from a logging concession granted by Nicaragua highlights the failure of states to protect the traditional landholdings of indigenous peoples. This case also illustrates the convergence of environmental, sustainable development, and human rights issues in indigenous land rights cases.


(2002) 32 Environmental Law 872.


Environment, Equality, and Indigenous Peoples’ Land Rights in the Inter-American Human Rights System: Mayagna (Sumo) Indigenous Community of Awas Tingni v. Nicaragua