On December 11th, 2015 at the COP21 climate talks in Paris, Miskitu Asla Takanka (MASTA) received the Equator Prize from the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). The prize recognizes the efforts of grassroots organizations fighting against forest and cultural threats.
From November 30th to December 11th, 2015, the The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change XXI Conference of the Parties (UNFCCC-COP21) took place in Paris with the representation of many indigenous groups. MASTA joined in a series of community dialogues in order to exchange experiences with other Equator Prize winners. On receiving the award, the President of MASTA Norvin Goff stated, “We have received the prize for being the first indigenous organization of Mesoamerica to develop our own ‘Bio-Cultural Protocol’ a mechanism for the defense of our right to prior, free and informed about development projects in our territories.”
The American Geographical Society (AGS) works with MASTA as one of our closest partners on the Centroamérica Indígena Bowman Expedition in Honduras. 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 their tropical lands and resources and to protect their cultural heritage. Most communities have suffered a long history of poverty, discrimination, and land dispossession.
Most recently Miskitu residents of the new concejo territorial (multi-village, community-titled territory) of Katainasta conducted the most intensive participatory research mapping yet, developed by Centroamérica Indígena, our 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. CA Indígena is led by AGS President Jerry Dobson and AGS Bowman Scholar, Professor Peter Herlihy of the University of Kansas.
Results included high-resolution maps and GIS data with hundreds of toponyms and land use locations, all generated and carefully verified by community-chosen local investigators, who were trained and certified as “local geographers.” Already, the people of Katainasta are using these tools in local education and in their interactions with government agencies and non-governmental organizations. Our work contributes directly to MASTA’s governance and to their bio-cultural ‘Protocol’ for protecting Miskitu natural and cultural resources, and continues a tradition of applied geographic research that Herlihy began there in 1990.
Watch the video below to meet Norvin Goff and learn more about Katainasta and the AGS Bowman Expedition to Central America.