17 Aug

AGS President AGS Jerome E. Dobson Working On Bowman Expedition Initiative in Honduras

Twenty-three Years of Participatory Research Mapping in Honduran Muskitia:

Katainasta Communities Map a New Type of Indigenous Territorial Jurisdiction

  • Peter H. Herlihy*
  • Jerome E. Dobson*
  • Taylor A. Tappan*
  • John H. Kelly**
  • Matthew L. Fahrenbruch*
  • *University of Kansas
  • ** University of Wisconsin at La Crosse

La Muskitia is a sizable geographic region on the northeastern coast of Honduras. For centuries, indigenous communities have worked diligently to acquire and maintain collective ownership of lands and resources and protect their cultural heritage. Most communities have suffered a long history of poverty, discrimination, and land dispossession. Protection efforts were hampered by a sparsity of geographic information. Participatory Research Mapping (PRM) began in 1992 when indigenous communities first mapped their own land rights, land uses, and resources. With Peter Herlihy’s leadership and assistance, major bursts of mapping activity occurred in the early 1990s, late 1990s, and past five years. Most recently Miskitu residents of the new concejo territorial (multi-village, community-titled territory) of Katainasta conducted the most intensive participatory mapping yet, supported by Centroamérica Indígena, a Bowman Expedition jointly run by the University of Kansas and American Geographical Society and funded by a U. S. Department of Defense Minerva Grant for University-led Research. The project is a complex blend of communities, institutions, and methods, using PRM and GIS. The strategic alliance includes the Francisco Morazán National Pedagogic University (UPNFM), the Honduran Land Administration Program (PATH II), the NGO MOPAWI, and the United Nations Development Program (PNUD). Results include high-resolution maps and GIS data with hundreds of toponyms and land use locations, all generated and carefully verified by community-chosen local investigators, then trained and certified as “local geographers.” Already, the people of Katainasta are using these tools in local education and governance and in their interactions with government agencies and non-governmental organizations.


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