Forest Defenders: A Panamanian Tribe Regains Control of Its Lands
By Fred Pearce
Yale Environment 360
January 14, 2021
With a landmark court ruling, the Naso people of Panama have won the rights to ancestral territory that includes two national reserves the tribe will now help manage. The victory comes as mounting evidence shows that Indigenous groups are often the best protectors of their lands.
Tribal groups in Panama are celebrating a victory for their rights to control some of Central America’s largest forests — a victory that could benefit conservation throughout the region.
The landmark ruling, by the country’s Supreme Court, upholds a claim by the Naso people of northwest Panama — who live in remote villages, grow subsistence crops, maintain their own forests and native language, and elect their own monarch — to create a semi-autonomous territory, known in Panama as a comarca, covering some 400,000 acres of their ancestral lands.