Concejos Territoriales: A New Collective Land Tenure Instrument for Indigenous Hondurans
Kansas Biological Survey
The Honduran departamento (province) of Gracias a Dios is mainly populated by indigenous communities (Miskitu, Tawahka, and Pech), as well as some ladino (non-indigenous) and Garífuna (Afro-Caribbean) residents. Since the mid-2000s, with the encouragement of the World Bank, the Honduran government has been implementing a countrywide land titling modernization scheme known as PATH. While this program does have some roots in the neoliberal tenets of privatization and standardization, in Gracias a Dios it has, in conjunction with longstanding subsistence zones mapped in participatory fashion the 1990s, set the stage for a fascinating collective land tenure category: the “consejo territorial” (sometimes spelled “consejo,” though the two words have different nuances.) This still- evolving governance instrument has allowed indigenous peoples to gain secure titles, where each title encompasses between five and twenty villages. It is likely that between one and ten concejos will eventually be titled in each of the departamento’s six municipios (county-level administrative areas). Through the CA Indigena project, a 3-year geography research effort conducted by teachers and students at the University of Kansas and the Universidad Pedagógica Nacional Francisco Morazán in Tegucigalpa, in collaboration with Honduran indigenous leaders, and funded by the Minerva Initiative University-led Research of the United States Department of Defense, geographers John Kelly, Peter Herlihy, Taylor Tappan, Andrew Hilburn, and Jerome Dobson are exploring how the concejo territorial might serve as one useful tool among many for stabilizing indigenous territories.