Indigenous peoples across Latin America have demonstrated their determination to protect their communities and their territories over the centuries and, in the process, have proven their role as stewards of the environment. Threatening to encroach upon ancestral lands, contaminate water sources, and divide communities with the construction of mega projects, national and multinational companies have long wreaked havoc on the environment and taken advantage of indigenous communities. Yet, the communities have not sat idly by. Instead, groups throughout Latin America and the Caribbean have organized to protect their people and their lands.
Today, on International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, we celebrate the environmental stewardship of indigenous communities throughout Latin America. The first part of our blog recognized the leadership of indigenous women. This second part celebrates communities that have prevailed against powerful corporate interests. Over the years, numerous victories have been won by indigenous peoples that have safeguarded rainforests from deforestation, rivers from dams, and agricultural lands from mining. The legal successes won by, or on behalf of, indigenous communities are often a result of companies or governments found to be out of compliance with Convention 169 of the International Labour Organization—the right to formal and open consultation regarding any new project on indigenous lands. Here, we highlight some recent environmental achievements won by indigenous nations against the economic interests of big industry.