Anthropology Andean Indigenous Interest Term Paper

Pages: 10 (2759 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: ≈ 6  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Literature - Latin-American

The largest concentrations of native peoples are found in Mesoamerica and the Andean region. The greatest territorial dispersion is found in the Amazon Basin. They speak more than 400 different languages, display a wide range of lifestyles, and have achieved different levels of development. They occupy diverse ecosystems and maintain differing relationships with the countries and societies within which they live. A large percentage of the inhabitants of high-lands are peasant farmers and herders; while in the tropical forests, they are mostly farmers, hunters and fishermen. Those who live in the highlands have a long tradition of contact and involvement with the societies and economies within which they live. People living in the tropical forest regions, however remained relatively isolated until the 1950s and are currently subject to intense pressures from the aggressive occupation of their lands."

In the Andean region, which includes Bolivia, Ecuador and Peru, and parts of Colombia and Chile, and Mesoamerica, the indigenous population is equal to or outnumbers the non-indigenous population.

Serious Situation

Since the 1990's and the formation of the Indigenous Peoples Fund, the indigeneous movement has rapidly been gaining strength in Latin America (Fraser, 2001). Since the movement staged its first "uprising" in recent years, it has gathered force in many other countries.

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In January 2000, a protest by Ecuador's indigenous groups, supported by military colonels, resulted in the overthrow of President Jamil Mahuad (Fraser, 2001). Coca-growing campesinos from central Bolivia and indigenous groups in the Andean countries have periodically shut down transportation over the past few years. In addition, Felipe Quispe, an Aymara leader, has emerged at the forefront of the movement.

Term Paper on Anthropology Andean Indigenous Interest and Assignment

The Amazon's most famous indigenous struggle made the news on Jan. 1, 1994, one day after the North American Free Trade Agreement took effect, when the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN) launched a rebellion in the southern Mexican state of Chiapas (Fraser, 2001). After a short armed revolt, a negotiated agreement and long years of political work, Congress finally recognized an Indigenous Rights Law, yet cut out the clauses regarding self-determination.

Today, indigenous groups are no longer demanding only that the nation-state respect the individual rights of indigenous people, but also the collective rights of indigenous peoples. As a result, many governments have taken various steps to include the interests and opinions of indigenous groups. Ecuador's new constitution recognizes that country as "pluriethnic" and "multicultural," as does Colombia's. However, legally, this means very little.

International law says that every 'people' has the right to self-determination," says Hilario, an activist (Fraser, 2001). "The question is whether or not indigenous peoples are 'peoples.' No government currently recognizes ethnic groups as peoples. In the United Nations, the Human Rights Commission recognizes them as 'indigenous populations,' not 'indigenous peoples.' There is now a large-scale international movement to get states to recognize their ethnic groups as peoples."

New Vision

In recent years, the indigenous people have grown tired of waiting for government assistance and have begun taking matters into their own hands (Davis and Partridge, 2002). Over the past twenty years, there has been somewhat of a cultural renaissance among the natives and the coalitions that have formed to help them. In many countries where there are large indigenous populations, younger and more educated Indians are embracing their indigenous cultural roots and identities, and forming new ethnic organizations and federations.

Basically, the indigenous people and their supporters are seeking to eliminate many of the negative attitudes toward indigenous people, particularly the three negative images discussed earlier in this paper. By taking an active role in local decision-making and development policies, embracing indigenous languages and cultures, and gaining some control over indigenous lands and natural resources, these groups are assuming an active political role.

According to the World Bank (2002), one of the oldest and most successful of the indigenous organizations is the Shuar Federation in the tropical forests of eastern Ecuador. This organization was formed in the 1960s, under the impetus of Catholic missionaries, to provide the Shuar, who had few rights, with some type of collective legal protection from colonists who were taking over their territory. The federation successfully petitioned the government for collective land titles. This was a major step toward the political rights of the indigenous people.

During the 1970's, the Shuar Federation founded a bilingual radio school program, which changed the nature of schooling and education in the rain forest (Davis and Partridge, 2002). Before the program was established, less than half of native children completed primary school, mainly because school curriculums did not take into account the children's native language and culture.

Over the course of a decade, the federation-managed radio school program helped many children receive the education they deserved, and the number of schools connected into the radio network and staffed by federation-trained teachers increased from 30 to 177. In the 1980s, the government officially recognized the program and used it as a model for other bilingual and bicultural school programs.


Throughout the Andean countries of Latin America, indigenous movements are becoming more and more popular, as native demand their rights and question the values of globalization. Globalization stands to destroy many of the natural resources of the Amazon, which would prove to be detrimental to the indigenous culture. Many natives depend on the Amazon and will go extinct without it. Their entire culture will become extinct. This is anthropologically significant.

The Andean indigenous culture and livelihood does not exist anywhere else in the world. The indigenous people live harmoniously with nature and have learned to incorporate in their lives in their daily rituals and celebrations also. Sustainability is immersed in their beliefs. The indigenous have gained a lot of ground in the past years, as they are frequently on the news fighting for their rights and beliefs.

The Zapatista rebellion in Chiapas, Mexico was merely the beginning of an era, as indigenous movements are affecting politics in many countries (AmericasNet, 2002). Ecuador has recently experienced a great indigenous political pressure and protests, as has Bolivia. Chilean indigenous rights movements have been rekindled recently.

And in Central America, indigenous groups in Honduras and Guatemala have started efforts at political expression, while the organization Yatama, representing indigenous peoples in Nicaragua's Atlantic region, blocked a major highway to protest their lack of political rights.

According to AmericasNet (2002), "In some cases, such as in Mexico, the focus is human rights and political activism; in others, such as Colombia, it is environmental issues. In both of these examples, as well as others, critics accuse international connections and support of blowing the movements out of proportion. This attitude errs by discounting the importance of the local support base."

These incidents may be small when isolated, but they represent a trend that clearly demonstrates the needs of indigenous groups who live in poverty and are having their human rights violated. The campaigns demonstrate great urban and rural social protest, as well as the need for more worldwide recognition and support for the Andean indigenous groups.


Davis, S. (1993). Indigenous Views of Land and the Environment. World Bank Discussion Paper No. 188.

Davis, S. Partridge, W. (2002). Promoting the Development of Indigenous Peoples in Latin America. Retrieved from the Internet at

Fraser, Barbara. (October 26, 2001). Indigenous groups seek self-determination. Latin America Press.

Moran, E. (1993). Through Amazonian Eyes: The Human Ecology of Amazonian Populations. Univ. Of Iowa Press.

The World Bank Group. (2002). Indigenous People. Rtriebed from the Internet at

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