Areal view of the Pilón Lajas Protected Area and Indigenous Territory (Pic: P. Bottazzi, 2008)

Lands inhabited by indigenous peoples often have low population density but abundant natural resources. For those reasons, many actors have historically attempted to occupy those lands or use the resources in them. Increasing pressures over lands occupied by indigenous peoples have resulted in the awakening of indigenous peoples over their rights to land and resources generating many debates over indigenous peoples’ rights to land and self-governance. In this article, we provide a historical and geographical overview of territorial and governance issues among the Tsimane’, an indigenous group native to the Bolivian Amazon. We examine how the Bolivian state economic policies implemented during the 20th century affected the Tsimane’ ancestral lands, and how – over the late-20th century – the Bolivian state accommodated Tsimane’ claims to lands in between multiple interests. We show how national policies led to the reconfiguration of Tsimane’ territoriality and to a fragmented institutional representation. Current indigenous territories and indigenous political representation are an expression of conflictive policies that have involved multiple actors and their specific interests on indigenous lands and its resources.

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