PUBlic Professor Series | Dr. Patrick Wilson

Indigenous Territories and the Rights of Nature in Amazonian Ecuador

Dr. Patrick Wilson, Department of Anthropology

This talk examines the 2008 Constitutional reforms in Ecuador that, among other changes, inscribed new rights of nature and extended rights for indigenous peoples. These two sets of new rights converge around the creation of Indigenous Territorial Circumcriptions (CTIs), a new form of territorial rights for indigenous peoples that allow them to pursue a degree of autonomous governance in alignment with indigenous principles of development. Some hail CTIs as a new path to indigenous empowerment and sustainable development of the Amazon rainforest, but at the same time, the Ecuadorian government has violated the very rights of nature it promoted through pursuing the rapid expansion of the mining sector in recent year. This calls into question if and how the CTIs may serve competing purposes and lead to contradictory outcomes for indigenous inhabitants by facilitating, rather than curbing, extractive development in the Amazon.

The Chair of the U of L’s Department of Anthropology has been investigating the seemingly progressive constitutional reforms introduced in the South American country in 2008, and their potential impact on indigenous peoples. Essentially, the new constitution aimed to enshrine in law respect for the rights of nature; the principle of Sumak Kawsay, an ancient indigenous concept meaning living in harmony with each other and the environment; and recognition of the land of the Amazonian peoples as circumscribed indigenous territories, or CTIs, which would ostensibly offer them a pathway to autonomous social and economic development. Read the full story.