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Catching Up with the Indigenous Law Portal: Moving South

The following is a guest post by Carla Davis-Castro, a librarian who has been working on our Indigenous Law Portal.

The Indigenous Law Portal, launched on the Law Library’s website in June 2014, provides an open access platform to legal materials regarding how indigenous peoples govern themselves. Currently featuring North America (Canada, the United States, and Mexico), the work continues!

The Policy and Standards Division released the classification schedule for subclass KI this past February. It describes global agreements, such as the United Nations’ Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, as well as relevant organizations.


The Indigenous Law Portal will feature this regional map as the entryway to digital resources for each of Central America’s seven countries.

In the summer of 2016, the information for Mexico was updated with dozens of indigenous advocacy organizations, both national and regional. There is also a list of resources covering topics from forms of government to food sovereignty. The Portal doesn’t just link to written sources; a national government webpage provides recorded translations of the General Law on Linguistic Rights of Indigenous Peoples into 65 languages.

The next region to be added will be Central America, with digital resources and classification schedules for each of the seven nations in that region. Users will be able to access information about the resident indigenous peoples, their governments or councils, advocacy organizations, and use a bibliography that divides resources by legal subject.

Here are some highlights of what is coming:


In 2009, CANEK published Políticas culturales para un Estado Plural: Construcción del Estado Plural desde la interpretación comunitaria de la cultura los derechos colectivos, el territorio y el poder (Cultural policies for a pluralistic state: construction of a pluralistic state from the community perspective of the culture of collective rights, territory, and power). This resource examines historical processes from the colonial period to the present, compares the collective rights of indigenous peoples in other Hispanic countries, and considers two case studies of the Xinka and K’iche peoples.


Cultural Policies for a Pluralistic State features a circular table of contents using the Mayan numeral system, https://issuu.com/fundacionpachamama/docs/name221204, archived at https://perma.cc/43HW-6XMC.


An undated report from the Movimiento Indígena Lenca de Honduras (MILH) and the Foro Internacional de Mujeres Indígenas (FIMI) titled Diagnóstico participativo en el pueblo indígena Pech Honduras C.A. (Participatory diagnosis of the Pech indigenous community Honduras C.A. [Central America]) tackles the issue of gender violence.

El Salvador

In 2014, the national legislature passed a constitutional amendment recognizing indigenous peoples. While not indigenous law, this historic change is worthy of documentation on the Portal.


Mayagna (Sumo) Community of Awas Tingni v. Nicaragua was a landmark decision issued by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in 2001. It obligated the state to secure land titles not only for Awas Tingni but all of its indigenous peoples. This decision, together with Nicaragua’s Law 28 about regional autonomy and Law 445 about communal land ownership, are changing the map and how indigenous people govern. The Portal will track these changes via digital resources like the 2011 Plan de Manejo, Conservación y Desarrollo Territorial Indígena (Management, conservation and indigenous territorial development plan) by the Territorial Government Mayangna Sauni Bas, the Environmental and Natural Resources Ministry, and the German Technical Cooperation (Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit or GTZ).

Mayangna Sauni Bas territorial tribal government

This sophisticated report from the Mayangna Sauni Bas territorial tribal government includes many maps such as this one showing soil types, http://masrenace.wikispaces.com/file/view/DocTec+PlanMSBAS_Dic2011_BR.pdf, archived at https://perma.cc/3HUD-6VNS.

These digital resources about Central America are just a few of the hundreds that will be available. The work is ongoing so stay tuned for new content on the Indigenous Law Portal later this year!

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