After a seven year battle, the Mayangna community of Awas Tingni won a landmark ruling at the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and demonstrated that international human rights law could protect indigenous peoples, their land and their natural resources. As a result a Demarcation Law was passed in 2003 in Nicaragua to recognise and respect indigenous people’s land rights. However a change in law does not always lead to a change in behaviour.
Indigenous communities continue to have to fight to protect their territory from unscrupulous businessmen selling off this land to poor families, some who may have invested all they own into a small plot. This has caused incredible friction between the settlers and the indigenous communities.
Patrols to protect disputed land often turn violent. In 2013 Charlie Taylor was murdered trying to keep colonists from his communities’ land, a Mayangna community situated in the Bosawas Biosphere Reserve. This is a crucial moment, the indigenous peoples are mobilising groups to defend their land against settlers who often cut down large areas of forest and are increasingly violent. Despite laws and promises being made, indigenous communities are facing an intensifying daily battle to protect their ancestral lands and their forests.