• Indigenous peoples in Nicaragua

    Indigenous peoples in Nicaragua

    There are seven indigenous peoples of Nicaragua. Nicaragua has adopted the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and ratified ILO Convention 169 in 2010.
  • Peoples

    7 indigenous peoples can be found in Nicaragua
  • Rights

    2007: Nicaragua adopts the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
    2010: Nicaragua ratifies ILO Convention 169

Nicaragua

Indigenous Peoples in Nicaragua

There are seven Indigenous Peoples of Nicaragua. Nicaragua has adopted the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and ratified ILO Convention 169 in 2010. Yet, its indigenous communities are facing a great number of challenges, especially in terms of construction through communal lands affecting their livelihoods, and in terms of the state failing to comply with its legal obligation to honour the title of the lands in favour of the Indigenous communities.

The Indigenous Peoples of Nicaragua

Three of Nicaragua’s seven Indigenous Peoples live in the Pacific, central and northern regions: the Chorotega (221,000), the Cacaopera or Matagalpa (97,500), the Ocanxiu or Sutiaba (49,000) and the Nahoa or Nahuatl (20,000).

In addition, the Caribbean (or Atlantic) coast is inhabited by the Miskitu (150,000), the Sumu or Mayangna (27,000) and the Rama (2,000).

Other peoples who also enjoy collective rights, according to the Political Constitution of Nicaragua (1987), are the Afro-descendants, also known as “ethnic communities” in national legislation. These include the Creole or Kriol (43,000) and the Garífuna (2,500).

The Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) came to power in Nicaragua in 1979, subsequently having to confront the U.S.-funded “Contra” rebel groups. Peasant farmers from the Pacific and the Indigenous Peoples of the Caribbean Coast participated in the Contra. In 1987, following a friendly settlement of the conflict through the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), and in order to put an end to this Indigenous resistance, the FSLN created the Autonomous Regions of the Northern Caribbean Coast (RACCN) and Southern Caribbean Coast (RACCS), based on a Statute of Autonomy (Law No. 28).

Following the judgment of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IA Court) in the case of the Mayangna (Sumo) community of Awas Tingni v Nicaragua in 2001, Law No. 445 on the Communal Property Regime of the Indigenous Peoples and Ethnic Communities of the Autonomous Regions of the Atlantic Coast of Nicaragua and of the Bocay, Coco, Indio and Maíz rivers was issued, recognising these communities’ right to self-government and creating a procedure for the titling of their territories. The state began the titling process in 2005 for the 23 Indigenous and Afro-descendant territories in the RACCN and RACCS, culminating in the issuing of property titles.

In 2007, Nicaragua voted in favour of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and in 2010 ratified ILO Convention 169. The Alliance of Indigenous and Afro-descendant Peoples of Nicaragua (APIAN) was formed in 2015.

Main challenges for Nicaragua’s Indigenous Peoples

A major concern for the Indigenous Peoples of Nicaragua is that the government is pushing ahead the construction and promotion of the Grand Interoceanic Canal through communal lands, which is affecting the livelihoods of the Indigenous Peoples to a high degree.

During 2017, the IACHR has reiterated its concern for defenders of rights to land and to natural resources, and for Indigenous Persons and afro-descendants engaged in such defence work, who continue to face great risks of violence in Nicaragua.

Potential progress for Nicaragua’s Indigenous Peoples

In 2016, the IACHR granted precautionary measures in favour of 12 communities. However, the State of Nicaragua did not respect the precautionary measures, and community members are still unable to move freely and use their lands to engage in hunting, fishing, and fruit gathering activities because they are faced with armed settlers who are invading encroaching upon their lands.

The Indigenous World 2021: Nicaragua

Three of Nicaragua’s seven Indigenous Peoples live in the Pacific, central and northern regions: the Chorotega (221,000), the Cacaopera or Matagalpa (97,500), the Ocanxiu or Sutiaba (49,000) and the Nahoa or Nahuatl (20,000). In addition, the Caribbean (or Atlantic) coast is inhabited by the Miskitu (150,000), the Sumu or Mayangna (27,000) and the Rama (2,000). Other peoples who also enjoy collective rights, according to the Political Constitution of Nicaragua (1987), are the Afro-descendants, also known as “ethnic communities” in national legislation. These include the Creole or Kriol (43,000) and the Garífuna (2,500).

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Indigenous World 2019: Nicaragua

The seven indigenous peoples of Nicaragua are distributed, historically and culturally, between the Pacific coast, central and northern  Nicaragua  –  inhabited  by  the  Chorotega (221,000), Cacaopera or Matagalpa (97,500), Ocanxiu or Sutiaba (49,000) and Nahoa or Náhuatl (20,000) peoples – and the Caribbean (or Atlantic) coast, inhabited by the Mískitu (150,000), Sumu-Mayangna (27,000) and Rama (2,000) peoples.

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Indigenous World 2020: Nicaragua

There are seven Indigenous Peoples in Nicaragua: the Chorotega (221,000), Cacaopera or Matagalpa (97,500), Ocanxiu or Sutiaba (49,000) and Nahoa or Náhuatl (20,000) who live in the centre and north of the Pacific region, and the Mískitu (150,000), Sumu or Mayangna (27,000) and Rama (2,000) who inhabit the Caribbean (or Atlantic) Coast. Afrodescendant peoples also enjoy collective rights in accordance with the Political Constitution of Nicaragua (1987). They are known as “ethnic communities” in national legislation. These include the Creole or Kriol (43,000) and Garífuna (2,500).

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IWGIA - International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs - is a global human rights organisation dedicated to promoting, protecting and defending indigenous peoples’ rights. Read more.

Indigenous World

IWGIA's global report, the Indigenous World, provides an update of the current situation for indigenous peoples worldwide. Read The Indigenous World.

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